A fully general manipulation

I have come across an interesting thought, and probably it is worth sharing. The thought occurred to me when I saw a link to a B**zF**d article that contained the usual mixture of 50% guilt-trip and 50% advanced rationalization (needless to say this is the right stoichiometry to skip the article and add the source into your personal blacklist), and then I read some ideas that went in a similar direction. So forgive me for not being very original.

How do you motivate people into doing something? I heard the opinion that fear and greed are pretty good, even more, they can be regarded as universal motivators. However, when it comes to practical issues, there is a shortcut, and this shortcut is guilt. The first step in the method is to convey the opinion that the listener is a worthless zombie who does not really live up to some expectations. Needless to say, as most people have their skeletons in the closet, you get an audience that is instantly motivated to do something to redeem itself. (If you ask yourself if this is the same mechanism as the one used by the original sin concept, welcome to the club. I suspect this, too.) And then the second step kicks in, where the author more or less discreetly asks the patient to do something to get rid of worthlessness. Like, buying the latest and greatest gadget. Or going to some raid (“Prove you’re not a slave, do what I say.”), political or not. Or donating to a cause.

If you look closely, you may find this pattern in ads, PSAs, and, least pleasantly, in clickbait pieces on society where the author tries to—yes, you guessed correctly—implant some behavioral pattern. However, the problem is that if you are the bad guy you are implied to be, you should not be prone to such manipulations, and if you are not, then the articles kinda miss the point. Then, there is the fully general aversion against manipulations; these mechanisms are on my big black list of Things Only Bad People Do. Your moral compass (or whatever navigation device you have instead) should not react to stimuli such as “Be a Morally Beautiful Person, do what I say”, since either you should know better what to do to be Morally Beautiful, or your decision rules work in a completely different fashion. In any case such advice from an unqualified author in some newspaper can be dismissed as a bad, off-limits manipulation attempt.

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