The Third Person Effect

Laura

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I've been reading "You are not so smart" by David McRaney, and he refers to quite a few studies and I thought it would be useful to have a separate board just for psychology and cognitive sciences as it is applied to more or less normal people. So, I created a child-board and this is the first post.

What interests me at the moment is the Third Person Effect. McRaney writes:

The Misconception: You believe your opinions and decisions are based on experience and facts, while thos who disagree with you are falling for the lies and propaganda of sources you don't trust.

The Truth: Everyone believes the people they disagree with are gullible, and everyone thinks they are far less susceptible to persuasion than they truly are.
Obviously, this tendency in people in power can be very dangerous.

Richard M. Perloff in 1993 and Bryant Paul in 2000 reviewed all the studies since researcher W. Phillips Davison first coined the term "third person effect" in 1983. Davison noticed some people saw certain messages in the media as a call to action, not because of what was being said, but because of who might hear it. He pointed to the third person effect as the source of outrage from religious leaders over "heretical propaganda" and the ire of political rulers over some speech out of a "fear of dissent." Furthermore, Davison saw such censorship as arising out of a belief that some messages might harm "more impressionable minds." Perloff and Paul found that the third person effect is magnified when you already have a negative opinion of the source, or if you personally think the message is about something you aren't interested in. In all, their meta-analysis showed the majority of people believe they aren't like the majority of people.

You don't want to believe you can be persuaded, and one way of maintaining this belief is to assume that all the persuasion flying through the air must be landing on other targets. Otherwise, how could it be successful? ...

When you watch your preferred news channel or read your favorite newspaper or blog, you tend to believe you are an independent thinker. ...On the other side of the television, networks and producers design programming based on statistics and ratings, on demographic analysis that cuts through the third person effect so you can keep on believing you aren't the kind of person who watches the shows you watch. You tend to think that you are not like the people who live in your town, got to your school, work at your business, and so on. You are unique. You dance to the beat of a different drummer. You fail to realize just by living in your town, attending your school, and working at your job, you ARE the kind of person who would do those things. You you weren't, you would be doing something else. ...

The third person effect is a version of the self-serving bias. You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent and more skilled than you are. Research into the self-serving bias shows subjects tend to rate themselves as more skilled than their coworkers, better drivers than the average person, more attractive ... {etc} It follows, then, that most people would believe that they were less gullible than the majority. ...

When the Third Person Effect leads you to condone censorship, take a step back and imagine the sort of messages people on the other side might think are brainwashing you, and then ask yourself if those messages should be censored too.
In other words, this is just a milder version of what Lobaczewski described as the schizoid psychopath, the one that believes only a strong and powerful authority can be right and people are so weak they can't think on their own and need to obey such an authority. Plus, when it reaches the pathological level, such individuals really believe that they, and they alone, know the answers and everyone should conform to their version of reality.
 

Laura

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From Wikipedia:

The third-person effect hypothesis states that a person exposed to a persuasive communication in the mass media sees it as having a greater effect on others than on himself or herself (Davison, 1983). This is known as the perceptual hypothesis, but there is also a behavioral hypothesis predicting that perceiving others as more vulnerable increases support for restrictions on mass media.

The third-person effect hypothesis also argues that people are compelled themselves to take action after being exposed to a persuasive message but this action might not be due to the message itself but to the anticipation of the reaction of others. This action is unpredictable and it might be either in conformity with the message or counter to it.

Usually, the effects considered are about general media influence, but valence of the message also affects the effect size. Messages with undesirable consequences of persuasion increase the effect size and messages with desirable consequences decrease or even reverse the effect, as in someone believing that they are more able than others to follow a promoted healthy diet.

A meta-analysis of the perceptual hypothesis estimated the overall effect size to be large (r=.50) and stronger among college students (Paul, Salwen & Dupagne, 2000). A number of scholars have speculated that "experts" are particularly likely to overemphasize the effects of the media on others (Diamond, 1978).

The third-person effect, specially its behavioral hypothesis, is important to issues of censorship. Censors seldom admit to having been adversely affected by the information they prohibit even if they have been exposed to it numerous times. Usually, they claim, it is the general public that needs to be protected, not them (Davison, 1983).
[edit] References

* Paul, B., Salwen, M. B., Dupagne, M. (2000). The Third-Person Effect: A Meta-Analysis of the Perceptual Hypothesis. Mass Communication & Society, 3(1), 57-85.

* Davison, W. P. (1983). The third-person effect in communication. Public Opinion Quarterly, 47(1), 1-15.

* Diamond, E. (1978). Good news, bad news. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
 

Laura

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Persuasion: The Third-Person Effect

Why people think they are less influenced than others by adverts and persuasive messages.

One of the most intriguing things about the psychology of persuasion is how many people say that persuasion attempts have little or no effect on them. Other people, oh sure, adverts, work on them. But not you and I, we're too clever for that.

Attractive woman holding a bottle of beer? Hah! How stupid do they think we are? We know what they're doing and we wouldn't fall for such cheap tactics.

Would we?

Persuasive experiments

So pervasive is this feeling that only 'other' people are influenced by things like adverts that many studies have explored the idea, with an initial surge in the 1980s and 90s. Psychologists wanted to see how much people thought they were influenced by persuasive messages like adverts and compare it with actual attitude changes, if any.

Typically these studies first got participants to watch an advert, read a newspaper article or other medium containing a persuasive message. Then they were asked how much it had influenced them and how much it might influence other people. Since the experimenters measured actual persuasion and knew from previous research how influential the messages were, they could compare people's guesses with reality.

What they found, in study after study, was that participants thought others would be influenced by the message, but that they themselves would remain unaffected. When psychologists looked at the results, though, it was clear that participants were just as influenced as other people. This was dubbed the 'third-person effect'.

Third-person effect

Reviewing the research in this area, Perloff (1993) found that studies on political adverts, defamatory news stories, public service announcements and many more all showed a robust third-person effect. Similar conclusions were reached by Paul et al. (2000), who looked at 32 separate studies.

Perloff also found that when people don't agree with the message or judge its source as negative, the third-person effect became even stronger. The effect is also stronger when messages aren't directly relevant to people.

In other words people are likely to be influenced more than they think on subjects that are currently of little or no interest to them. An everyday example would be seeing an advert for a car, when you're not in the market for a new car. We'd probably guess it has little or no influence on us, but this research suggests we'd be wrong.

Take back control

The third-person effect is unusual because it goes against the general finding that we overestimate other people's similarity to ourselves.

This is what psychologists call the false consensus effect: we tend to assume that others hold more similar opinions and have more similar attributes and personalities to ourselves than they really do.

The third-person effect, though, goes in the other direction. When it comes to influence, instead of thinking other people are similar to us, we think they're different. There are two facets of human nature that support this exception:

* Illusion of invulnerability. People prefer to believe that they are, on average, less vulnerable than others to negative influences, like unwanted persuasion attempts. We all want to protect our sense of control over our lives. One way we do that is to assume that ads only work on other people.

* Poor self-knowledge. Although it's an unpalatable idea, we often don't know what's really going on in our own minds. Not only does this make scientific psychology a tricky enterprise, it also means that many of our intuitions about the way our own minds work are scrambled and subject to biases like the illusion of invulnerability. The effect of persuasive messages is a good example of this.

People often react to this sort of research by saying it's disheartening, which it is. It's not a happy thought that we don't know how easily we are influenced because we don't really know what's going on in our own minds.

However, sticking our heads in the sand and pretending influence attempts don't work is likely to increase our vulnerability. On the other hand, if we acknowledging our lack of insight into our own thought processes, we can raise our defences against the power of advertising and messages of influence, and take back control for ourselves.
 

Laura

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The Third-Person Effect in Communication

W. PHILLIPS DAVISON

A person exposed to a persuasive communication in the mass media sees this as having a greater effect on others than on himself or herself. Each individual reasons: “I will not be influenced, but they (the third persons) may well be persuaded.” In some cases, a communication leads to action not because of its impact on those to whom it is ostensibly directed, but because others (third persons) think that it will have an impact on its audience. Four small experiments that tend to support this hypothesis are presented, and its complementary relationship to a number of concepts in the social sciences is noted. The third-person effect may help to explain various aspects of social behavior, including the fear of heretical propaganda by religious leaders and the fear of dissent by political rulers. It appears to be related to the phenomenon of censorship in general: the censor never admits to being influenced; it is others with “more impressionable minds” who will be affected.

{Check the additional studies where this study is cited by going to the link.}
 

Laura

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THE CAUSES OF THIRD-PERSON EFFECTS: UNREALISTIC OPTIMISM, IMPERSONAL IMPACT, OR GENERALIZED NEGATIVE ATTITUDES TOWARDS MEDIA INFLUENCE?

1. Hans-Bernd Brosius and
2. Dirk Engel


Abstract

The present study looks into the psychological origins of the third-person effect, i.e. the tendency of people to expect the media to be more effective on third persons than on themselves. Based on previous research literature, three different psychological mechanisms are distinguished that might cause the phenomenon. The concept of unrealistic optimism would predict that media effects described in a negative way will produce large third-person effects because individuals want to preserve a positive self. The same can be expected when subjects are described as passively suffering media effects. Empirically this means that the third-person effect will be smaller if media influences are described as a benefit, or the recipient suggested to be actively controlling the effects. The concept of impersonal impact suggests that the extent of the third-person effect varies with the psychological distance between the first and the third person. If third persons are described as psychologically close, the third-person effect will be smaller. The third concept of generalized negative attitudes towards media effects suggests that, regardless of the description, a third-person effect will always occur because negative predispositions to media influence are so strong that they cannot be overriden by variations in question wording. An experiment with 181 individuals produced mixed results. Depending on the kind of media effects, all three concepts can account for some of the results. The discussion centers around the question of whether different experimental designs could clarify the theoretical explanations, or whether third-person effects might be caused by combinations of psychological mechanisms rather than by only one such mechanism.
 
so...the creators of propaganda take all of these studies under advisement when they create their campaigns of persuasion. And our protection lies in knowing that they do so, and to get our news of the world from outlets that do not distort but report events? And don't we need ongoing commentary on how the items that become known are themselves chosen for effect, the better to decide for ourselves what actions to take, if any, on knowledge of what is going on in the world? I am having a little problem with the constant cognitive dissonance every time I happen to look at a news outlet, because it is constantly manipulated, and swings on a daily basis.
 

Laura

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monksgirl said:
so...the creators of propaganda take all of these studies under advisement when they create their campaigns of persuasion. And our protection lies in knowing that they do so, and to get our news of the world from outlets that do not distort but report events? And don't we need ongoing commentary on how the items that become known are themselves chosen for effect, the better to decide for ourselves what actions to take, if any, on knowledge of what is going on in the world? I am having a little problem with the constant cognitive dissonance every time I happen to look at a news outlet, because it is constantly manipulated, and swings on a daily basis.
Oh, it's actually way worse than that. You REALLY need to learn how your mind works and that's why I created this subforum. We are always talking about "the predator's mind" ... well, here we'll be learning a lot more about it in strictly practical terms.
 

anitasweetie

Padawan Learner
I've noticed this in other people throughout life, it makes me think of the authoritarian personality. They have such an inflated opinion about themselves, the way they think and live, that it is really a major blind spot. The more we can spot these conditioned "thought impulses", hopefully, the better off we will be. osit
 

Lilou

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The problem is, we can't think about how we think, with the way we think. In other words, we can't see ourselves. That is why the network is so vital to continued growth. So looking at the "predator's mind" with cold hard data, and learning what "they" know about our own psychology, will at least let us glimpse this elusive predator/3rd person.

Very interesting topic.
 

Esote

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Our minds are conditioned in such a way that we may even deny being conditioned. We tend to believe that people having a different point of view are the ones who are conditioned. We want to be a free individual, thinking that we are unique, when we are mostly egocentric, enslaved by our ego. And we usually pretend that we think and act by our own will, although it's mainly conformism, call it anti-conformism if you wish.
Hence the predator's mind is able to manipulate humankind with its own acceptance to play a false and tragic game.
Because of ignorance !
Thank you for this subforum, we need to learn and to practice how to be a warrior of the soul
 

Laura

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Esote said:
Our minds are conditioned in such a way that we may even deny being conditioned. We tend to believe that people having a different point of view are the ones who are conditioned. We want to be a free individual, thinking that we are unique, when we are mostly egocentric, enslaved by our ego. And we usually pretend that we think and act by our own will, although it's mainly conformism, call it anti-conformism if you wish.
Hence the predator's mind is able to manipulate humankind with its own acceptance to play a false and tragic game.
Because of ignorance !
Thank you for this subforum, we need to learn and to practice how to be a warrior of the soul
Yup. And only with some serious, wide-ranging knowledge applied to awareness, AND a network, can we hope to navigate this mess.

If anybody else has the book, or other books with such studies in them, feel free to get some of that information posted!
 

anitasweetie

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Lilou said:
The problem is, we can't think about how we think, with the way we think. In other words, we can't see ourselves. That is why the network is so vital to continued growth. So looking at the "predator's mind" with cold hard data, and learning what "they" know about our own psychology, will at least let us glimpse this elusive predator/3rd person.
Very interesting topic.

The problem is, we can't think about how we think, with the way we think.
I agree, very challenging to watch oneself constantly, find out what they know, and reverse engineer it.



Edit=Quote
 

Maat

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Esote said:
Our minds are conditioned in such a way that we may even deny being conditioned. We tend to believe that people having a different point of view are the ones who are conditioned. We want to be a free individual, thinking that we are unique, when we are mostly egocentric, enslaved by our ego. And we usually pretend that we think and act by our own will, although it's mainly conformism, call it anti-conformism if you wish.
Hence the predator's mind is able to manipulate humankind with its own acceptance to play a false and tragic game.
Because of ignorance !
Thank you for this subforum, we need to learn and to practice how to be a warrior of the soul
Yep and a very good example of that can be seen in the anti-cult movement especially when it comes to deprogramming the poor brainwashed victim in order to reprogram it conformly to the mainstream views. What's the difference :rolleyes:
 

Rick3

Padawan Learner
I've spent the last few months observing myself and noticed yesterday what I suspected might be conditioning; so wonderful that this comes up on the forum. I also noticed a great deal of egotism and that I lie to myself all the time. Jean de Salzmann (sp?) was spot on Thank you for this thread.
 

caballero reyes

The Living Force
I think that we, ours or ours minds always are conditioned in this level of existencia, maby a "unified field of conscience" we are influenced by the thoughts and actions of other people and maby our life or destiny is chanching at every moment by this actions; even persons that are living in a "close space" like certain class of societies, convents or monasteries, they always have exterior influences.
This is related with the idea of UNDERSTANDING or understanding each other, like ouspenski wrote that there are so many ways of understanding like men exists, each one understand the things accord his own way of understanding accord their owns mecanicals routines and habits but this is a subjective understanding, completly relative and for an objective understanding you may learn in a school to get a really change of being
and in this way to have a simultaneous growing in your knowing and in your being ("To know"and "To be" in a simultaneous manner).
Understanding means to be in agreement. For understand each other, two persons must to have not only equal understanding but they need to have similar growing of being.
 
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