Wednesday, April 16, 2008

a+b+c Does Not Equal c+b+a

In Delancyplace's excerpt for 4/16/08 --as discussed by political advisor Frank Luntz, the sequential arrangement of information often creates the very meaning of that information:

"[In film, when] two unrelated images are presented, one after the other, the audience infers a causal or substantive link between them. A shot of a masked killer raising a butcher knife, followed by a shot of a woman opening her mouth, tells us that the woman is scared. But if that same image of a woman opening her mouth is preceded by a shot of a clock showing that it's 3 a.m., the woman may seem not to be screaming, but yawning. The mind takes the information it receives and synthesizes it to create a third idea, a new whole. ...

"The essential importance of the order in which information is presented first hit home for me early in my career when I was working for Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign. I had three videos to test: a) a Perot biography, b) testimonials of various people praising Perot, and c) Perot himself delivering a speech. Without giving it much thought, I'd been showing the videos to various focus groups of independent voters in that order--until, at the beginning of one session, I realized to my horror that I'd failed to rewind the first two videotapes. So I was forced to begin the focus group with the tape of Perot himself talking.

"The results were stunning.

"In every previous focus group, the participants had fallen in love with Perot by the time they'd seen all three tapes in their particular order. No matter what the negative information I threw at them, they could not be moved off their support. But now, when people were seeing the tapes in the opposite order, they were immediately skeptical of Perot's capabilities and claims, and abandoned him at the first negative information they heard. ... I repeated this experiment several times, reversing the order, and watched as the same phenomenon took place. Demographically identical focus groups in the same cities had radically different reactions--all based on whether or not they saw Perot's biographical video and the third-party testimonials (and were therefore predisposed and conditioned to like him) before or after the candidate spoke for himself.

"The language lesson: A+B+C does not necessarily equal C+B+A. The order of presentation determines the reaction."

Dr. Frank Luntz, Words that Work, Hyperion, Copyright 2007 by Dr. Frank Luntz, pp. 40-41


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Anonymous said...

I truly hope that the above comment was spam and not somebody THAT obnoxious.

There are also links between the importance the mind places on images and the frequency of those images- if you see images of bombings over and over, you can develop a heightened sense of threat that does not match statistical likelihood.

People don't, for example, see images of people getting the flu even though it is more likely to kill an average person. The mind associates more threat with the scenario depicted in the repeated image.

It's interesting how the mind seeks to protect us, but can be tricked by modern technology.

The cause-effect can be skewed, but sometimes we don't control the conclusions made in our subconscious.

Kaz Maslanka said...

Thanks for dropping by Lynn ... I appreciate your comment.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to take this a step further though a bit off topic with the film metaphor (I was a Film major at Columbia btw). A equals B but B need not necessarily equal A. Here's why - all humans cry, therefore, all cries are from humans. A = B is true but B = A is not. I wonder if anyone out there has the mathematical prowess to prove this.

Anonymous said...

You are confused as to the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning ... your statement has nothing to do with A=B


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