Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cognitive Misers

Your perceptions of beauty, attractiveness, you political beliefs are just some of the ideals we feel define ourselves. But how much of those opinions are solely formed by ourselves and how much is influenced by the media? Considering how the average American spends four hours a day (about nine years in a sixty-five year life) watching television (Herr), I think it’s safe to say that it heavily influences us. There’s no problem letting the media influence you, but the problem begins when people just accept whatever information they receive as the truth. According to Social Cognition, this is the theory of the cognitive miser who are “individuals especially under time pressure or confronted with an unusually complex situation, who strive to simplify cognitive processes…aiming for high accuracy under the constraint of strategies that are faster and require less effort and unlikely to process the provided information extensively” (Bless and Fiedler 157). And according to the Age of Propaganda, the media already employs several tactics such as accusations, “big lies”, race in rumors, analogies, etc. to get people to see their way. If we as a society are indeed cognitive misers, it means that we are more easily manipulated by the media than we think. Because the media can easily sell us their ideals and products, it wouldn’t be easy for the media to sell us a war. As history has taught us, it isn’t that difficult for the media to use propaganda to convince to support a war. During World War II, Nazi Germany employed the use of propaganda to get the German people to support anti-Semitic laws, using “big lies” which couldn’t be disproved (or proved for that matter) and accusations. These propaganda techniques along with economic crisis made it incredibly easily for Hitler to gain power.

Perhaps if we watched less television or stop immersing ourselves so much in the media in general or became more thoughtful and analytical about the information it sends us, we could be manipulated and controlled less. And maybe if society stops being cognitive misers, the next time a war comes around, we’ll be able to stop relying on gut emotions and instead fully comprehend the reasons and potential consequences that war may have may have.

Works Cited:

Bless, Herbert, and Fiedler, Klaus. Social Cognition: How Individuals Construct Social Reality. New York: Psychology Press, 2004. http://books.google.com/books?id=9ZiCfdbIRqMC&pg=PA5&lpg=PA5&dq=Petty+Cacioppo+cognitive+miser+television&source=bl&ots=Z36IJORm0s&sig=Bi5DwHKgP0DRRsB0gqMxL34rMvc&hl=en&ei=kUbLSp3XCeaPtgearInaAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=Petty%20Cacioppo%20cognitive%20miser%20television&f=false

Herr, Norman. Television and Health. California State University, Northridge. 2007. http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html

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