Thursday, November 08, 2018

Who Is Most Easily Misled?

I believe I am not easily misled. I am not entirely immune, and I even have some dim inkling of what sort of person or campaign can take me in for longer than a few days. As an extension of this, I believe that people like me are less likely to be misled. The phrase "people like me" can have many definitions, but I quite naturally choose the chaps on my side of the divide on each axis. In aggregate, the people who share many of those characteristics with me I regard as least likely to be fooled.  Not like those others, who are taken in by every passing fancy, you see.

I think we all frame the world that way, and it is usually a fairly simple exercise to find possible explanations to support our view.  Example: women are more likely to be inveigled (or pressured and shamed) into going along with what other women want because they are more fearful of exclusion, because women historically (and perhaps genetically) have had to depend on tribal acceptance to survive. Men go off into the fields or onto ships or roads to trade or into shops on their own, much more independently.  Well, glad we got that settled.

Except, the very phrase "Old Boys Network" suggests that men are significantly dependent on other men to get ahead, and the notion of "Patriarchy" similarly suggests a network of support for men. Choose your explanation.  Though I will tell you that in the end, the people who are most resistant to being led along by the nose by manipulative persons will turn out to look a lot like me.  I'm just saying.

Here's the fun part. Even if we don't have clear ideas who are most immune to being bamboozled, we all usually have a short list of groups we think are especially vulnerable.  Age and experience often figure into that calculation. Except...what do we mean by "calculation?"  How would we measure such a thing, if we had the chance?  I imagine if we were to come up with a good test design, no one would do it, fearing the answer, but that shouldn't stop us from having a go at it.  How would we measure the gullibility - cultural, political, scientific, medical - of one group versus another? Designed experiment or natural experiment - either is fine.


Texan99 said...

Jordan Peterson observes that women generally are more agreeable. I'm an outlier, not at all agreeable, more of a skeptic and a contrarian. It's easier to bamboozle me by appealing to my pride or antipathy than to my need to go along.

I suppose you could set up experiments in which groups tried to lean on an individual to go along with an incorrect judgment about something verifiable, using various tactics.

james said...

This one is hard. Outside of our domains of expertise, we're probably all susceptible to accepting information that's a little off the beam. If the experimenter is persistent enough, we can wind up believing stuff that's way off.
The less you know, and the narrower your interests, the easier.

Of course when someone starts off with a foundation of "all the crap I learned in high school" and isn't curious enough to go look things up for himself, it is trivial to mislead him further.

The test environment would have to be somewhat tailored to the individual, which makes controls kind of hard. And if your test demands a little persistence, you run the risk of exciting the subject's curiosity, which would quickly blow your credibility.

I don't see a simple way of using the history of fads as a guide, because lots of people go along with a fad to go along with their friends/tribe. If there's some act that would indicate a depth of commitment to the fad you could use that as a proxy (e.g. investing $$ in tulips), but it would have to be private in order not to be a matter of social pressure, and if it is too private you don't learn about it.