Monday, August 22, 2005

Science for Republicans: Americans easily distracted by bright, shiny objects 

As if the Republicans didn't know that... Heck, the numberless cadres of The Department of Changing the Subject operate on that very principle. Still, the science is interesting:

Asians and North Americans See the World in Different Ways

Shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene, according to University of Michigan researchers.

Nisbett illustrated this with a test asking Japanese and Americans to look at pictures of underwater scenes and report what they saw.

The Americans would go straight for the brightest or most rapidly moving object, he said, such as three trout swimming. The Japanese were more likely to say they saw a stream, the water was green, there were rocks on the bottom and then mention the fish.

The Japanese gave 60 percent more information on the background and twice as much about the relationship between background and foreground objects as Americans, Nisbett said.
(via AP)

Ultimately, I have a lot of faith in the American people's ability to cut through the crap—except for the ones who have really drunk the Kool-Aid; for them, nothing short of deprogramming will do. Remember that Clinton's ratings were never higher than during the attempted coup by the House Republicans during Whitewater. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, and Bush has been kept afloat only by the exceptional viciousness of his political team, a spirit of rally round the flag, and the fecklessness of the Beltway Dems.

That said, I think a lot of the issues we face in communicating our message come from this foreground/background thing. 9/11, for example, has been a "bright, shiny object" dangled to hypnotic effect by Rove for quite some time. However, material like the Downing Street Memo—"the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"—is background material, contextual. The Downing Street Memo gives the lie to everything Bush has said or done since the twin towers fell, but it's not the fish; it's the moving stream.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" He's in the background...

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