Monday, March 25, 2013

Four stages left on the Kübler-Ross model

Apparently this one has been around for a while, but somehow (probably due to my prior monk-like existence in the rescue house) I had missed it until recently when the bus I was riding on passed a sign bearing the slogan.

Dilma’s catchphrase for the country is not quite as blunt as the literal translation in English: A rich country, a country without poverty, but its ambiguities have not gone unnoticed by other domestic bloggers, so that at best it remains wishful thinking and at worst an expression of delusional arrogance.

I heard on the radio one of the many “public service announcements” letting the people know just how wonderful the government is. It’s all very Orwellian. They don’t have the media blackouts (blanket bans on self-aggrandizing publicity and new populist policy announcements by the incumbent ruling party) close to election time which are enforced in other countries, so it’s little surprise that the frequency of such publicity increased in past months and - even though the elections for the state legislature are long over - the soggy posters continue to litter the streets.

Repeat a mantra enough times - it seems - and the people will believe it.
Repetition is used everywhere—advertising, politics and the media—but does it really persuade us?  
It seems too simplistic that just repeating a persuasive message should increase its effect, but that’s exactly what psychological research finds (again and again). Repetition is one of the easiest and most widespread methods of persuasion. In fact it’s so obvious that we sometimes forget how powerful it is.  
People rate statements that have been repeated just once as more valid or true than things they’ve heard for the first time. (…)  
This is what psychologists call the illusion of truth effect and it arises at least partly because familiarity breeds liking. As we are exposed to a message again and again, it becomes more familiar. Because of the way our minds work, what is familiar is also true. Familiar things require less effort to process and that feeling of ease unconsciously signals truth (this is called cognitive fluency). (…)  
Repetition is effective almost across the board when people are paying little attention, but when they are concentrating and the argument is weak, the effect disappears (Moons et al., 2008). In other words, it’s no good repeating a weak argument to people who are listening carefully. 
And so, with an element of truth, this rebranding of the country is simply genius: not only for the mash-up of the words “Federal Government” and “Brasil” in a single logo (the two should, of course, be distinguishable in the mind of the discerning reader), but also for the fact that in certain pockets of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or any of the other more prosperous cities, the argument for wealth itself (at least, economic wealth as distinct from - say - natural or cultural, etc.) could easily be made: apparently we’re number 6 on the list of cities with the most billionaires (Forbes authoritatively tells me) and home to more billionaires than any city in the Southern Hemisphere.

But for the 192,999,974 people remaining one can only assume that the rebranding is meant to bolster the self-esteem of the middle classes (and encourage them to spend more) while keeping the rest in denial. And is not denial merely the first stage of grieving?

Good Grief glasses: drink your way to acceptance

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