Wednesday 11 December 2013

Consistency Theory

Not only are people active interpreters of media content, they are systematically biased to interpret it in certain ways. People are actively looking for confirmation of what they already believe or what they want to be true. Media messages do not only need to break through people’s general resistance against outside persuasion, but also need to convince them of beliefs and attitudes that audiences are actively attempting to fend against. There are four filters people can use to karate chop unwanted attitude- and belief-attacks to the side: selective exposure, selective perception, selective retention, and selective recall.

These refer to four different stages in the process of communication. In each stage, people are more open to certain kinds of information than to others and are therefore more likely to encounter, perceive, store, and recall those kinds of information. The channels to persuasion are therefore not straight and logical, but winding in accordance with human biases.

When we want to convince someone of something, we hold an advantage if we wish to convince them of something they’d prefer to be true. We are at a disadvantage to convince them of things they’d prefer not to be true. In other words, good memes are good and bad memes are bad and good memes outcompete bad memes when put to the test. This is problematic for us when a good idea has the property of being a bad meme or when a bad idea has the property of being a good meme. But it can be useful when good ideas have the property of being good memes and when bad ideas have the properties of being bad memes.

It would be wise to identify whether the ideas we want to spread are good or bad memes. If they are identified as bad, we could try to figure out which filters are likely to block them. We should consider framing our ideas such that people perceive them as coherent with their current values.

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