Monday, December 23, 2013

Scam Psychology: Why Do People Believe Celebrity Endorsement of Woo Products?

English: Jenny McCarthy
English: Jenny McCarthy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Celebrities pushing bad science and bad medicine is nothing new.

Jenny McCarthy -- Playboy model, actress, "celebrity", "former" anti-vaxxer, pusher of various bogus autism "treatments" (basically told parents "try anything (whatever it costs)")  [ see wikipedia entry ]

Suzanne Summers -- actress, singer, celebrity, and promoter of "Wiley Protocol", a hormonal replacement therapy that was NEVER proven with scientific study and may be dangerous, among other things. [ see wikipedia entry ]

English: Lisa Oz and Mehmet Oz at the 2010 Tim...
English: Lisa Oz and Mehmet Oz at the 2010 Time 100. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And let's not forget the Oprah spawned... Mehmet Oz, i.e. "Doctor Oz"...  who seems to often fail basic grasp of science despite his medical training, as he had featured such pseudoscience on his show as homeopathy, Reiki (his wife's a Reiki master), bogus report of arsenic in apple juice, bogus "magic" ingredient of weight loss, and "curing homosexuality" among many others. [ see wikipedia entry ]

People who follow these and many other celebrities out there giving BAD ADVICE are very likely to take these people's BAD ADVICE seriously... JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE CELEBRITIES. 

And their reasoning process is virtually the SAME as people who got scammed out of money.

What causes you to trust information you're given? Clearly, you don't trust everybody you come across, so you must have some sort of criteria in your mind on whose opinion you can trust, whose opinion you'll accept but skeptical, and whose idea you count as "crackpot".

When you're given an idea, your mind goes through this "sorting process" where you decide on "accept", "question", "reject" bins. However, it seems that some people decide on "accept" even when it should be, and that's part of our "cognitive bias", where we misunderstand some things, by interpreting things the wrong way.

When we decide on to trust or not, we first check our brain for applicable knowledge. For example, if someone wants you to try this amazing weight loss product... Would you try it?

Let's assume that you don't know much about weight loss other than desire to lose 30-40 pounds.

You would probably check with family and friends, and maybe do some Internet research.

But some people don't do that. They go straight to "can I trust this person?"

In other words, they cannot separate the message from the deliverer of the message.

For most people, 1+ 2 = 3. That is simply *the truth*, it doesn't matter who said it. It could be something as simple as that little arithmetic problem, or as complex as the ultimate answer to life, universe, and everything. If something's true, it's just that: true. it doesn't matter who said it. A child can say it. A homeless person can say it. The president can say it. The Pope can say it. The speaker is irrelevant. And if you don't know if that "truth" is actually true or not, you will do your OWN research.

However, for some people, they evaluate the "messenger" as a part of their decision to trust the message or not. To them, the status of the messenger (appearance and personal knowledge of the subject to the messenger, such as friend or family) is very much a part of their decision process.

In a certain sense, this is rational on a certain... irrational level. They evaluate the parts they can, rather than parts they cannot. They know nothing about the subject matter, so they will evaluate the messenger instead. However, as explained above, this is the wrong approach.

For example, let's say a person was exposed to diametrically opposed views:

Close friend says: I tried this (insert fancy weight loss product here) and it's great!

Ex-friend says: Don't, that main ingredient is possibly bad for your liver and no proven weight loss

The prudent reaction is "let me research some more, maybe ask my doctor, dietician, etc." After all, it's your health at stake, right?

However, for some people, being closer to one view makes that view more valid than the other view. Those people do not think critically. Instead, they let other people think for them.

But that's not all, as what happens next is the crazy part... They then invent a reason, out of thin air, on why they chose one view over another, because they don't want to accept that they did so with minimum thinking, and only evaluate the source, not the message.  The reason often has "jealousy" involved. In the example above, it's probably "my ex-friend is jealous of me losing weight and want to sabotage my weight loss plan, what a fiend!". This is called "post-facto rationalization"... I.e. your mind is busy making **** up to explain/ justify your IRRATIONAL and arbitrary decision (made in a different part of your brain).

Now transplant this onto Scamworld, and you'll find the SAME thing.

Let's say you have this friend who's been wanting to sign you up for this hypothetical "AcmeMoneyMaker" and she already made a few hundred first weekend and she plans to make a lot more.

Then an ex-friend sent you a link to a scambusting website that says "AcmeMoneyMaker is a scam" and listed the various reasons.

Who would you believe? Those of you who are logical and prudent would ask someone who knows more, maybe someone in law (lawyer, paralegal, police, etc.) maybe someone with more business savvy...

But some of you will just toss away the ex-friend, the website, and EVERYTHING against AcmeMoneyMaker as "jealousy", "sour grapes", etc. etc. without applying any critical thinking and logic. Just your "friend" telling you it's good, is good enough for you, even if your friend has no such expertise to evaluate such things.

These people are what I call GAVS... "gullible and vulnerable sheeple". The scammers just need to find a "friend" they trust, make the friend into a judas goat, and have the "friend" lead the GAVS to be fleeced, one flock at a time.

Are you a GAVS? It's simple to stop being one... Just start evaluating the message, instead of the messenger.
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