manipulation and persuasion, a day at the beach, gov’mint research pays $141 on the dollar

I’ve already found out enough about the human beings to be cynical about our chances for survival as a species. This does not help,  Tie My Shoes, Please: How Persuasion Works

Over the years, psychologists have studied the techniques of manipulation and found several that seem to work. (Read on only if you agree to use these techniques for good and not for evil!)

One is called the door-in-the-face technique. You start by asking for something outrageous; when that’s turned down, you then ask for something reasonable. A boss may ask an employee to work weekends for a whole year, for example, and when that request gets turned down, the manager might ask for a report to be turned in by Friday. The outrageous request reframes the real request to make it sound reasonable.

Another technique is known as fear-then-relief. Here, you tell someone he narrowly dodged a bullet and take advantage of his relief to make your real request.

[  ]….Dolinski had a confederate stop people en route to a supermarket and say to them, “Excuse me, but I suffer from terrible back pain and I cannot bend down. My shoelaces are undone. Could you please be so kind as to tie them for me?”

That was the unusual request. Other passersby were given a routine marketing survey.

A little later, the passersby were stopped by a woman standing outside the supermarket.

Dolinski wrote: “The second request was posed at the entrance to the supermarket by a woman who asked the participants to ‘keep an eye’ on her shopping cart full of goods ‘for a moment.’ She explained that her husband had her car keys and he had disappeared somewhere in the supermarket, and as the cart had a broken wheel, it was very hard to push. She would like to look for her husband without having to push the cart.”

Dolinski found that people were more likely to mind the woman’s grocery cart when they had been previously asked to fulfill an unusual request — to tie someone else’s shoelaces.

We do have to make some assumptions here given the lack of details. One we have to assume that under the circumstances that the people were manipulated. I might well have tied someone’s shoes for them if they looked as though they were indeed, disabled. Some other factors may have come into play. Their tone of voice for instance, or the time of day, most of us are less lightly to help someone late at night in a dimly lit area – self-preservation is a strong motivator. Perhaps the people who did tie the shoes were genuinely altruistic personalities. On to the dark side. Marketing specialists and politicians are well aware of these techniques. Fear-then-relief is now a well-known part of negotiations. While most of us have hopefully a mere healthy dose of cynicism, this technique works because most of us believe the person setting just across from us, looking us straight in the eye, is not using any kind of subterfuge. What I find especially damning about dealing with some people in negotiations or issue resolution is that they use one of these techniques and the manipulative nature of them has been completely discounted. They no longer consider the ethical issues. The subterfuge is part of their nature. Hey, they haven’t held a knife to your throat, they’re just good at getting what they want. And there is nothing wrong with that, now is there. In situations where the power dynamic is fairly equal – say between friends, and the stakes are not over getting a rise, keeping your job, allowing toxins into the local river. One could mark that up to the human tendency to want things and figuring out ways to get it – like having an extra dessert. When the power is unequal – between employees and someone with authority, between a politician and one of their constituents( we’re supposed to be their boss, but in reality they do not look at it that way), between civilians and law enforcement ( I’m thinking of behavior like Stop and Frisk and outright torture of detainees) we’re at a terrible disadvantage. There is with every word an implied threat to our well-being. Speaking of threat and relief, marketeers now seem benign by comparison. Yet they have a physiological advantage. People like to be liked. Most people confuse need with want. And people tend to attach, on some psychological level, especially in western culture, their self-esteem to the quantity of their possessions. We have to have some of those possessions  to have what society has deemed a standard level of material comfort. Advertisers know this. As much as people say that commercials, newspaper or radio ads do not work on them. In 2010 $467 billion dollars was spent on advertising world-wide. Ever watched one of those hoarders programs or Storage Wars . People buy and keep an awful lot of crap. On a personal level, except for the hoarders, it’s not a big deal, it is even funny. On a national level, it means that a lot of resources – petroleum to make the plastic, trees cut for the wood and paper, oceans polluted, more CO2 into the air, more petrol burned to transport from China to France or Ohio. Creating stuff and buying stuff is not inherently evil – every kind of job one can think of is related to stuff someone wants you to buy. When the buying habits of nations hit a level where many of the residents indulge in decadence, the marketeers are also enjoying some unfair and unethical leverage over the behavior of others. I’m trying to strike some middle ground. Commercial activity allowed me to buy the PC I”m writing this on and to have a nice dinner later. On the other hand, marketing goods and services, like a lot of things, hell just about every human activity, can be done to excess. Anyone with an addiction to food, texting, power or shopping can tell you, quitting a self-destructive or destructive behavior is not easy. While individuals are reaching down, calling on every bit of self-discipline, there are people working in the background trying, with all the techniques at their disposal to keep them from making better decisions.

the irish sense of humor

While not a hedge fund manager I do know enough about investment returns to know that making $141 for every dollar invested is the kind of return that fuels the fantasies of most Americans – Data Show that Federal Investment in Research Pays

The HGP (Human Genome Project ) generated great prosperity, according to a 2011 report by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. Between 1988 and 2010, human genome sequencing and associated activities by private industry and researchers generated $796 billion in US economic output. This represents a return on investment of $141 for every $1 spent by the government. The HGP has also generated an estimated 3.8 million job-years of employment and increased government revenue. As was reported by the Battelle group, the genomics-enabled industry generated more than $3.7 billion in federal taxes and $2.3 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 alone. “Thus in one year, revenues returned to government nearly equaled the entire 13-year investment in the HGP,” states the report.

Beyond economic benefits, the HGP has influenced and benefited numerous disciplines outside genomics. From human health to agriculture and forensics, the discoveries and methods resulting from the project have generated numerous societal benefits. No one could have anticipated how revolutionary the project would be in improving human health, feeding the planet, fueling society, and remediating degraded environments.

Conservatives and libertarians, at least those that have the courage of their convictions, will kind out exactly how much they benefited from this research and return every penny over what they contributed in taxes. I’m not sure how to quantify the financial rewards of the health benefits to them and their families – like living instead of dying. Consider that a gratuity.

family day at the beach early 1900s. before there was Instagram.

Romney Says His Tax Plan Will Create Jobs. Let’s Check the Data. Romney’s plan is Bush 3.0. The job market remains sluggish and cutting taxes will not be some magic potion. The tax faerie tale implies that corporations are not hiring because they don’t got no money to hire folks. Corporate profits are already at an all-time high as a percentage of GDP. They are higher now, in what conservatives say is a terrible not yet recovered economy than before conservatives crashed the economy in 2007.

Palin mocks Cheney over ‘mistake’ jab: ‘Dick… never misfires’. One assumes that Palin thinks her “dick” joke is funny. It kinda is, but what is really funny is that she thinks Dick Cheney has been brain washed by the liberal media. Reason#476 I could never be a conservative. I cannot juggle that much batsh*t insanity in my head.

Mitt Romney financial genius and his taxes

H’/T to Atrios for today’s graphic text,

As I’ve said many times, what’s fascinating about the what’s-in-romney’s-tax-returns story is that the man who has been running for president forever (presumably) could never bring himself to conduct his finances in such a way so as to make it politically possible for him to release the damn things.