People Are Irrational

  • 7 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 2, 2022


It is legitimate to assume that people are simply irrational. Even more important, it is scientifically proven that some people often don’t really make their own choices. They can be easily influenced. While you can’t just go around telling people that they are irrational, you can at least gain your confidence that so many are Anti-Israel, not because they have some kind of insight that you don’t have. With a bigger population and more oil money, the Anti-Israel marketing machine simply got to them first.

Long explanation

If you’ve taken it upon yourself to fight the good fight for a long time, you can get numb from the ridiculousness of the situation. When you approach Anti-Israel protestors, you’ll often find many of them are originally from Middle Eastern countries. They will claim that Israel – one of the most democratic countries in the world; a country that has Arabs in its high courts, on its soccer fields, and in Parliament and enforces equal religious rights for all Muslims – is an apartheid state; it´s ridiculous. Not even the ICC, which is biased against Israel, investigates this ridiculous accusation. The fact that the United Nations, in recent years, has held more discussions about Israel’s limited sexism and racism than it has about the racism and sexism of the rest of the entire world combined… is egregious. The fact that we live in a world filled with crazy, evil dictators who oppress and enslave their own people, and yet Israel is the only issue of concern… is preposterous.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders promote child soldiers and shoot rockets from schools and hospitals as a form of human sacrifice, yet somehow Israelis receive more criticism and hatred for their supposed misdeeds than the rest of the world combined. This, my friends, is… outrageous. While there are many assholes out there in the world, not all people who care about Palestinians are bad. That leaves us with only one explanation: They are all just out to lunch.

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Now, claiming that critics of your point of view are just crazy might seem like a copout. The good news is that there is perfectly good science to back up that claim. It’s just that in social science, they don’t like to use terms like “crazy.” Instead, they say, “irrational.”

Dan Ariely, a highly regarded author and Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, specializes in everything irrational. I highly encourage you to read his books and watch his many videos. While he provides many amazing anecdotes, his favorite one is about why Europe has such extreme results when it comes to people donating their organs after they die. One would think it’s a cultural thing. But countries such as Germany and Austria, which are culturally very similar, are actually at opposite ends of the spectrum in this regard: People in Germany are organ donors after death 12% of the time, while in Austria, the rate of organ donation is nearly 100%. The same goes for Belgium and the Netherlands, with 98% and 28% respectively.

The real reason for such extreme results is the phrasing on the back of these countries’ health cards, just beside the opt-in checkbox. If the wording in your country asks you to check the box in order to donate, the stats will be very low. If the phrase says that by checking the box, you won’t donate, the stats in your country will be extremely high.

If that does not blow your mind already, I sat in on a lecture given by Ariely and heard an extension to this story. Researchers replicated this experiment in a focus group where they brought in two groups of young adults and gave them the same phrasing with a checkbox. The results were even more extreme than those identified in the European countries: People who were asked to check the box if they wanted to donate did not donate, and the people who were asked to check the box to avoid donating all decided to donate.

My brain was practically on fire by the time Ariely discussed the exit interviews from the experiment. Each one of the young adults gave a legitimate explanation to validate their choice. So, the ones who were influenced by the checkbox phrasing not to donate used an argument like, “I’m worried that the doctors might pull the plug too soon.” The people who were influenced to donate their organs explained something along the lines of how they were brought up in an ethical house and believed in doing the right thing. These otherwise reasonable people acted like they’d made a principled decision and even offered explanations as to why they’d made those decisions. When in reality, they’d made no decision at all. The wording of the question had done that for them.

I don’t know about you, but that experiment made me question everything that comes out of people’s mouths. I’m not going to summarize all of Ariely’s work, but if you read his books, you honestly won’t be able to see human beings the same way again.

While all this might be a surprise for us, advertisers and marketers have known this for years.

As the human species, we see ourselves as independent beings that make decisions on our own. We believe that we are rational, and marketers love that because they know that the only way to actually be a little more rational and challenge their marketing tactic is to be aware that we are not rational and keep our defense higher. There is research from the University of Bath that shows that commercials are surprisingly more effective on you if you just let them play in the background instead of consciously paying attention to them. Because when you do pay attention, you can actually challenge the validity of the idea in front of you instead of just simply being brainwashed by the background noise.

While the marketing industry is known to use these tactics shamelessly to sell us their product, there is another completely distinct group that is happy to use any tactic of influence and take advantage of easily influenced minds. They make marketers look like baby angels that massage your feet every morning. Authoritarian regimes and Dictators have no qualm about using every influence technique in their power to improve their image or destroy their enemies. Unfortunately, the Palestinian dictatorship top that list.

That’s why Ariely’s work is so important in this context. First, it’s nice to know that you’re not going insane thinking how ludicrous it is that the Israel-Palestine conflict is an actual debate. Hopefully, that will help you win your confidence back, which we will discuss in the next topic on how crucial it is to be an influencer.

Even if you are surrounded by many opponents, you can now legitimately understand why those opponents may simply be irrational. Even more importantly, one of Israel’s biggest PR weaknesses is that we still treat our haters like rational people. I mean, a rational discussion would be something like this: “Hey, you know the people in the Bible who lived in a country called Israel? I think they went by the name of Jews, Israelites, or Hebrews. They have always had a presence in the country and have been trying to return to it for 2,000 years. The guys who don’t have a track record for respecting minorities and human rights – who have been colonizing and converting people for centuries – claim that the entire region belongs to them. Something’s not right here.” For rational thinkers, the conversation should end there.

The fact that Jews diplomatically created solutions six times and the Arab nations said no each time and instead chose to incite violence, wage war, and try to commit genocide should have been enough to convince any rational person.

The fact that in the present day, we have the military upper hand and show such restraint, while Palestinian leadership uses its resources to kill Jews and make themselves rich should seal the deal for rational people.

It is strange how it seems that Israelis are the only ones who hear Palestinian leaders telling their people to stab and kill Jews, while those same Palestinian leaders tell the rest of the world that they are chill, peace-loving people.

Unfortunately, our irrational friends always seem to have selective hearing. The Anti-Israel Marketing Machine has figured out that it doesn’t matter what you say or do. You simply need to count deaths, show suffering, and of course, call yourself a Palestinian, and suddenly all logic goes down the drain. Lastly, understanding irrationality lets you understand that we are all reflections of influence. The person who stands in front of you spewing antisemitic crap might be an evil prick, but it’s also quite possible that he’s simply a well-intentioned victim of influence; the haters might have simply gotten to them first.

If a person can be influenced to hate Israel, he can also be influenced in the opposite direction, with stronger convictions. Hopefully, in the long run, we’ll get to sprinkle a little more rationality into the conversation.

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