This realization is also deeply depressing, because it means you're doomed to repeat yourself over and over if you want to persuade people.
Let's take Noam Chomsky for instance. He gives more than a hundred talks every year for the past 50 years. He has written dozens (if not a hundred) books, given thousands of interviews. His message is always the same. Because after you've figured out what your best and most persuasive arguments are the only thing left to do is repeat yourself over and over. Every day is groundhog day.
Startups also have to learn the value of repetition. Long form sales text works, because of repetition. Long form video demos work, because of repetition. Drip email campaigns work, because of repetition. It's often better to give customers one good reason to use your product, repeated three times than to give three distinct reasons why they should purchase. Counter-intuitive, perhaps, unless you've heard this argument before.
It's a somewhat tedious story but it's all about the freedom to control your own hardware.
or with Stallman's edits (I'm not sure if he's modified this chapter) in
Yes. Embrace this.
Patience is a virtue; and not getting angry because the person you've stated something to doesn't get it even the third time you've stated it. I actually find it fun to try and come up with different ways to state things such that people might better understand it.
The biggest component of success in communication comes down to saying things enough times that your message can actually be listened to and digested at least once. You can vary the way you say things each time, but literal repetition works nearly as well, because the problem is almost never "I don't know what those words in that order mean" but rather "I didn't hear half that sentence" or "I was thinking about lunch" or "that might have been important but it just sort of passed by and I forgot."
That would probably be the distinction I would draw between persuasion in general and indoctrination / brainwashing. Of course, generally indoctrination and brainwashing seem to have a much higher rate of success in changing minds, which is indeed depressing.
Phrasing the challenge as "sound enough logic" puts the burden of proof in the wrong place. It implies that whenever you're not persuaded it's the fault of the other person for not being persuasive enough. That's the opposite of open-mindedness. It is exactly because of the presumption that your current beliefs are true that you won't change your mind as easily as you might think. Even Scientologists say they'll leave the church if somebody could just provide them with evidence it's all baloney, but it's a standard of proof nobody can meet.
When I say all persuasion is repetition, it's really not an overstatement. Maybe you're closer to believing me this time ;-)
Now, sometimes you might come to believe something through repetition, but it's possible to verify things (some of the time) and you shouldn't just claim that repetition is the only route.
Back in Aristotle's day it was about Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. I don't think that model has stood the test of time either.
I don't want to open Pandora's Box, but look at Trump's speeches. He persuades through repetition, and it demonstrably works.
The things people learn are not noise. They have structure, they have hidden consistencies. Whatever you think of the rationality or otherwise of thought, surely you will agree that trying to learn inconsistent facts is going to be more trouble than learning consistent facts which support each other in a cumulative way.
People might identify with the opinions of a politician because they already hold those opinions, or similar opinions. They are unlikely to ever agree with/be persuaded by complete inconsistent nonsense, however often it is repeated. Like, I mean nonsense that doesn't even have linguistic structure or maybe any meaning.
Agree and I think it is even more than that. It is about how genuine they seem. I've listen to Hillary, Trump, Sanders and Obama, and some just naturally sound more genuine. Obama seemed genuine, like he believed what he was saying, Trump and Sanders as well. But not Hillary. She said all the right things, she was very polite, and seemed to be personable with jokes and remarks sprinkled here and there. But overall she sounded fake and scripted.
I posit, hearing someone who seems to truly believe what they say is a solid first step in persuading others to change their opinions. Otherwise it becomes an uphill battle and it is just pandering to people who already believe and agree with the argument.
> They are unlikely to ever agree with/be persuaded by complete inconsistent nonsense, however often it is repeated. Like, I mean nonsense that doesn't even have linguistic structure or maybe any meaning.
If the US election hasn't persuaded you that complete gibberish can be persuasive when repeated endlessly, there's nothing I can say that will.
But what about Feynman's injunction: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool." Is that kind of empirical principle just out of reach for the standard human?
In terms of repetition, I think David Hume's theory of causal inference is pretty relevant too.
Just because something is repeated regularly, e.g. seems to happen every day doesn't mean that on the day when it doesn't happen, our heads explode because we have built a rigid expectation. Instead we can usually discern possible, exceptional, reasons why it isn't happening.
I'm totally in agreement with you on the role of repetition in eroding the landscape of memory to create convictions. We might rarely remember a one off event that is never referred to. But you seem to be claiming that there's no higher-level activity, or even possibility of higher-level activity involved in mentally evaluating what to believe.
The famous Star Trek scene where Picard is encouraged/"brainwashed" to lie about the number of lights he sees comes to mind. He resists and continues to report what his senses tell him. This cultural theme of reason resisting the repetition of lies is a big one, and you haven't really presented any convincing evidence to discredit it.
What if it's out of reach even for the best among us? To me it looks like many of our core beliefs cannot be shaped through reason, and are not the product of reason in the first place. Our convictions have simply been copied from our environment through osmosis.
I'm sure you can't help but notice the amount of groupthink that takes place in any community, whether in real life or right here. How does this groupthink come to be? People don't really change their minds in long discussion threads like these; it certainly doesn't feel like they do. And yet minds get changed or there wouldn't be groupthink. By reading, responding, and reading some more, we slowly change over time; like water carves its way through rock. We shape HN by our responses and in turn HN shapes us: the relation is symbiotic.
We can, sometimes, if we try really hard, and then only for a moment, apply real reason. I see no evidence that this has a big impact on what people believe and how they act, though. People who are good at formal reasoning are good at arriving at the correct answer in reasoning puzzles, but there is no matching improvement when it comes to the decisions they make in their life. It's pretty clear that even really smart people can't reason themselves out of their problems. This is a big problem for the view that convictions are the product of reason.
In contrast, the friends you keep and the media you consume does make a tremendous impact on what you believe and how you act. Change who your friends are and, through repeated exposure, your convictions will change subliminally.
In a spirit of hopeful insight into what's going on, I'm linking to the Wikipedia page for Skagway, Alaska.
Of course, you won't see it yourself if you don't share their worldview and are unable to empathize and put yourself in their shoes.
I depends. Mass media has proven that false. They almost unilaterally backed one candidate and attacked others, spewed lies and misinformation, and they failed to make a difference it seems. I would argue they made things worse. Here is a multi-billion dollar apparatus designed to persuade people and control opinions and it has failed. So it is not always true. I think there is stuff that is more nuanced in how it works, not simply "repeat this X amount of times and you're done, you'll get Y% more percentage of believers".
The media on the left did persuade their audience that Trump stood no chance of winning the election, even as Trump was drawing larger and larger audiences at every stump speech. Everybody could see the flood of pro-Trump signs, hats, and bumper stickers in swing states, but this was apparently of no consequence. People were expected to disbelieve their own eyes, and so they did. I think there was a stunning amount of groupthink going on in the media this past election. Who consumes the news all day, every day? Media people, politians, and policy wonks. And so they brainwashed themselves.
Premises which are already accepted are used to conclude further ones.
As that old Lincoln saying goes, you can fool some people all the time, all people some of the time, but you can't fool all people all the time.
They all work by repetition but last one hurts people ability to thing rationally.
But I think most peoples reaction is just to say "Yeah! that's totally what those other people do that our side never does because we're right.".
to guard against this, as soon as i am aware of a catchphrase or common talking point, i mentally deconstruct it and find the truth. frighteningly, the most commonly repeated verbiages are, should we say, misleading.
but lean a little closer, stranger, and i'll whisper the truth into your ear: the "two sides" are unequal in their abilities for evaluative thought, self righteous zealotry, and dogmatism. an honest attempt at critical evaluation will go nowhere if your evaluating apparatus is garbage.
The very fact that both sides are convinced there are two sides suggests this is a false statement. The "sides", really the false divisions and classifications, are some of the biggest lies ever told. In any case, any inequality between them is not the problem. By way of analogy, if two glasses of water have unequal amounts of fecal matter with neither being even close to zero, wouldn't it be better not to drink either of them rather than suggest one is better than the other?
And as for disparity in the understanding of voters of these fictitious sides, the side that likes to claim the other side is uneducated and ignorant is, statistically speaking, less educated. That, too, is part of the lie.
The good news is that you don't even have to worry about the "other side" just worry about the things that you believe. That was the point.
Also unlike hard sciences and logic the fact that there only two sides and one must be in either one, is also a thing to evaluate.
So you're right. First there is a need for a meta-evaluation, is my evaluation apparatus even working and how would I test if it is.
Of course everyone will think the two sides are unequal, with the side that isn't theirs getting the worst of it.
I have an ego, I don't like being wrong, and I think I'm right a lot. Ok, so far I get it. But to constantly ignore or avoid objective evidence? How do people not become ill at the thought?
1) Clinical narcissism or sociopathy? It's all an intentional means to an end.
2) Simple lack of practice in critical thinking? They are acting in good faith but just not seeing the con.
3) Their morale code does not exclude machiavellian tactics and they just want to win.
Maybe the population has all three types collaborating both knowingly and unknowingly across different roles.
Honestly, it's pretty great how many people are willing to spend time and effort that doesn't directly benefit them (on a base material level) to care about this stuff.
It's also harder than one may think to do this well. You have be fairly skeptical 24/7, even of yourself and your own thoughts. I think that doing it halfway likely leads to lots of seemingly well-rationalized ideologies.
I like to think I'm getting better at being generally skeptical and slowly layering together a coherent, mutually supportive set of usefully accurate mental models of how the world works, but I find it very tough to know to what extent I'm fooling myself or not. One simple maxim I've found useful is to try to avoid allowing any idea from becoming "sacred" and above questioning. While not practical for daily life, I think it's a great fundamental background orientation for our thoughts and perception of the world.
You may be interested in the Meaningness project: http://meaningness.org
Btw, here is the fixed link: https://meaningness.com/
And HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13136458
HN discussion from a few months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13136458
To add to this, I think an additional problem is academia.
So much of success and even prestige in academia is garnered through skills that do not involve critical thinking.
Who hasn't had a conversation with someone at the top of their field who has strong, factually unsupported, convictions about another?
Entire fields are subject to self-interested ideologies, rather than facts (i.e. my undergrad degree in economic science was more propaganda science at all): http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/12/13/economics-scien...
Just to clear up any notion that I'm being bitter, I graduated at the top of my class.
There needs to be entire coursework in critical thinking, starting in primary school. Unfortunately, most of my primary school education outside of maths and language was just rote memorization of facts.
One of the critical aspects is social pressure. If they ever made fun of the thing they are supposed to be convinced of, convinced others (publicly especially) against it, they will throw every cognitive, emotional, and other tricks against every believing that.
That is why public ministering and proselytization as a necessary step in participating in many religions -- it is not just to simply bring others into the faith, but it is to inoculate those who do it against every disavowing it. I posit that social media and everyone messaging each other false-hoods is part of this public display of belief. Later on going against that is very hard, because there is solid evidence of them making fun of it just a week before. Nobody wants to be seen flip-flopping or being a hypocrite.
2) Simple lack of practice in critical thinking? They are acting in good faith but just not seeing the con.
Interestingly critical thinking of often orthogonal to other proxies for what society thinks "intelligence" is. Often it goes the opposite way -- the smarter the person thinks they are (maybe the more diplomas they have hung on their wall), the less likely they are to ever change their positions, because they will:
a) Have to confront the fact that they have chosen or supported an invalid one before. And with 3 diplomas on the wall, that is surely not something they would do
b) They have a greater capability at rationalization. When the CEO has a bad day because they had a fight at home and goes to work and shuts down a project or fires someone publicly, they will rationalize it to themselves in many other ways except "I really was upset for another reason, and made a stupid mistake, I just wasn't thinking straight". They'll use their intelligence to make something up that sounds reasonable.
Would it affect you tight away? No, but in a Generation our children contract more disease, less of them go into stem fields because of the distrust and dissonance that has been spread, and the air your children breath becomes more polluted.
Information bubbles. Too many people only consume information that aligns with their beliefs. To many, they don't feel that they are ignoring or avoiding objective evidence because they easily dismiss it as lies without any evidence.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice/
That alone should encourage the crew/
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice/
What I tell you three times is true."
Also, I highly suggest everyone making the Hitler comparison actually read the definitive work "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany," so we can perhaps have some more intelligent comparisons than: "You know who else used repetition? Hitler."
Every article I read seems to have become a fun little exercise in "How can I put both Trump and Hitler into this seemingly innocuous article about cognitive fusion?"
It's obnoxious and old. If you want to actually do a Trump-Hitler comparison, read a book on the topic and write an actual paper about it instead of just flinging it out willy-nilly so you can fear-monger your readership into believing that actual dystopian eugeno-fascism is just on the horizon.
So here is another human psyche detail - when someone removes the actual details (such as what these 3 exec orders are and the specifics of the mentioned crimes), they are doing so to protect the narrative...
I'll give you an example: "Ban of majority Muslim countries" vs. "Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen".
The reason the media removes the list of countries and replaces them with the quote, is because when people see the names of these countries, they realize that they are an open death-sentence destination for Americans, and have a large public that often chants death threats to America.
And that is a problem for the narrative the media is using (to exploit the situation). So the details have to be removed.
This is the first step of the manipulation of public opinion. The second step is the repetition.
In the spirit of the MSM's "Fake News" news lately, I submit a seemingly innocuous example: Of all of the "Supermoon" articles back in December(and priors), how many mention the fact that the closest full moonrise is indiscernable in size to the naked eye as the furthest full moonrise? Besides Phil Platt, I believe the answer is approaching 0. Yet, every MSM news site/channel promoted it as "the biggest in ~100 years", many webizens clicked the links, some even went out to watch it live and most now believe it appeared physically larger than any other full moonrise in ~100 years.
edit:added "in" to discernable.
swapped ~ for +/-.
As an aside one strong component of a couples ability to coexist is just this: how do they interpret relative truths. And how do they gain input for truth moments.
There is also a phenomenon of false confessions, which sometimes has to do with psychological factors and sometimes with incentives like people being punished less harshly when they accept a plea bargain.
Since this subthread is talking about Orwell, I can point out that in Orwell's most famous work the authorities were very keen to obtain false confessions.
You tell me Mount Everest is 5742 meters high, seems a reasonable size for the largest mountain on earth. A year later you tell me Mount Everest is 6488 meters high. Seems reasonable and I have long forgotten that you claimed a different height last year. For whatever reason you keep telling me Mount Everest is 6488 meters high every Sunday afternoon, week after week.
I have no reason to doubt that what you are telling me is true and after a couple of weeks I will start to know and remember that Mount Everest is 6488 meters high. But then a couple of years later someone else tells me that Mount Everest is actually 8893 meters high. I object. To settle the issue we decide to look it up on Wikipedia and lo and behold the official height of Mount Everest is indeed 8893 meters.
This may or may not make me remember that Mount Everest is 8893 meters high but it is very likely that I will remember that 6488 meters is not the correct height and it might make me trust you less with regard to mountain related facts. Even without any repetition.
If you want me to accept a statement, the statement must be believable based on what I already know and believe to be true. And I have to have some trust that you are telling me a true statement. Repetition is only secondary, only required if you or I want that I remember the statement in the long term.
And if something is surprising or exciting or whatever, then one might remember something easily without a lot of repetition. The height of Mount Everest was never really interesting to me and learning the wrong height took some repetition. But then learning that Mount Everest is actually 8893 meters high and that I remembered the wrong height for years, that came as a surprise and may not take much if any repetition to remember.
If you create art, even if it's primitive or ugly, if you can repeat something within one artwork or across multiple works, the works suddenly gain some merit, feel more like art, less like random doodle, just due to repetition.
To be clear, I'm not claiming that's the only way to invoke perception of truth or perception of beauty. It's just something I observed while trying to appreciate some contemporary art.
Repetition, in itself, does not persuade anyone of anything. Repetition, as others have noted, simply makes the thing being repeated easier to remember. The true "persuasion" -- i.e., the misinterpreting of the false fact as true -- occurs because we forget the /source/ of a statement quicker than we forget the /content/.
So, for example, if you happen from your friend Joe (whom you know to be a compulsive liar) that "Priuses are actually less environmentally friendly than Hummers, because manufacturing the batteries for Priuses actually releases more greenhouse gases than a Hummer releases over its average lifespan," you'll likely remember that statement for far longer than you remember that it came from Joe, the compulsive liar. And if you find yourself in an argument with a pretentious Prius driver two years down the road and you search your memory banks for relevant facts to throw in his face, you may well pull out the "Prius battery" statement, without ever remembering that it is almost certainly bunk. You have, in essence, adopted a false belief due to having an imperfect/poorly configured memory.
To take it a step further: If you then make the "Prius battery" statement to the Prius driver, presenting it as fact, you have repeated it (thus making it more firmly entrenched in your mind) and you have replaced the (previously empty) "Spoken By" metadata field with one that now reads "Me [trust score: 100%]." Speaking the false fact is not necessary to make the false-belief-adoption effect appear, but if you do happen to speak the false fact, it only serves to strengthen the effect and further entrench the false fact.
This effect, of course, only works with facts that are not absurd or plainly wrong on your face. If you hear 2+2=5, you don't need to remember the source to know that's wrong. But there's a whole class of facts out there that exist in a gray area -- where they are wholly falsifiable on their face, and would require some serious digging to validate/disprove -- where this effect can lead to serious confusion. To the extent the repetitive blasting of falsehoods works, it works because of this and this alone. Wired here is doing us (and the fools who paid for the "HeadOn" advertising campaign) a disservice by implying otherwise.
I think one needs to look at older writings to get a take that isn't designed to reinforce the constructed media narrative du jour.
Even then its hard to get decent info on this topic because its always been so morally charged. Nothing obscures reality worse than moral concerns.
Edit: I think you can also apply that description to several parties in the modern media environment.
https://www.wired.com/2016/10/wireds-totally-legit-guide-rig... - from before the election, claiming it was basically impossible and would require a massive conspiracy
https://www.wired.com/2016/11/hacked-not-audit-election-rest... - from after the election, arguing the safeguards against hacking are ineffective and casting doubt on the security of the election
Both articles are backed up by a convincing-sounding set of facts and expert opinions, yet despite the available evidence not actually changing they come to completely opposite conclusions. All that changed was that before the election "hacking voting machines is impossible" was the better anti-Trump narrative, and after he won there was suddenly a reason to cast doubt on the results. It's all about the narrative. (Which is one reason you should question the endlessly-repeated claim that there's "no such thing as alternative facts". Careful selection of which facts to include and exclude is a great way to create a narrative.)
"I am a good person."
"I am a just person."
"I do the right things."
"I am a hero."
"I am right because the facts support me."
"I am not to blame."
"I am to blame."
"I am successful."
"I am a failure."
It's the lies people tell themselves that make room for allowing opening for lies other people want to say. "Here, you repeat the lies I want to hear about me, and I'll repeat the lies you want to hear about you."
Apparently a specific comparison formed in your mind, though, for some mysterious reason.
Probably just "constructed media narrative du jour," right? Certainly not because the person might actually be a quintessential example that stands out from everyone else so well that you already knew who people were likely talking about without anyone being named (yet, strangely, apparently want to deny that person should be considered for such a comparison at all).
> Nothing obscures reality worse than moral concerns.
It's not really clear that it's possible to separate human concerns from moral concerns, and I can only imagine someone arriving at the conclusion that "nothing obscures reality worse" by searching a pretty narrow set of reality-obscuring hazards.
Doesn't seem mysterious. The claim you are responding to is that, intentional or not, the author described Trump but said they were describing Hitler. That Trump came to mind is unsurprising.
Trump is commanding an absurd proportion of the media and social media's attention. Readers and authors are overprepared to see Trump everywhere in a world where it's hard to load a web page without seeing his name and face on it. Sometimes I go to a news site and load each section one by one to see if there is a single section that doesn't feature him prominently -- sometimes the sports or entertainment sections manage to avoid Trump, but not always.
I personally find the Hitler comparisons to be about as absurd as the birther movement was. And yet when I read the word "Hitler", my first thought is "Trump" and not "holocaust" or "tiny moustache". That isn't because I find the comparison apt -- I find it absurd. It's because Trump is so prominent in my attention and because absurd comparisons to Hitler have been made so many times that it's becoming expected.
He agrees that "to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide", but also explains in substantial detail how Trump's playbook closely follows Hitler's.
It's pretty clear who was being referring to.
concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it
If we really want to get picky it's worth pointing out that the person we aren't mentioning attacks multiple people at the same time and lies about little things all the time.
Said person is a jackass and an authoritarian but to compare him to a regime that killed millions using the loosest historical analogies does them a disservice and muddies the water.
-- early false statements are seen by many
-- later corrections down-thread are seen by few
-- popular promoted, true but unpopular hidden
Is it really a matter of repetition or a matter of trust? Does it matter that fact-checkers point out the errors in trumps tweets? He has gained the trust of his followers, while the fact-checkers have a bad reputation and shady relationships with establishment. Even if they get the facts right, people don't trust them to make decisions right. It's more about what you plan to do with the facts than who has the most facts, and policy decisions are not deterministic, no matter how many facts you throw at them.
Same goes for establishing scientific facts indeed. Peer review is based on a few, reputable reviewers, rather on a crowd of anonymous but trust-less fact-checkers.
> For an oral poet, however, such repetition is not a fault, but a vital technique (Lord 3–67). Repetition is a psychological necessity in oral discourse, which vanishes as soon as it is uttered
The article is clearly trying to put Trump in a bad light and other comments here are applying it to other politicians and corporations. I think the important point is that repetition doesn't discriminate truth but can be dangerous because it can seem like it does. On important issues there is no substitute for research and accurate methods to interpret new data.
Here induction refers to inductive reasoning rather than mathematical induction. For example if you see a billion white swans you might conclude that "swans are white". It's not "true" but it's not wrong either from a bayesian point of view. We really don't have any other way of doing experimental science.
Basically, we learn patterns real well. Doesn't matter the nature of the pattern, if we have no counter-example of significant or equivalent weight.
Humans are the only beings who has language and hence reason to understand how everything works, unless they engage in producing dogmas and chimeras out of words and abstract concepts, which is what they usually do.
it doesn't improve your visual acuity, but it can have a positive effect on your overall eye health . there's vastly more to eyesight than sharpness/clarity. my wife is an optometrist.
Hoffman's character repeatedly asks questions to Phoenix's character, inducing a hypnotic state. Repetition can also be used as a form of mind control.
If you have a policy you want to criticize, by all means do. Don't shut your brain off and try to imply the president is the same as a man responsible for genocide. It puts you in the same camp as the people claiming Obama is a closet Muslim terrorist.
>Now it's of course downvoted to oblivion
Don't talk about downvotes, it makes for boring conversation.
Plenty of people are making the exact same "cheap" comparison to Trump, except to you that's likely ok. You're witnessing a difference of opinion.