Thursday, 8 May 2008

Narratives etc

Hopi Sen has posted an interesting piece about one of my favourite subjects - narratives.

Just a few random thoughts on this. First, I think narratives are hard to shift once people have internalised them. This is in part because the reason why we like narratives, in my view, is that they offer an easy way to understand and/or filter information, and it's an effort to replace one with another.

As I have mentioned previously I aware of an example where a well-known business journo has faced information that conflicts with a narrative they are used to communicating. The result was not that they revised their narrative, but rather they cast doubt on the information. This is not unusual when you think about how you yourself respond to 'difficult' information. It does demonstrate how attached we are to our own narratives.

It's interesting/annoying that the Danny Finkelstein piece to which Hopi links refers to Dan Ariely's book. This is the second time - at least - that he has mentioned the book. I'm not confident he actually really gets the profound nature of some the insights from behavioural economics, as in a previous piece he definitely got the wrong end of the stick about something. However it is notable that he is reading/writing about this area - are any left-of-centre columnists? We risk leaving this ground to the Right unless we make a concerted effort to camp on it.

Notably the Finkster talks about the example of reactions to Coke, which I agree is one of the most interesting findings in the book. It does suggest that we prime ourselves to expect a certain outcome - in this case enjoyment - and that this priming can affect our perception of the experience, and arguably therefore the experience itself. Again think that one through and I am sure you can think of plenty of examples from your own experience.

This demonstrates how people's perceptions can be easily manipulated if you do the right groundwork. It's also why push polling is such an evil tactic, and only a scumbag would use it.

1 comment:

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