The Science of Activism (repetition, confidence, certainty, trust, and reduction of defense)

  • 12 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 5, 2022

Alright, guys! This is when I really need to geek out. If you liked learning the science behind irrationality, I am bringing you more science behind the art of influence. The reason why I’m writing this article is that many of the tactics I suggest might seem counterintuitive, and you might want to see real scientific backing to what I say.

If too much science is not your thing, this is the perfect time to just take my word for it and stick to the punchline. But for all of you who love psychology and marketing and want to understand the backing of influence, this is your read.

The key to being a great activist is not carrying billboards and protesting in the street. It’s not finding as many people to argue and debate or put down your opponent. A good activist has strictly one goal: to influence. To make as many people accept and hopefully transform themselves by your message.

Through my many years in activism, I discovered the 4 main key attributes that you need to focus on to succeed in persuading people.

  • Certainty and Confidence.
  • Repetition.
  • Trust-Building.
  • Dealing with Bias.

So let me break down these four points.

Certainty through confidence and  Unapologetic Mentality

This is the place where we would say “no, Duh”. Of course, confident people are more influential, but for all of you who are not convinced, I’m going into geek mode.

In research made by specialists from Jacobs University Bremen and Cardiff University, there is evidence that certain nonverbal cues associated with trustworthiness can be noticed by our brains upon our very first encounter with an individual. That means we can gain immediate trust by seeing the right facial expressions of the person and the tone of his voice.

Now you can take a degree in acting and practice all the proper visual and auditory cues, or you can simply become very knowledgeable and understand your topic well enough and become confident in it. As we learn from Mcgill’s research by Yondu Mori and Marc D. Pell that showing confidence automatically brings on all the positive cues to affect persuasion.

Zakary L. Tormala  and Derek D. Rucker put a huge emphasis on certainty and how it affects persuasion. Certainty is the confidence we have in our beliefs. The more certain we are in a topic, the stronger our ability to persuade will be. Feel free to check the video below.

Now, considering that our goal is not only to influence people but to influence people to influence other people. The confidence we are so greatly aiming for needs to be replicated.

Now, the nice thing about Zakary Tormala’s work is that it also shows how you can make other people more certain about the topic, which hopefully creates a viral effect for certain Zionists. He breaks it down into four ways on how we can generate Certainty:

  1. Consensus: The more people around us believe in a certain thing, the more social validation we will crave, and we accept things to join the crowd. That is why we emphasize not just having a few experts deliver the message but ensuring that each and every Zionist knows enough to deliver the message and create a Viral effect
  2. Ease: the more easily an idea comes to mind, the more certain we are of it. That’s why we invest in simple, clear, and easily defined ideas.
  3. Defense: When we already defend a topic, the more certain we become of that topic. This is an interesting one because it pretty much says that if we get someone to defend Israel once, they will immediately be more confident and certain about the topic. So popping your Israel activism cherry truly matters.
  4. Repetition: This is by far the most crucial influential tactic and we will we cover in the next section

Now, where does certainty and confidence truly hit home? This is when we start suggesting that Israel is also doing something wrong, which might make us seem more approachable to discuss the topic. I call it being apologetic, and the science shows that it does not work. If you want to influence people to support Israel and even Palestinians, there is only one way: with confidence and certainty that Israel is in the right. I like to call this an Unapologetic Mentality. I know this might sound a bit extreme, but unfortunately, this is the way the Anti-Israel marketing machine is winning the war, and we must level up our certainty.

Repetition

One of the most effective tools of marketing is repetition. The famous marketing theory, the Rule of Seven, written by Dr. Jeffrey Lant, marketing guru and Harvard educator, explains that you need to “hear” the advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service.

Yet research goes deeper than just consumerism. A study from the University of Michigan has shown that when a person in a group repeats an Idea three times, especially when it’s unopposed, he can sound like many people in the group are offering the same Idea. Your brain literally glitches into familiarity with the idea. The phenomenon is called memory distortion.

The industry that understands repetition the best is the music industry.

I came upon a fascinating Youtube video made by Arran Lomas/Thoughty2 on “Why is Modern Music so Awful?”. In the last 2 minutes of the video, he teaches how the music industry influences you to love music.

I’m not trying to insult anyone’s music taste, and I can appreciate that after calling everyone irrational and easily susceptible to influence in previous articles, starting to insult someone’s music taste does not leave me with many friends. But here we are.

So in the video, Arran points out how the industry no longer takes chances with its investment in a new artist. Once they produce a tune, they make sure you hear it everywhere: in the mall, in the elevator, on the radio, and in many movies, till your brain gets familiar with the tune and starts liking it. Unfortunately, this is the secret behind why many of us begin to enjoy a certain tune that might not be so great. The phenomenon is called the mere exposure effect.

One group that understands the mere exposure effect to perfection is the “Anti-Israel Marketing Machine.” Any progressive protest related to women’s rights, gay rights, war protests, and oppression across the world will always have an Anti-Israel activist popping their beaks out.

When the war in Ukraine started, the comparisons to Palestine started almost instantaneously. Putting aside the completely irrational logic that about 14,000 Jews and Arabs died in 40 years of conflict and the same amount that died in a single month in the Ukraine war.

Now, I’m not telling you to start popping Israel in every protest and in every subject. It is incredibly disrespectful to take on your own agenda while other minorities and nations suffer. I just want to point out the power of repetition and how, if it’s used ethically, can be our most powerful tool. Repeating a few short ideas and concepts is much more powerful than telling long stories.

Also, I hope that once we expose the shameless action of continuously riding on the coattails of important social movements, will eventually start backfiring on the Anti-Israel Marketing Machine. They are cheapening other movements and should be exposed.

Trust-Building through Empathy and Lack of arrogance

Arrogance

So confidence is quite controversial because it is often perceived as arrogance, but this is a mistake. People love confident people. What they really see as arrogance is a dismissive attitude.

Thankfully, the trick to not being seen as arrogant is to avoid dismissive behavior even when you have more knowledge about a subject, according to another research realized by Maxim Milyavsky, Arie W. Kruglanski, Marina Chernikova and Noa Schori-Eyal and published by PLOS ONE in July 2017.

So, yes, Confidence and Certainty are important to build Trust, but it is not the only component. We have to create some kind of connection.

Empathy/Connection

Getting to understand the science behind connection I would like to go back the study carried out by Neuroeconomic Paul J Zack.

https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_zak_trust_morality_and_oxytocin/transcript?language=es

The man, actually figured out the chemical in the brain that creates morality and trustworthiness, and that is Oxytocin, the hormone of love. Oxytocin is the chemical in our brains that is released when we create relationships, fall in love, and even when we have a child. Its evolutionary purpose is to get us to reproduce. It also helps anxiety, improves mood, and reduces aggressiveness. Another wonderful side effect of is that it creates connection and trustworthiness. Paul explains that to produce more Oxytocin in both you and the person you are with, you can do simple things like giving hugs. He actually recommends giving 8 hugs a day and if you want to hug your listener or opponent, you might actually get good results. But more important for this topic is that you can generate a good level of Oxytocin by showing empathy.

In the previous section, I discussed the problem of being apologetic. But there’s a reason why we try to be apologetic. We are willing to sacrifice a bit of Israel in the discussion because we want to show empathy and build trust. But this is also causing harm because it removes the sense of confidence in our argument. So now we have a challenge. How do we create connection and empathy without being apologetic?

Simple:

Show empathy with the Palestinian people. Appreciate that they are also victims of this conflict, maybe even bigger victims than the Jews. This will go very far with many people, even if we completely disagree on who is causing the damage to the Palestinians.

Understanding Bias

Confirmation Bias

We don’t hide in this website that we come from a more progressive mentality, yet we are highly critical of the extreme left political spectrum and blame them for creating the new wave of antisemitism. There is no question that most opponents discussing this conflict come from the left and one of our main mission is to reform the left and make them understand that fighting for the rights of the true indigenous population in Palestine is very much progressive.

But here is a dilemma that often the Zionist community seems to miss: the most outspoken people that criticize the Anti-Zionists Extreme Left are people who associate with the Right-wing political spectrum, which is a challenge. Because it is so much harder to actually change people’s minds if you are part of the opposition. That’s what the scientists call confirmation bias or, more specifically, my-side bias. It works like a bug in our minds, making us look for validation for things we already believe and resist looking seriously at things that challenge our beliefs.

I’m sure our readers here have different opinions about the Dennis Pragers and Ben Shapiros of the world. Yet whatever your opinion is, if a right-wing personality criticizes the left, it’s not very effective. They might rile up their own base of people who already share their opinion, but for the left-leaning individual that is receiving the criticism, it might feel like a badge of honor. In other words, not only it won’t change the mind of a left-leaning individual, but it could empower them to think the opposite. Many people do have the attitude that their opponent is always wrong, so when they are told that they are wrong by their opponant, in their head, it automatically means that they are right. I know it’s a bit messed up, but that’s how Confirmation Bias works.

So I’m not going to sit here and tell you to suddenly change your entire perspective of the world. If you are a Right-wing individual that is talking to a left-leaning individual, but you are confident, emphatic, and repetitive, you will create influence. Just try to avoid other politics.

But it really breaks my heart to see perfectly progressive individuals choosing to give up on Left-leaning ideology because they have been alienated by the Anti-Zionists. Yes, unapologetic Progressive Zionists are the people who have the most capacity to build Trust in progressive circles. Unfortunately, when they leave, they are giving away control over the dialogue, leaving other people to define what it means to be part of that political ideology and what it means to be progressive. This also means you lose your vote on who should be the next leader, which is how we get the Jeremy Corbyns of the world. Interestingly enough, right-wing Zionists have a better capacity to take down right-wing extremists.

Disarming Resistance by Dealing with Bias

Like many other aspects of human behavior, bias has been built as a survival tool for humans since prehistoric times. The part of the brain that is responsible mostly for biased ideas is the hippocampus which is mostly known for remembering ideas.

Since we are born, we immediately associate with the language. We even hear in our womb and associate with these people, and then the baby associates with similar gender and race.

The people that this baby associates with, are the ones that bring the next set of biases by telling what set of populations is safe for them. For example, “don’t talk with strangers.”

Bias is there to discriminate against dangerous types of people, especially from a time when people from other tribes could be a danger to you.

Of course, in modern times, it leads to unhelpful discrimination, which we know today as racism, sexism, and homophobia.

It’s kind of a way for the brain to be a bit lazy because when there are so many interactions In a day, sometimes, we need to read the book by its cover. For example, if you see a man in a fancy suit walking into a fancy glass building, your brain would immediately associate the next glass building with a place where people in fancy suits work.

So based on our memory, our hippocampus creates immediate assumptions based on previous experience. And unless we truly invest in learning a topic, a brain gives us the shortcut we need.

Within the context of the conflict. The real Palestinian oppressors have played this brilliantly. By overloading the entire conflict with so much useless information, our fatigued brain immediately accesses the hippocampus to achieve this shortcut we call Bias.

And what is the shortcut end up being? That the people named after what the region was called before the conflict must be the indigenous population. And when this Palestinian nation is suffering, and you see that their Israeli “enemy” are doing well, they must be the ones to be blamed.

The assumption that the brain for many of us makes, especially within the left-leaning progressive spectrum, is that people that suffering need help, and we must fight, demonize, and delegitimize the people that are being blamed for that suffering. It doesn’t matter if they are being blamed fairly. It is simply so much more exhausting for the brain to understand how their own leaders are actually using the Palestinians as a tool to keep the conflict alive.

Overloading our brains with so much information is so insanely powerful. While the Israelis have been suffering in this conflict, With so many successful tech companies and people partying on the beach, we don’t have enough juice to pull the bias suffering card. The closest thing we got is that the Arabs also oppressed the Jews and created 850 thousand refugees, of which Israel absorbed the majority. But then you need to explain how are the Arabs associated with Palestinians, which again brings it back to heavy explanation that people try to avoid with simple assumptions.

But Jews do have other bias cards that they can use. Most people, especially in the progressive spectrum, associate indigenous people with stolen land, unjust law, and unfair treatment by other people who claim the land to be theirs. They are often associated with certain denied rights.

For the people who sympathize with indigenous law, 3300 years of active presence in the land of Israel/Judah/Palestine, with 1300 years being a majority and zero history of colonizing other lands, define the Jews as the indigenous people of the land.

Also, there is a bias card associated with intolerance marketing scammers. If we can make a case that this Conflict is the biggest scam of its Time. That not only scapegoats the only Jewish states and keeps Palestinians suffering for a long but also makes us ignore all other human rights issues across the world. We can make people infuriated. That’s why 2 of the 5 components of changing people’s minds are the indigenous connection and the marketing.

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