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Breaking the Chains: a Guide to Nudging You

A superb video-fisking by PANDA of a Covid-propaganda video:

16 comments to Breaking the Chains: a Guide to Nudging You

  • If anything, Covid laid this behaviour bare. It became more obvious and hysterical, so even those not well versed in critical thinking should have been able to spot it.

  • […] has a similar observation on this […]

  • NickM


    Unless they didn’t want to because they thought it a Good Thing.

  • Stonyground

    My default position is to disbelieve any information put out by the government or the BBC. They lie so consistently that this would seem to be a fairly sensible approach.

    The Covid jab is an excellent example. The jab does not prevent or reduce your ability to contract or spread the virus, it only reduces the severity of the symptoms should you get it. Yet most of the information put out by the government and the BBC has strongly implied, if not outright stated that it works the same way as a regular vaccine, that you will be protecting others as well as yourself by getting it.

  • James Strong

    OK, but what is new in this? Politicians, salesmen,evangelists and many others have been using language, body language, pacing, anchoring, appealing to loss-aversion, for decades or centuries without knowing the names of the techniques.

    Scott Adams produced a superb series of articles about President Trump as a Master Persuader.

    What about hypnotists and mentalists? How does Derren Brown succeed in his shows? (I think they are superb.)

    A mentalist could have told us about all the techniques fisked in this video a long,long time ago.

    And ‘nudge’ occurs in everyday life too.

    Readers of this blog are likely to be highly sceptical of government sources, ready to see propaganda, manipulation and deceit.

    This video is providing confirmation bias.

    The video is, in my view, correct, but we all like to see and hear things that we agree with or make us feel wise.And that’s what this video does for typical samizdata readers.

    Yes, the video is correct, but it’s not breaking any new ground. Unless people who tend to believe that our leaders care about us and respect us can be persuaded, or nudged, to see it.

  • Yes, the video is correct, but it’s not breaking any new ground.

    Given how easily people are manipulated, we need to see more of these exposes. The Samizdata commentariat may well be more versed in this stuff, but the effectiveness of these techniques during the covid episode suggests that we are in a minority. Even well educated and otherwise sensible people seem to be prone to this nudge evil. So, good for the Panda guys for fisking it and the more people who see it, the better able we are to resist.

  • David Roberts

    “The possibilities of using the insights of psychiatry and the social sciences to influence our choices and our behaviour are so inviting that no one anywhere can be sure nowadays that he is not being worked upon by the depth persuaders.”

    Written by Vance Packard, to British readers, in the introduction to his book: The Hidden Persuaders, published in 1957.

    He was talking about commerce, now it is government policy.

    Who else here read this book back then? I have lost my copy but it is downloadable free.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I found the video by PANDA illuminating, but it did not outrage me that the original video that PANDA was critiquing used these techniques. The appeal to family feeling, the use of faces in close up, etc. are all persuasion techniques that are also employed by persuaders I support. In themselves they don’t constitute deception.

    It is, of course, good to analyse and be aware of these things. And I do find it a little sinister how slick and well-funded the government videos are these days. They can afford the best psychological experts and film-makers while those who oppose the government’s view, or even merely lack enthusiasm for it, have no such resources.

    But to be frank a part of my mind was thinking how I might use some of these tricks myself.

  • bobby b

    “Who else here read this book back then?”

    Ah, memories. Read that book for a great marketing class back in high school. Cutting-edge stuff back then.

  • In themselves they don’t constitute deception.

    Except for the bits that actually are out and out ‘propaganda’ and logical fallacies.

    It is, of course, good to analyse and be aware of these things.

    And that is indeed the purpose of such videos.

  • Paul Marks

    The increasing use of phycological conditioning methods by government bureaucracies does indeed long predate Covid – but has gong into overdrive over the last two years.

    It is very disturbing indeed – governments (and allied bodies – such as corporations) should not be seeking to “Nudge” people to think and behave in certain ways by phycological manipulation.

    It does indeed need to be exposed and opposed – as the people who made this video do.

  • David Roberts (April 6, 2022 at 7:37 pm), I recall being unimpressed by ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ (Vance Packard, 1957) when I read it long ago. Some time before I encountered a similar thought in Milton Friedman, it read to me like just another example of disbelieving in the agency of the common people and blaming this on the (back then, unwoke) corporations who were wickedly ‘persuading’ them to hold meretricious values – i.e. values not held by the critic. I also saw it was infected with undue admiration for the soft sciences of persuasion even as it regretted that corporations were buying them.

    Packard’s quote may today be more apt – but if Packard were alive today, I fear he would be writing about the evils of ‘misinformaton’.

    (Or at least, that is my 0.02p FWIW, based on old memory and almost zero knowledge of Packard beyond the book, so beware being over-persuaded by me.)

  • bobby b

    ” . . . it read to me like just another example of disbelieving in the agency of the common people . . . “


    I thought it was, indeed, about agency. Not agency denied to a people by power, but agency that the people did possess but chose not to exercise, out of laziness.

    I thought that he was a strong proponent of agency, not a disbeliever in it. He just wished more people would think for themselves.

    He wrote it in ’57, well before others had started to think in terms of consumer self-empowerment. Fairly anodyne stuff by today’s standards, but a new concept back then.

    As to whether his admiration for the soft sciences of persuasion was “undue”, now, almost five decades after I read it, those sciences really do control society. What we eat, who we elect, what color gun we buy – they’re all distinctly affected by persuaders who have become very effective in what they do, mostly because we let them do it.

    (Although I do own a pink handgun. There is some pushback remaining.)

  • David Roberts

    You gentlemen are nudging me to read more of this book. Here is an early excerpt which appears to support a facet remembered by bobby b:

    “The efforts of the persuaders to probe our everyday habits for hidden meanings are often interesting purely for the flashes of revelation they offer us of ourselves. We are frequently revealed, in their findings, as comical actors in a genial if twitchy Thurberian world. The findings of the depth probers provide startling explanations for many of our daily habits and perversities. It seems that our subconscious can be pretty wild and unruly.”

    In other words understand yourself.

    A pdf of the book can be downloaded from ditext.com/packard/persuaders.pdf, which is apparently an insecure site.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Well done to anyone who managed to watch this. Slow, portentous music, unsupported assertion etc. Absolutely unwatchable.

    But… but… some people are watching this sort of thing and believing it.