Monday, December 21, 2015

Defending Steve Harvey's Miss Universe Blunder

Believe it or not, I'm going to come to the defense of Steve Harvey, and it's based on the format of the card he was given from which to read the names.

One of the things that is known (but often forgotten) in marketing when it comes to image ads is that a certain amount of consistency matters. It is a misnomer that the biggest, brightest, boldest thing in an image will draw the eye. We tend to keep focused on the things that are close to the first thing that draws our attention and subconsciously see things that are too different as distractions to be avoided.

As examples, two outfits who know this and make a fortune from this knowledge are Google and Facebook. Their ads look pretty much just like everything else on the page and they make incredible amount of money from people who click on their ads. If flashy images that look different from everything else worked, they would be doing that. But they don't because what they do works.

This is an issue in play with display ads in general, including billboards, newspapers, and other online display ads. If the ads themselves are too variable in colors, images, and font sizes--or too close in proximity to other ads that are too different from it--then the ads become less effective. Whatever catches the eye first tends to be the template on which we continue to pay attention. There are always exceptions, but in general this is what we do.

Now, looking at the card with the winners' names, the first two runners up were the first things on the top of the card with the winner being noted in much larger type and on the other side of the card. Given the enormous number of other distractions going on, plus the term "1st" being used for the first runner up, it's not surprising that Steve Harvey thought that name was the last name to worry about and was the winner. His eye was not drawn to the larger type, a feature that backfired.

If he was more aware of the general format of the event (maybe even had some sort of dress rehearsal for it), it would not have been an issue.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Coming Out Confirms & Counters Perceptions

There is always a wing of any advocacy movement for marginalized groups pushing the idea that members of the group should "come out" publicly, even if doing so could be detrimental to them, their jobs, or their relationships. It is argued that although it would be tough at first, if enough people quit hiding the eventual benefits will be worth the initial pain. It is argued that exposure diminishes discrimination because the falsehoods on which prejudices are based begin to be erased with more individuals countering the inaccurate impressions people hold.

When thinking about this, I can't help but also think of what's happening to people who support Donald Trump and other Republican presidential contenders. The racist and paranoid people who support him are now publicly out like never before, having found support for a coming out of their own. There is an identical downside for some members of this group too, but they are not countering misperceptions of their positions, they are confirming them.

A "coming out" strategy seems able to produce the opposite results of correcting or confirming perceptions. Not sure what to make of it.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Giving Attention To The Get-Better-Anyway Effect

Story: Placebo effects are weak: regression to the mean is the main reason ineffective treatments appear to work

In other words, this story talks about what they call the get-better-anyway effect, the tendency for all of us to recover from illness without any direct I intervention. It's something doctors know and are trained to incorporate into their treatment choices ("take two aspirin and call me in the morning"), yet not nearly as many patients know about it.

While reading this, however, I couldn't help but think of another placebo-based finding from another study that claims placebos work even when the patient knows they are getting one. What I think is likely the case in this study is also largely the get-better-anyway effect.
Along with the illusion of homeopathy being effective, I think this also points to a problem with "effective" drugs being approved that only show minimal positive results in trials.

We nee to give much more weight to this effect in order to not fool ourselves while wasting money and resources chasing illusions.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Needed: An Inoculator For What Trump Represents

Story: The Trump Effect, and How It Spreads

I hope that we have smart and educated people paying very close attention to what's happening in this latest convergence of humanity's worst ideas and behavior so that we can come up with viable corrective and inoculative strategies for the future. Maybe the phrases "Never Again" and "Never Forget" can also be re-purposed to remind us what awful people we can become when the next Trump comes along to hoax terrible human traits into virtues.