“Are you friggin’ kidding me?!” came the e-mails last night…
But, they werent’ about the candidates, they were about the panel of everyday listeners and pundits. During last night’s VP debate, CNN aired a real time scorecard that showed how it’s 6 pundits viewed who was winning and who was losing. Most scored a pretty close event, but Ed Rollins had Palin blowing Biden away.
Then, they moved to a group of 30 people who’d declared a party affiliation, but claimed to still be persuadable. Again, different people in the same room, watching the same debate, saw a very different event.
Were these people and pundits just being paid to spin? Were they trying to create controversy? Or did they legitimately believe they saw a totally different debate than others in the room?
How can intelligent, well-researched, thoughtful people with opposing views watch the exact same event and come away believing in their hearts that “their” candidate pummeled his or her opponent?
Is one person secretly just more stupid than the other? Are they lying?
Not at all. It’s not about intelligence, it’s about psychology.
The brainwashing lense of “Consistency.”
Robert Cialdini first wrote about the power of consistency some 30+ years ago in his epic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He revealed how we all have a deeply compelling need to act and speak consistently with actions we’ve already taken and things we’ve already said.
But, here’s the thing…
Our need to be consistent also causes us to view the actions and words of “others” in a way that supports what we’ve already said and done.
Because, if we view them otherwise, we’d feel like idiots for having taken the wrong action or position. And, we’d have to endure the discomfort and potential public ridicule that so often comes with admitting we were wrong and having to change our positions. Nobody wants to do that, it’s far more bearable to subconsciously filter the experience to deliver the outcome most consistent with our prior positions. Simply put…
The outcome that keeps us feeling safe, supported and right is the one we strive to believe unfolded.
So, no matter how much you claim to be able to observe and judge an event, like a debate, through the lense of pure objectivity, reality is, with rare exception, you just can’t do it. If you’ve already said something about the subject of the debate or taken a position on any candidate or issue, especially if you’ve made your position known to others, you will be strongly compelled to see the event in a way that is consistent with your prior statements and acts.
Barring some major gaff…
You will literally brainwash yourself into believing the person you want to win won.
And, you will have no idea this happened, because it’s not a conscious, willful decision. It just happens.
So, next time you ponder, exasperated, how really smart people, people who know the facts and have done the research, view the exact same event, like a debate, so differently than you, remember the consistency principle.
They’re not spinning it, they’re not just posturing or playing devil’s advocate (yes, many are, especially the ones you see on TV, but that’s not who I’m talking about).
They genuinely believe they saw what they needed to see to validate their prior acts and positions…and SO DO YOU!
So, what do you think? Am I totally off base here?
Are you immune to the consistency principle?
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