mere exposure effect fallacy
last updated: 02/03/2017
“exposure fallacy“, “influential platform fallacy“
: presumed causal relationship between the exposure of ideas, typically in media or advertising, and one’s particular viewpoint adjusting [god’s autopsy]
: presumes exposure of an idea will manufacture a particular opinion, ideology, value or desire [god’s autopsy]
“Men are taught by the media to believe that only thin women are beautiful.”
“Rampant violence in America is caused by violent movies, television and video games.”
“Children are addicted to sugar because of commercials.”
Scenario: Neil, an atheist, is a videographer and editor for a Christian television station. Even with years of exposure to Christian dogma and propaganda, it may not be possible for Neil to be persuaded by religious rhetoric alone. Accordingly, he would need to be exposed to a particular set of ideas that would directly contradict his atheistic views about reality. Exposure to sermons, religious conversion testimonials or propaganda may only effect Neil’s impression of a church-going experience, or may simply have no demonstrable influence on his metaphysical perspective.
The idea that propaganda proves causation is deconstructed using a reductio ad absurdum example:
Suppose Group A believes that the vast majority of negative stereotypes which are attributed to the group have been covertly manufactured by the Western media. If it’s the case that the media can create random stereotypes, then it must also be true that media can destroy those same stereotypes. Therefore, if must also follow that, with synchronicity and cooperative action of course, the media can persuade the public to vote for any random candidate for a position of government, believe any particular religion is true, eat any type of food or wear any type of clothing by means of spreading narratives.
Group A believes that if an opinion or narrative is repeatedly run by news, film and television, such ideas will inevitably have hypnotic effects on the minds of the masses. Their only recourse now is to shut down opposing points of view, manufacture their own narrative and correct the implanted narrative which has worked to control the feeble public mind.
Gladly, the latter example does not reflect reality in any way. Individuals are influenced by information they perceive to be true, not information coming merely from presumed authorities like news, politicians, religious leaders, film, television or video games. There is absolutely no demonstrable evidence that propaganda, in and of itself, has any predictable effect on those who happen to be exposed to it. New information must align with one’s perspective of understood facts, something that can be called the single perspective hypothesis. see below
THE SINGLE PERSPECTIVE HYPOTHESIS
There is no demonstrable evidence that people view the world from more than one single cosmic perspective, or that they can consciously hold contradictory beliefs. In terms of the developed adult mind, new information must not logically contradict the a priori thoughts and beliefs of the individual experiencing that information. For example, Bill, a Catholic, cannot be dissuaded of the possibility of miracles without first becoming fully cognizant of some existing metaphysical contradiction in his supernatural interpretation of the universe. In order for new information to be effective in changing Bill’s mind about any particular subject, that information must parallel his ideology or set of beliefs. Furthermore, if Bill perceives a contradiction in the premises of an argument, he will surely lack the ability to believe its proposed conclusion. One cannot change Bill’s conclusions without first changing his premises.
Of course, lies and/or the omission of facts, can have an undeniable influence on an audience, but propaganda alone has zero predictable influence. Propaganda is bias, misleading or one sided, but not always or necessarily contaminated with blatant lies.
I will be writing about the “mere exposure effect” often and citing instances where people are relentlessly committing this error. But for now, see content from popular outlets like Feminist Frequency, The Young Turks, BuzzFeed etc, where people like Anita Sarkeesian, Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola constantly source the media as being a mind-altering and virtually hypnotic influence on the supposed malleable minds of the masses.
A small few public figures seem to evade this fallacy by and large. Among this few are intellectuals like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Gad Saad and a few others. They understand the difficulties of changing minds, and have a stable grasp on the concept and consequence of intense human conviction. Many of us have a deeply rooted cosmic perspective which can be often tied to emotion. Rationalizing and cognitive dissonance work as defense mechanisms which might have been very useful to our ancestors’ survival, but the primitive age is long gone, however, so we should all be more familiar with how we form our beliefs. If your mind rarely changes, you should worry.
Also see, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a pontifical expositor of what he believes are successful attempts to “control the public mind”.
Third-wave feminists, Black Lives Matter, cultural Marxists, cultural relativists, social justice warriors and countless other groups are made up of people who feel they know what the big bad media is up to. Anyone who disagrees with their worldview must have either swallowed whole the media mind control narrative, is evil, crazed, racist or bigoted. The likes of third-wave feminists and SJW’s aren’t looking for equal treatment or equal opportunities, what they want is equal outcomes, equal numbers, forced symmetry and dangerous censorship.
WHAT REALLY INFLUENCES US?
Culture, family and loved ones, friends and especially the society in which we live all have the greatest demonstrable influence on what we believe. Of course, the media makes an effort to persuade us, but the societies in which we live reliably work to cancel or reinforce any new ideas we may gather from the media. There’s a reason one’s childhood has such a great impact on their political, religious, social or otherwise cosmic perspective, it’s because once those premises are set, it takes some time, motivation and hard work to go inside the hard drive and redirect the files of your beliefs.
That being said, I would like to challenge anyone to prove that the media or propaganda is a reliable and demonstrable way to “control the minds” of those who simply happen to be exposed to it. I protest that media does not in fact manufacture consent.
The argument from exposure is simply a subset of Correlation =/= Causation (post hoc ergo propter hoc), but must be addressed because the idea is believed and pontificated by almost everyone with a mouth, keyboard or a telephone. Media does not influence society, but rather, society influences the media. Life does not imitate art, but rather, it is art which imitates life. Minds shop for ideas, most ideas are ignored or lost, others become colossal. An idea is a bit of information, and ideas are like discoveries, discoveries which either become memes or die.
( This page was updated to remove the names of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence M. Krauss and Matt Dillahunty from the names of the small number of intellectuals who seem to come closer to understanding that mere exposure may not be the most persuasive tool. )