Prejudice

April 28, 2007

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Despite being a database of unlimited information, it seems that prejudice on the internet will not decline any time soon. This is in part due to how many people select information which affirms their beliefs yet ignore information which opposes them. Factors which contribute to the reduction of prejudice are mutual interdependence, common goals, social norms, equal status, informal setting, and interaction with out-group members. The trouble with the internet is that although social contact exists, it is of a very particular quality. Because the information someone receives is primarily text based, it is easy for a prejudice individual to imagine other characteristics of the out-group member he is in contact with via his prejudiced schema. It is undeniable that the internet has brought people together from all over the world but we must also recognize the tendency of people to accept only selected information.

The internet is an informal setting where individuals appear to be of equal status and interact within certain norms of behavior. Nonetheless, it’s uncommon to find an individual of a certain political or prejudiced persuasion to surf the internet and state that they’ve found their beliefs to be inaccurate. People have a strong desire to live in an ordered and predictable world and so it is unlikely one would seek information which questions held views.

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Advertising

April 15, 2007

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As we’ve learned about attitude change and the nature of communication, marketing is at its most effective when the target is unaware that someone is trying to persuade them. A quick visit to Alexa.com will reveal that Myspace is usually one of the top 5 visited websites on the internet. It is estimated that the site attracts 230,000 new users every single day. The number of visits per day is easily in the tens of millions. It’s therefore to be expected that this website will feature the latest attempts to draw the attention and clicks of the average web user. These techniques seem to change over a period of several months to draw in more unsuspecting users.

The site is geared to young adults and the sites’ marketing reflects this. One of the first advertisement techniques I saw replicated a ‘mini-game’ designed in flash. The user is tricked into thinking one can win a prize by “swatting a fly” with their mouse. When one clicks on the flash game they are directed to a site where a product is offered and the true nature of the game is revealed.

Perhaps an even more social psychologically relevant advertisement is one which masks itself as a video chat with a woman. An attractive young female is dressed in the appearance of the “girl-next-door”. In various videos she flips her hair, plays with a mug, and portrays other flirtatious social cues. If you sign up with myspace as “female” you’ll be show ads featuring buff men. To top the deception off, a chat window is visible under the video which mimics an instant message service with its scrolling lines of chat. The unsuspecting web surfer will believe there is someone on the other side speaking to them. Then all it takes is a single click and the surfer gets directed to a dating site where one has to pay to subscribe.

I find there to be an incredible discrepancy in attitude reports on the internet, which continues to go unacknowledged by many major news outlets.  Websites such as CNN have polls where surfers can vote on various topics. Besides the usual issues regarding the wording of the poll and the likelihood of getting opinions from certain politically aligned demographics, there are other problems unique to the internet. The most obvious of which is the fact that the poll is only on the internet. Everyone who is voting likely has a computer and is therefore of a certain income level. It’s a large jump to state that the attitude of internet users is similar to the attitude of most Americans.

A greater problem has to do with the mobilization of large groups of users. An excellent example of this was CNN’s poll regarding the belief in a cover up related to the events of September 11th. In 2004 a CNN online poll showed that 89% believed there’s been a cover up by the current administration. Why I view this poll to be inaccurate is because I’m aware of the number of conspiracy website which directed surfers (traffic) to vote in these polls whilst they were up. The number of people who believe in a cover up and were directed to the poll is completely disproportionate to those who just stumbled upon it. It is true that other sites which are oppose this belief could send their traffic to the poll as well, but such sites are less motivated and less popular then the conspiratorial ones.

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