Showing you what you want to hear

The Washington Post (via Overcoming Bias) reports that

…when volunteers heard about the risks of nanotechnology from different experts, they gravitated toward the views of experts who seemed to share their personal values… When people clash on hot-button issues, their disagreements may have more to do with clashing values than facts.

The finding has strong implications for government awareness campaigns: it essentially says that, in order to persuade someone, you just need to present an expert they identify with. Campaigns aimed at Asians that feature Asian presenters aren’t just using someone that the audience feels a kinship with for warm fuzzies – they’re taking advantage of a bias in human decision-making to implement mind-control 😉 More seriously, they’re using the most effective techniques they can to ensure that people are fully informed when they make decisions; and we all know that full information is important if we want to achieve efficiency, social harmony and a better standard of living for everyone.