This article was sent in by a loyal EID reader. John Cassidy at the New Yorker examines the social media strategy that ISIS has used as a core part of its operations. He concludes that their success is only possible because of the warped reality we get by learning about the world through technology-mediated communication such as social media and the cognitive short-cuts it generates. Most of us see ISIS as much worse than they really are. Their recruits see their solution as something much better than it really is. Much more than anyone seeing them in person would. Their whole operation may not be possible without this.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, the neofundamentalists, or some of them, have gained a territorial foothold in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. But ISIS and other radical groups still rely heavily on information technology. In addition to using the Internet to recruit and to plan attacks, they know they can rely on it to amplify the immediate impact of their atrocities, especially “spectaculars” like the one carried out in Paris. That’s because the virtual community of jihadis and sympathizers that Roy identified isn’t the only one the Internet has created. As the past week and a half has made clear, there is also a global community of virtual witnesses to terrorism—a group of which we are nearly all members.
For this week’s episode of Human Factors in History, we investigated the origins of our understanding of self-delusion. This was a serendipitous discovery – I came across one of the foundational studies purely by accident. But I noticed that all of the citations in this paper were from the 1940s and 50s. That seems to be when psychology researchers took it upon themselves to find out how it works, taking it over from the philosophers who had been thinking about it for millennia.
Normally, I am not a fan of Buzzfeed listicles. They are usually a bit too trivial to waste time on. But I have a feeling that this will resonate with many of the designers out there (any kind of design) as well as any freelancers who spend time with clients. I know I laughed at a few. But there is actually more to this than meets the eye at first glance – hence my article today.
“I’d like the white space more if there were stuff in it.”
As you know, I have a strong interest in group identity and how feelings of group inclusion impact our thoughts and behavior. Usually, we are looking for ways to leverage someone’s group identity – the attributes of groups they feel part of such as their family, friends, religion, country, coworkers, etc. Sometimes, people use an outside group to differentiate themselves and their identity.
In the Hollywood movie version of revenge, our wronged hero justifiably vanquishes the villain. In real life, though, revenge is hardly ever so clear-cut. Aggrieved persons typically do not know, or cannot access, the specific individual who did them wrong. Instead a phenomenon occurs that psychologists call “displaced revenge,” where avengers target a proxy—someone akin to the original transgressor. A new study finds that displaced revenge is sweeter when the target seems to belong to the same group as the wrongdoer.
We cover the challenges of deluded thinking a lot here at Ergonomics in Design. Part of the reason is that I am fascinated by the psychological processes that lead to deluded thinking. The other reason of course is that as human factors practitioners we need to be aware of when deluded thinking can impact performance. As you might expect, many people “airbrush” what they post on social media such as Facebook. What makes it more interesting is that we start believing our own deceptions…
I often talk about self-delusion. In many cases, we can frame situations so that they are positive and unless there are unavoidable and serious consequences this can actually increase lifetime levels of happiness. But when there are unavoidable and serious consequences, we need to pop the self-delusion bubble. This is one of those examples. The study finds that women who hear that a coworker was diagnosed with breast cancer are less likely to get mammograms and to be proactive about their own health.
It’s the idea that information can sometimes be scary. And in those cases, people can sometimes avoid that kind of information…
Romance is a great domain to investigate self-delusion because it is so personal. And since on-line dating sites are still incredibly popular and contain so much data, we can mine it for many insights. And thanks to Chris McKinlay, we have PhD quality evidence. Some of his best conclusions are visualized here. But before I get myself into a lot of hot water by being politically incorrect, let me first say that these insights also apply to lots of other situations…