Thursday, April 19, 2012

i am not a consumer [revisited #241]

Perhaps the continual use of the word 'consumers' in circumstances when simply saying 'people' is by far more natural and appropriate - not to mention human - is not just the lazy habit of the unimaginative. Maybe these messages from all quarters that prompt us to think like and be 'consumers' are something more deliberate. More akin to 'priming'?

I came across the following study which appears to shine a light on a very subtle manipulation that successfully influenced behaviour in a group.

'….In their study, researchers from Northwestern University asked participants to imagine that they were one of four people sharing a common water source. In the scenario, there has been a drought, and now there is a water shortage.

Participants were put into two groups. In one group, the four people in the scenario were referred to as “consumers,” while in the other group the four people are referred to as “individuals.

After being given the facts about each person’s prior water usage, participants were then asked to rate how responsible their own character in the scenario was for the water shortage, whether they saw others in the scenario are partners or competitors in solving the water shortage problem, and how obligated they felt to be part of the solution to them problem (ie, by cutting their own water usage).

Researchers found that participants in the “consumers” condition rated themselves as less responsible, the others as competitors more than cooperators, and were less willing to be part of the solution than did participants in the “individuals” condition.

In other words, simply referring to people as “consumers” rather than “individuals” caused participants to be less generous, accept less responsibility, and to view the others as competitors rather than allies.'

If we agree that there are basically two ways to influence behaviour - to manipulate behaviour or to inspire it - then this experiment clearly falls into the former category. What's very interesting is the simplicity of the manipulation.

Thoughts > Words > actions > Habits > Values > Destiny...

Full article at

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