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Posts Tagged ‘Automatic Processes’

Consumerism and the Spotlight Effect: how our minds convince us to spend

April 27th, 2022 No comments
https://theswaddle.com/the-spotlight-effect-is-when-you-think-people-are-noticing-your-flaws-more-than-they-really-are/

What is the spotlight effect?

The spotlight effect envelopes our everyday lives, something that we all experience and unique for every person. It is the fact that we believe we are being perceived and seen by others around us on an exaggerated scale, and that those people take a more conscious and meaningful critique.

The spotlight effect makes a great deal of sense, for our entire lives we are the center of our own universe, and we know nothing else. We experience everything through our own perspective, which makes it difficult to remove ourselves from this and accurately think about how others might perceive the world, or more specifically, yourself. Changing from person to person, this we each may have different aspects of ourself that we believe are on display. They may revolve around self-conscious aspects of our person, or around things we take pride in.

We simply fail to comprehend that other people are too preoccupied with their own thoughts and actions, and in a consumer society, this can be taken advantage of and lead to big consequences.

What cognitive psychology components are at play?

It is clear why we might assume others take such notice to our actions, but why don’t they? The main reason is that in the human brain, we sift through the vast amount of incoming sensory data with the cognitive function of attention. We have the ability to direct our attention, focusing our actions and thoughts, allowing us to not be overcome with the infinitely large amounts of raw data we could perceive.

Because of this, attention must be thought of as a limiting factor, as we cannot attend to every stimuli that we receive, we rather use attention to block out much of the other stimuli that would cause interference. In the case of the spotlight effect, often when we believe that others would be perceiving us, they are rather using attention to attend to actions that are currently meaningful or important to them, making our existence and actions irrelevant and therefor unattended too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-effects-consumerism-society-riwa-karanouh

How does the spotlight effect influence consumerism?

It is well known that the USA us a consumerist society. Everyone scrambles for the newest clothes and phones, and while doing so quickly lose interest in past fixations for the next down the line. But where does the spotlight effect come into all this?

Companies know well the effects of the spotlight effect, and often use them to their advantage to sell their products. They use celebrities to market their products, preying on our wants to be similar and seen with such stature.

It is helpful to break down why we consume; do the products really get any better month to month? Probably not, in most cases one could argue that it would be very possible for some of these changes to be simply added to the old products. Phones are a great example of this, often much that is promised by getting a new phone, such as the newest software and capabilities, could simply be added to your existing phone in a software update.

So if not that, then is it for our own personal gain? Would we feel the same enjoyment if nobody else could see our new items? Arguably not. Often times the only enjoyment that is felt comes from the validation from others, a friend telling you how cool something is for example. This validation is what we crave and pursue, and where the spotlight effect comes into play. Because we believe that others are seeing us and caring about how we look and what we have, this pushes us to want to have the best, look the best, and present a false persona about ourselves. We buy expensive clothing because we believe that others will see us and care. Then, once more and more people have what we have, we begin to feel less in the spotlight, and pursue the next thing. We buy the expensive phones because we believe others will care if your number is green in their phone and not blue. These phones don’t work any better, but we believe that others live to view and judge ourselves.

After a deeper look, the spotlight effect is deeply…deeply integrated in our consumerist society. 

How can we combat the influence of the spotlight effect?

So, we after reading this far, we can see that we all have suffered from the spotlight effect is some way, shape, or form. But what now? How can we learn from this? Much of the spotlight effect lives unconsciously in our brains, it is a learned process which we do not consciously uphold, an automatic process. So, to combat this, we must consciously reflect in moments of vulnerability. Ask yourself questions that remove yourself from the subject of the situation. Something like, if I saw someone with this, would I really care, or even notice? Questions like these can help to combat the spotlight effect in consumerist settings, which can be both helpful and calming.

Literature Citations

Czarnecka, Barbara; Schivinski, Bruno (17 June 2019). “Do Consumers Acculturated to Global Consumer Culture Buy More Impulsively? The Moderating Role of Attitudes towards and Beliefs about Advertising” (PDF). Journal of Global Marketing32 (4): 219–238.

Gilovich, T.; Medvec, V. H.; Savitsky, K. (2000). “The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance” (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Gilovich, Thomas; Kruger, Justin; Medvec, Victoria Husted (2002). “The Spotlight Effect Revisited: Overestimating the Manifest Variability of Our Actions and Appearance” (PDF). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Matthew James Hall (2020) ,”Are You Paying Attention? Consumption-Related Antecedents and Consequences of the Spotlight Effect”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 48, eds. Jennifer Argo, Tina M. Lowrey, and Hope Jensen Schau, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 383-384.

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Appealing to Authority: From Decision Making to Disinformation

April 27th, 2022 No comments

Debates: you either love them or you hate them. For some, they can be interesting discussions that provoke thought in fields ranging from philosophy to politics to the sciences and everything in between. For others though, they are outlets for pretentious people to engage in pretentious fighting about pretentious topics. Among some of the more pretentious aspects of debate is the calling out of fallacies. 

To someone who has no idea what these debaters are talking about, it can be confusing to hear the words “strawman,” “red herring,” or “ad hominem” over and over. These terms all fall under the category of fallacies, which Merriam-Webster defines as arguments using false logic. By using false logic in arguments, debaters would be able to back up their claims using evidence that, while convincing, is actually deceptive. And by understanding these fallacies and calling them out, debaters would be able to avoid losing their argument – essentially filtering for disinformation. Understanding how fallacies like these work can point towards key cognitive processes that we rely on on a daily basis to decide what we deem as true.

One of these fallacies is what is called argumentum ad verecundiam. On top of being a mouthful, it describes an argument that is based on an appeal to a false authority. We appeal to authority very regularly for information, so one might ask what makes this a false argument. It is a fallacy because the expertise of the authority figure in question does not translate to expertise in the field of the argument. It is like citing an expert painter to make an argument about roadwork. Sure, maybe their fields have some potential overlap, but they are different and require different structures of knowledge.

This is a Palla’s cat. Unlike a domestic cat, it is not a source of authority regarding the intricacies of climbing cat trees nor will it be reliable on topics concerning the theory and practice of litterbox management (Photo by Radovan Zierik for Pexels)
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Let’s Talk About Your Feelings: They Change How You See the World

April 24th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever been so stressed about an upcoming assignment that it’s all you can think about? Consumed with procrastination, you find yourself thinking about it while eating dinner with your friends—what were you talking about again? You were too busy thinking about your calculus midterm. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: imagine relaxing in your home, making dinner, and watching television, when you see a cockroach scamper across your kitchen floor (eek!). If you’re like me, you would jump on the table and become all-consumed with how to get rid of the intruder. In your preoccupation, you severely burn the chicken you were cooking for dinner.

Our emotions are mentally taxing! (source)

While I can’t save your spoiled meal or ensure a good grade on your exam, I can explain the origins of the narrow-mindedness we experience when we are stressed or scared. Let’s talk about an idiom for a second. When you are stressed out, a cognitive psychologist might say that you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, you’ve become too focused on the details to see the bigger picture. You have a paper due tomorrow, but you spent all day deciding what font to use.

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More Than Smoke and Mirrors: The Mental Processes Behind Lying

April 23rd, 2022 No comments

Chances are you have heard George Washington’s legendary axiom “I cannot tell a lie,”but such words are themselves a lie. No, I am not accusing the first president of being a pathological liar. But I AM arguing that lying is a human function that is difficult to avoid altogether.

Lying spans multiple realms; philosophers debate its moral implications, some religious communities consider it a mortal sin, and Americans witness it in our own political and sociocultural environment (let’s just say that George Washington wasn’t the only Commander in Chief who failed to tell the truth). But lying also has a cognitive element, meaning it involves mental processes such as attention and memory.

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Famous or Not: the Competition between Familiarity and Recollection

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Do you know Brett Cohen? Sounds familiar? Even if you answered no, just keep reading. Let me show you how he made himself “famous” in one night.

Brett Cohen was a YouTuber who dreamed of being famous. One day, he decided to do a celebrity prank in the busiest streets in New York City and to see what it feels like to be at the center of attention. Brett dressed like a typical celebrity: a striped shirt with top buttons unbuttoned, sunglasses (classic!), and combed hair. He also hired some people to pretend as his bodyguards, personal assistants, and even paparazzi and reporters. Off he went, on this exciting journey. Once Brett walked from the NBC Observation Deck into the public, guess what? The crowd went nuts. People formed circles around him, yelled his name, and rushed to get a picture with him. When people were asked where they knew Brett from, they all responded with Spider-Man. One of the conversations went like this:

Common Cohen (up) vs Famous Cohen (bottom) How did he trick people into thinking that he was a celebrity? (pictures from Cohen 2012)

The “reporter”: Do you know Brett Cohen? 
The guy: Yea.
The “reporter”: Where do you know him from?
The guy: Well, when he was in Spider-Man? 
The “reporter”: Yea?
The guy: Yea. Very good actor.
The “reporter”: You liked him there?
The guy: Yea.
(Cohen 2012)

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Moving From Autopilot Towards Mindfulness

November 24th, 2020 No comments

https://memebase.cheezburger.com/tag/zoning-out

Have you ever been carrying on a conversation with a friend when you realize you have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about–let alone how you’re still talking? Or, maybe you’ve been driving when you blink and an entire hour goes by leaving you wondering where your mind went… and how your car is still intact? I could just be a bad friend, or a slacker driver, but I suspect I’m not alone. It’s likely that you’re zoned out a lot more often than you realize, and this isn’t without negative repercussions. In 2010, Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert used a phone app to randomly record what 2,250 participants’ minds were focused on in a specific moment in relation to what they were doing and how they were feeling. They discovered that the average person spends about 47% of their day on “autopilot,” following automated behaviors while their thoughts wander from the task at hand. Equally intriguing, when the participants reported their mind wandering, they also reported being significantly less happy in that moment. It may be unsettling to realize that you aren’t consciously aware of your behavior for half of your day, and that generally the more time we spend directed by automated behaviors, the less happy we’re likely to feel (Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010).
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A Call to Challenge Categorization (& tune in to When They See Us)

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

If you have not watched Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed production When They See Us, I would tune in now. This four-part series is centered around the Central Park jogger case from April 19, 1989. Five Black and Latino adolescents were wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a woman who was running in Central Park in New York City. The four parts present the experiences of the boys from before the accusation, to getting accused and deceived by the police, to the boys falsely confessing to the crimes, to the struggles they experience in prison, and to their eventual release from prison and their lives after prison. After I watched this series, I followed up on another production called Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now. In this show, Oprah Winfrey speaks with the Exonerated Five, Ava DuVernay, and the cast of the original series. This production allowed me to see how the nightmare of experiences faced by these five men affected their lives at the time of being wrongly accused and continue to haunt them to this day. When They See Us and the resulting panel with Oprah Winfrey are by far the best programs I have ever watched on Netflix, as the two productions profoundly opened my eyes to the racist practices of the criminal justice system and the dangers of stereotyping. If you haven’t already watched them, then I would definitely recommend.

Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Ava DuVernay, Antron McCray, and Yusef Salaam at the When They See Us premiere. www.chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2019/6/14/18679622/ava-duvernay-central-park-5-netflix-chicago-jon-burge

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I don’t see a difference. Oh, wait. Now I do!

November 19th, 2020 No comments

It’s Saturday morning. I wake up, have breakfast, listen to some music, and pack my bag for what I am about to do. Like many highschool and college athletes, I am preparing for perhaps the biggest day of the week – Game day! As I arrive at the field, I immediately start eyeballing today’s opponent. What type of team are they? Are they strong? Weak? Fast? Slow? My team I already know well, and I am confident that our different strengths will help us to win this game. As a team player on my college’s rugby team myself, I often find myself viewing the teams that we play against differently and less varied than my own team. My own team, of course, is made up of a diverse group of players with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Other teams, however, I tend to have a more simple opinion of when we take the field. One cognitive phenomenon may be able to partially explain why this occurs.

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Why we overlook our own shortcomings: a description of the Actor Observer Bias

November 26th, 2019 5 comments

Picture this: you are running late to drop your kids off at school in the morning and your children are having a fit in the back seat. On top of this, it is pouring rain outside. While you are driving down the highway, another car abruptly cuts you off as they are merging. As a result of your frustration, you begin to think of how they must be a rude person who is also a terrible driver. You assign internal (personality) traits to this person based on their action of cutting you off. You do not take into account the situational factors that were affecting their driving ability, like the fact that they were late for an important meeting, or they were driving their sick pet to the vet. You automatically attribute their actions to internal factors without even thinking about what else could have caused them to cut you off. A couple of minutes later, you, yourself accidentally cut off someone while trying to take the exit off the highway to your child’s school. Instead of reacting in the same way you did to the previous person who carried out the same action as you did and automatically telling yourself you are a bad driver and rude person, you inform yourself your action is a result of the fact that you are late for your child’s dropoff at school and you cannot see well as a result of the heavy rain. You tell yourself that on a normal day you would be much more careful. You do not think of yourself as a bad driver and rude person, as you thought of the other person, even though they did the same thing that you did. Why is it that we automatically assume others’ negative actions are a result of who they are as a person while being sympathetic and giving ourselves excuses? The actor-observer bias is an explanation for this confusing phenomenon. Read more…

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The Real Reason Why Freshmen are Always Early and Seniors are Always Late to School

November 26th, 2019 4 comments

The First Day of Freshman Year

Imagine it is the morning before the first day of your freshman year of high school. You have only visited your new school once before for orientation so the drive there is unfamiliar. After getting dressed and eating your breakfast, you inform your Mom that you need to leave by 7:20am to get to school by 7:50am. As planned, you and your Mom get in the car at 7:20am and drive to school. The drive seems to take forever but somehow you manage to get to school ten minutes earlier than you had originally planned. Embarrassed by how early you are, you ask your Mom if she can wait in the parking lot until it is socially acceptable to arrive at school. She agrees and finds a spot to park. You recline your seat all the way hoping that no one will see you through the car window. While you wait, you wonder why you got to school so early.

The First Day of Senior Year

Fast forward to the morning before the first day of your senior year of high school. Now that you are a senior, you drive yourself to school. The route to school is no longer new and unfamiliar. Sometimes you wonder if you could drive there with your eyes closed. After getting dressed and eating breakfast, you determine that you need to leave by 7:35am to get to school by 7:50am. The drive seems to fly by but somehow you manage to pull in to the parking lot at 7:55 am. With only five minutes to spare instead of ten minutes, you sprint from the parking lot to class. As you slide into your seat just before the bell rings, you wonder why you got to school so late.

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