Monday, February 16, 2009

Say and Do 3, entirely tangental

Listening to The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Talking about salesmen, he talks about a sort of conversational syncronocity, which is a tendency of people to mimic each other's movement's during conversation. He offers pretty anecdotal evidence that this kind of non-verbal communication influences people's feelings about communicators and what they're saying, and therefore the decisions the make about them.

I'm not convinced, but this reminds me something that gets talked about sometimes in management seminars, Neuro-linguistic programming, where you influence people by subtly mirroring their behavior.

It's a creepy but compelling idea that I think offers explanations for memes, charisma, and empathy, in that we respond to people largely based on emotional, not rational cues. It also makes me feel a bit robotic, that I can be programmed on a subconscious level.

The Tipping Point seems a little new agey to me. I think maybe what's missing is some discussion of how ideas are resisted. Because it's casually obvious that idea transmission is not a hundred percent even for good ones.

How do you teach that in order to arm people against harmful ideation? And would the end result of teaching people to resist this kind of empathic communication be harmful, cutting people off from community?


Mer said...

Ah, yes, NLP. My mom got certified during my teen years, and used me as her study buddy, so I picked up a scary amount of it. When I later took a linguistics class in college, my professor referred to it as "Kentucky Fried Linguistics." The academic feeling seems to be that NLP works, but the reasons why as espoused by the Nelpers aren't very rigorous.

Overall, once you learn the major facets of it, it's pretty easy to realize when you're being manipulated.

Lawrence said...

"once you learn the major facets of it, it's pretty easy to realize when you're being manipulated."

Which makes it a more interesting phenomenon. Why don't we know how it works? Is it a quantum phenomenon related to Heisenbergy's uncertainty thingamajiggy? We're only manipulated until we notice we're being manipulated?

Cue eerie music.

Mer said...

Oh, I think professional linguists (and psychologists) know why it works. Just the NLPers don't really have a clue.