The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'compliance'
Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered how domestic cats have developed a purr that psychologically manipulates humans, subtly triggering a sense of urgency without being as confronting as a meow. The "soliciting purr" contains an embedded high-frequency component similar to a cry:
Dr McComb and her team set up an experiment which tested human responses to the different purring types. She says: “When humans were played purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food at equal volume to purrs recorded in non-solicitation contexts, even those with no experience of cats judged the ‘solicitation’ purrs to be more urgent and less pleasant.”
Not all cats, however, use this solicitation purring: “It seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one with their owners rather than in large households where there is a lot going on and such purring might get overlooked. Meowing seems to be more common in these situations.”Cats tend to use the "soliciting purr" at times such as early in the morning, to elicit compliance from humans who may otherwise prefer to do something else, such as remaining asleep. It appears to be individually learned rather than an evolved instinct. There are more details, including embedded video, here.
As the economic crisis bites, credit card companies are turning to advanced psychological techniques to manage their customers, using their purchasing records to develop detailed psychological models of their behaviour.
Martin could often see precisely what cardholders were purchasing, and he discovered that the brands we buy are the windows into our souls — or at least into our willingness to make good on our debts. His data indicated, for instance, that people who bought cheap, generic automotive oil were much more likely to miss a credit-card payment than someone who got the expensive, name-brand stuff. People who bought carbon-monoxide monitors for their homes or those little felt pads that stop chair legs from scratching the floor almost never missed payments. Anyone who purchased a chrome-skull car accessory or a “Mega Thruster Exhaust System” was pretty likely to miss paying his bill eventually.
Martin’s measurements were so precise that he could tell you the “riskiest” drinking establishment in Canada — Sharx Pool Bar in Montreal, where 47 percent of the patrons who used their Canadian Tire card missed four payments over 12 months. He could also tell you the “safest” products — premium birdseed and a device called a “snow roof rake” that homeowners use to remove high-up snowdrifts so they don’t fall on pedestrians.
By the time he publicized his findings, a small industry of math fanatics — many of them former credit-card executives — had started consulting for the major banks that issued cards, and they began using Martin’s findings and other research to build psychological profiles. Why did birdseed and snow-rake buyers pay off their debts? The answer, research indicated, was that those consumers felt a sense of responsibility toward the world, manifested in their spending on birds they didn’t own and pedestrians they might not know. Why were felt-pad buyers so upstanding? Because they wanted to protect their belongings, be they hardwood floors or credit scores. Why did chrome-skull owners skip out on their debts? “The person who buys a skull for their car, they are like people who go to a bar named Sharx,” Martin told me. “Would you give them a loan?”It's not only your purchasing record that's mined for psychological data, though:
Most of the major credit-card companies have set up systems to comb through cardholders’ data for signs that someone is going to stop making payments. Are cardholders suddenly logging in at 1 in the morning? It might signal sleeplessness due to anxiety. Are they using their cards for groceries? It might mean they are trying to conserve their cash. Have they started using their cards for therapy sessions? Do they call the card company in the middle of the day, when they should be at work? What do they say when a customer-service representative asks how they’re feeling? Are their sighs long or short? Do they respond better to a comforting or bullying tone?The card companies have, as you might imagine, a variety of uses for this data. On the blunter side of the spectrum, signs of potential unreliability (bills for dive bars or marriage counselling services, unusual login patterns) may trigger card companies to raise interest rates or start pushing more aggressively for repayment. More subtly, though, if your credit card company calls you to discuss your bill, the person talking to you will be trained in psychological techniques and will have on their screen a detailed psychological profile of you, all the better to elicit compliance:
Santana had actually already sought permission from the bank to settle for as little as $10,000. It’s an open secret that if a debtor is willing to wait long enough, he can probably get away with paying almost nothing, as long as he doesn’t mind hurting his credit score. So Santana knew he should jump at the offer. But as an amateur psychologist, Santana was eager to make his own diagnosis — and presumably boost his own commission.
“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Santana told the man. Santana’s classes had focused on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a still-popular midcentury theory of human motivation. Santana had initially put this guy on the “love/belonging” level of Maslow’s hierarchy and built his pitch around his relationship with his ex-wife. But Santana was beginning to suspect that the debtor was actually in the “esteem” phase, where respect is a primary driver. So he switched tactics.
“You spent this money,” Santana said. “You made a promise. Now you have to decide what kind of a world you want to live in. Do you want to live around people who break their promises? How are you going to tell your friends or your kids that you can’t honor your word?”
The man mulled it over, and a few days later called back and said he’d pay $12,000.
“Boom, baby!” Santana shouted as he put down the phone. “It’s all about getting inside their heads and understanding what they need to hear,” he told me later. “It really feels great to know I’m helping people in pain.”Of course, another way to look at this was that, had the chump (who, according to the article, had recently been left by his wife) not offered to pay up extra, the friendly man from the card company would know exactly which buttons to push to kick them down further. Which is all very well (Personal Responsibility, after all, is What Made America Great, as any card-carrying Libertarian will tell you), other than the inherent asymmetry of going up against a huge organisation with frighteningly powerful intelligence-gathering abilities, and no interest in your welfare beyond what's required to maximise its profits.
(via Boing Boing)
Scientists are discovering the neurological bases of social phenomena such as romantic love, trust, self-awareness and deception.
"We believe romantic love is a developed form of one of three primary brain networks that evolved to direct mammalian reproduction," says researcher Helen Fisher, PhD, of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek sex with any appropriate partner. Attraction, the mammalian precursor of romantic love, evolved to enable individuals to pursue preferred mating partners, thereby conserving courtship time and energy. The brain circuitry for male-female attachment evolved to enable individuals to remain with a mate long enough to complete species-specific parenting duties."
In the new research, Zak and his colleagues find that when someone observes that another person trusts them, oxytocin - a hormone that circulates in the brain and the body - rises. The stronger the signal of trust, the more oxytocin increases. In addition, the more oxytocin increases, the more trustworthy (reciprocating trust) people are.
"Interestingly, participants in this experiment were unable to articulate why they behaved they way they did, but nonetheless their brains guided them to behave in `socially desirable ways,' that is, to be trustworthy," says Zak. "This tells us that human beings are exquisitely attuned to interpreting and responding to social signals.
(Or, perhaps, that what we know as the conscious mind doesn't so much make decisions or control our behaviour as rationalise it; could it be that the conscious mind does little more than provide a running commentary for the many physical processes happening in the brain and nervous system, and the (advantageous) illusion of a coherent, unified "self"? But I digress.)
And in other related news: a wink sends testosterone soaring:
He paid male students $10 to come into the lab and leave a saliva sample. Unbeknownst to the men, the scientists staged a five-minute chat with a twentysomething female research assistant before they spit. This brief brush set the men's hormones surging: testosterone levels in their spit shot up around 30%. The higher a man's hormone soared, the more the female research assistant judged that he was out to impress - by talking about himself, for example.
Douglas Rushkoff on the evolution of branding and marketing (excerpted from his book Coercion):
The real intention of target marketing to children and babies, however, goes deeper. The fresh neurons of young brains are valuable mental real estate to admen. By seeding their products and images early, the marketers can do more than just develop brand recognition; they can literally cultivate a demographic's sensibilities as they are formed. A nine-year-old child who can recognize the Budweiser frogs and recite their slogan (Bud-weis-er) is more likely to start drinking beer than one who can remember only Tony the Tiger yelling, "They^(1)re great!" (Currently, more children recognize the frogs than Tony.) This indicates a long-term coercive strategy.
It amounts to a game of cat-and-mouse between advertisers and their target psychographic groups. The more effort we expend to escape categorization, the more ruthlessly the marketers pursue us. In some cases, in fact, our psychographic profiles are based more on the extent to which we try to avoid marketers than on our fundamental goals or values.
The US Government is looking at the possibility of using mind-control nanotechnology against terrorism.
Yonas said he has talked with military officials developing mind-control nanotechnologies that would give war leaders a choice to "either blow up that building, or do something to the people inside, so the people inside lose the desire to continue with combat."
(That opens up a lot of possibilities. If you can use it to defend national security, you can use it for economic security. Make anti-corporate protesters into contently apathetic McWorld consumers, break down those pesky third-world peasants' resistance to buying Monsanto seeds and so on. (Just think: if Shell had this in the 90s, they wouldn't have had to have those Ogoni massacred; they could have just love-bombed them into compliance.) Or even use it on a broader population, making everybody more docile and more inclined to spend even more of their money on shiny crap, to the exclusion of everything else. I believe K. W. Jeter had a similar idea; he called it the "turd on a wire", one step better than the corporate-capitalist holy grail of the "turd in a can".) (ta, Mitch!)
We Have Control of the Mind: Given that the USA is about to harness its advertising industry to the Middle Eastern war effort, and some months ago, some pundit suggested that developing behaviour-modifying nanobots may be the most effective way to get rid of the Middle East's resentment of America, I have been thinking about how such schemes could possibly work, and have come up with some ideas for possible nanotechnological solutions to anti-American sentiment.
Various pundits and experts are contemplating novel stragegies against terrorism, from reducing anti-American resentment in the third world to memetic warfare:
The goal of U.S. policy, he said, should be to "re-engineer the perceptions of our enemies." Suicide bombers have to be convinced "they get nothing for dying for Allah," and the people who support terrorists -- leaders or commoners -- have to be persuaded such violence is an insult to Islam and counterproductive. So Baxter proposed a Manhattan Project of "perception engineering," which would explore and develop a variety of means: psychological warfare, propaganda campaigns designed by advertising executives ("these guys were selling Chevrolets when they were crap with the 'heartbeat of America'"); nanomachines that can invade the circulatory system and effect the brain and thought patterns of the target; cultural products that can engender warm feelings toward the United States.
Nanomachines that make you love America? Loyalty plagues and love bombing? Or as Kennedy said, "we have control of the mind". (via Rebecca's Pocket)