Is it that easy to manipulate people ?

They say math don’t lie, but it can be misleading .
Like the drake equation and String theory And conspiracy theorists and corrupt democratic government all had tremendous inertia .
How was it so easy for people to be manipulated to this level?
asked on Saturday, Sep 28, 2019 04:07:40 PM by Pascal

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David Blomstrom
I'm more familiar with the adage "Figures don't lie, but liars do figure."

OK, you ask (how) is it so easy to manipulate people?

The answer apparently lies in the mind, which is very powerful yet contains some astonishing weaknesses at the same time.

Do some research on "cognitive biases," for example. One of the most familiar cognitive biases is conformism, popularly referred to as "peer pressure."

If someone tells you to stand for the flag pledge and no one stands up, you probably won't stand up, either. But if everyone rises, you're probably going to rise as well, even if despise the flag pledge.

Propagandists take advantage of this with the so-called bandwagon fallacy.

If you tell someone "This new drug is good for you," potential customers may be skeptical. But if you say "EVERYONE is using this new drug," then people are more likely to be convinced.

There are many cognitive biases that clever propagandists exploit. They have many strategies for going even farther.

Rather than simply claiming that everybody supports one idea or another, they can recruit people to PRETEND that they support some idea or product. Have you heard of the term "crisis actors"? It isn't a fairy tale; they're very real.

Also, do some research on the term "controlled opposition," or fake leaders. One of the most famous examples is Obama, who promised "change," but instead morphed into George W. Bush II.

Another technique is called "dumbing down." For example, many people believe there's a conspiracy to actually impede children's education and understanding in America's public schools. As a former teacher in Seattle, I believe it wholeheartedly. The evidence is utterly overwhelming.

Poverty and drugs also impede education and knowledge. Yet another tactics is to simply overwhelm people with ideas, information, misinformation or life in general. Donald Trump pulls the craziest stunts all the time, and the media obediently turn his stunts into headlines - a great excuse for ignoring REAL news, like climate change. When Donald Trump calls this "fake news," he's telling the truth - even though Trump himself is extremely dishonest.

In other words, Donald and Trump are on the same team; they just pretend to hate each other.

Another term you should be aware of is cognitive dissonance .

In plain English, people may experience mental discomfort when they're forced to deal with conflicting ideas. For example, imagine a person raised in a Christian, patriotic household. One day they meet someone who tells them George Washington owned slaves, and there is no God. The existence of "God" can make for a long philosophical discussion, but Washington was indeed a fantastically rich, aristocratic slave owner.

A person who hears these ideas for the first time can experience a panic attack. As actor Jack Nicholson famously said, "You can't handle the truth!"

In summary, the answer to your question is YES - it's incredibly easy to manipulate people. Virtually all the soldiers who have fought America's wars - from the Revolutionary War to the destruction of Libya and Syria - were clueless morons, except for the relative handful who knew they were fighting dirty wars but were forced to right regardless.
answered on Sunday, Sep 29, 2019 01:48:15 AM by David Blomstrom


Bo Bennett, PhD
Not really a question about fallacies, but one to which I can make a good book recommendation. A classic that is about 50 years old:<>.
answered on Sunday, Sep 29, 2019 07:14:09 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD


Steven Hobbs
Great question, albeit not about a fallacy but false belief. Follow this link to find 20 answers:
answered on Sunday, Sep 29, 2019 03:07:09 PM by Steven Hobbs


The mind is infected with 200+ unique biases - Please refer to the Cognitive Bias Codex Infographic to visualize this. Thus it is extremely easy to trick your mind. Unless you make it your explicit purpose to detect biases in every decision that you make. You can't disinfect yourself and your system from these bugs. These really are not bugs, but features. Each bias had a reason to exist and was extremely important for our evolution. But, these mind hackers started exploiting these bugs/features to get votes, to get you to buy stuff, there are books about how to exploit people -
1. Subliminal Seduction
2. The art of manipulation
3. The art of persuasion
4. The art of negotiation
5. How to make friends and influence people

Yes, it is extremely easy to manipulate people, when you make manipulation your expertise and the other person is an amateur. Trump is an expert emotional manipulator. If the other person or the entire population has also gained expertise in manipulation then it would be really difficult, but given that 99% of the population has no clue about these dark arts or won't invest time into such arts, it is rather easy to manipulate the humanity as a whole, albeit with some risk.
answered on Monday, Sep 30, 2019 03:22:45 AM by boniaditya


Steven White
Because most people do not logically think for themselves, instead waiting to be told what to believe by the so-called experts. That and most are just pure lazy and haven’t even looked into the basics.

It’s not that they have been intentionally misled. Even Ptolemy actually believed he was correct. Even had the math to back up his beliefs, so of course how could he be wrong? He was an expert after all and all the other experts agreed until the one or two minority dissenters finally spoke up..... and were promptly ignored and ridiculed.....

Most just don’t care enough to check into things themselves unless it would directly impact their daily lives. Give them reality tv and their iPhone and they’ll believe anything you want them to believe as long as you don’t ask them to interrupt their lives.....

answered on Tuesday, Oct 01, 2019 06:14:19 AM by Steven White


My first reaction to your premise is that it seems to unfairly link Drake's equation and String Theory to your common run of the mill conspiracy theory, and so you've set up a deceptive trap and complex premise that is essentially a loaded question. Drake's equation and String theory are sound, empirical assertions that are designed to stimulate and invite discussion and falsification within the scientific community.

You then assume because these assertions were met with a type of intellectual resistance or inertia that they are therefore false. I'm not sure that is a sound conclusion. Many theories are met with initial inertia and resistance that are later proven. String theory is in the process of being both falsified or promoted with vigorous defenders and detractors - which is the correct empirical method. Drake's equation was proposed simply as an exercise to stimulate debate and discussion.

I'm not sure Conspiracy theories deserve the same respect as String theory or Drake's equation. The first two are legitimate subjects of discourse, while Conspiracy theories are more of a function of entertainment, sensationalism and confirmation bias.

As Steven Pinker asserts: "We just don't know any route to knowledge other than what Karl Popper called 'conjecture and refutation': throwing an idea out there and seeing if it withstands attempts to falsify it."

And Jerry Coyne further elaborates:

"This of course refers pretty explicitly to empirical assertions, i.e., science construed broadly, but can also apply to philosophical claims that are either self-contradictory or contain hidden and erroneous assumptions that can be dispelled (i.e., the Euthyphro argument for a god-given morality).

One cannot falsify ideas that cannot be tested by observation of experiment. These include moral claims, which I view as ultimately subjective. But if your moral (or social) claims depend on assertions of fact, or are claimed to have certain consequences, those claims are subject to empirical examination, testing and falsification".

The other responders have done a great job in answering your overall question about human misbelief and gullibility in general.

I would only add Daniel Dennett's more recent book, The Evolution of Misbelief, where he clearly explains:

Other approaches notwithstanding, the currently
dominant evolutionary perspective on religion remains
a by-product perspective. On this view, supernatural
misbeliefs are side-effects of a suite of cognitive
mechanisms adapted for other purposes. SUch mechanisms
render us hyperactive agency detectors, promiscuous teleologists,
and intuitive dualists; collectively and incidentally, they predispose
us to develop religious beliefs-- or at least they facilitate
the acquisition of such beliefs.

Dennett and McKay
answered on Saturday, Oct 05, 2019 09:33:48 AM by mchasewalker