Thursday, August 04, 2005

We Are Such Suckers

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A recent article from Wired shows once again how easily we are duped:
New Diet Trick: Induce Bad Memory

[...] A study on the power of suggestion found that people could be falsely persuaded that they had once become sick eating strawberry ice cream as children -- and they later said they would avoid this food. [...]
What the researchers did was gather data from the subject regarding personality and childhood experiences, then told the subject that they fed the data into a “very smart computer”.
“Then you add in (that) you got sick on strawberry ice cream. You want them to think about the getting sick aspect of the experience,” Loftus said.

Then the volunteers were asked to describe what may have happened -- for instance, eating strawberry ice cream at a birthday party and becoming ill.

“Most of our subjects came up with a belief that this had happened as opposed to developing an actual memory,” Loftus said.
And it worked:
Up to 40 percent of the students fell for it, and most of them lowered their preference for strawberry ice cream on a later questionnaire, Loftus and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [...]
This reminds me of:
'We can implant entirely false memories'

[...] “We can easily distort memories for the details of an event that you did experience,” says Loftus. “And we can also go so far as to plant entirely false memories - we call them rich false memories because they are so detailed and so big.”

She has persuaded people to adopt false but plausible memories - for instance, that at the age of five or six they had the distressing experience of being lost in a shopping mall - as well as implausible ones: memories of witnessing demonic possession, or an encounter with Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. Bugs Bunny is a Warner Brothers character, and as the Los Angeles Times put it earlier this year, “The wascally Warner Bros. Wabbit would be awwested on sight”, at Disney. [...]
It also reminds me of the article What Other People Say May Change What You See, which I commented on here.

I think it is safer to assume I can be duped, that I have been duped, and that right now I have some belief in something or other that does not correspond to reality. My job is to work toward an objective understanding.

Only the arrogant can say with one hundred percent self-assurance that they are too smart to be taken in by a well told lie.

It doesn't even have to be well told. Witness the legion of believers in the official story of 9/11. Although, that belief is steadily falling apart:

Bush Insider Claim WTC Collapse Bogus Gets 'Huge Response' And Read By Millions Worldwide

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