A False Sense of Reality

By: Christina Stewart

Just a day after Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, 2017, him and his administration stunned the public with false assertions about how many people attended the ceremony.

In an article from NBC News titled “Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’,” by Maggie Fox, she and two psychologists explain the impact of these false assertions. Trump and White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, came under fire after claiming that the media misrepresented the crowd size of the inauguration. According to Trump, more people were in attendance than had been reported on and depicted in photos (Fox, 2017). Spicer furthered this comment saying that the inauguration had the largest audience in history (Fox, 2017). Not surprisingly, news agencies were quick to dispute the claims. The general public’s psychological health was undoubtedly affected by these statements as they felt manipulated and dumbed-down.

According to clinical psychologist Bryant Welch and Robert Feldman, the systemic lying from Trump’s camp is a sign of “gaslighting”: a term used to describe when one manipulates and confuses another making them question reality. Confusing people makes them vulnerable —  making it easier to gain power over them whether or not they believe what they’re being told (Fox, 2017). The deliberate nature of these false allegations showed arrogance and disrespect for the American audience.

Reading about this event reminded me of the cognitive dissonance theory. When the American public heard the statements disputing the crowd sizes, this resulted in cognitive dissonance: a feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from having two inconsistent thoughts or beliefs at the same time (Myers, 2012, pp. 97-98). The general public recognized that the crowd size was significantly smaller despite what Trump’s administration claimed. With these two viewpoints clashing, the public was left in a state of disarray. This dissonance not only induced shock, but also mentally affected the public − so much so that it affected their memories.

The public’s reaction was expected and can be explained by findings from a cognitive dissonance study conducted by Dario Rodriguez and Deryn Strange. Authors of the article “False Memories for Dissonance Inducing Events,” Rodriguez and Strange tested just how common it is for people to alter and distort their past to support their self-concepts. They sought to test the hypothesis of whether or not cognitive dissonance causes people to misrepresent their memories and attitudes.

In the experiment, around one hundred undergraduates were told to write an essay where they were either allowed to choose their stance, or were told which stance to take regarding a tuition increase (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). Before and after the experiment, participants had to complete an online questionnaire asking for their true opinions on several school-related issues. On the questionnaire following the experiment, participants were instructed to think back to the initial online survey, and answer the items as they did at that time (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). The hope was that attitudes would change after the experiment had ended.

Those who chose their stance exhibited the predicted attitude-shift, and were more likely to misremember their initial attitudes than those whose stances were dictated. Overall, the results provide that cognitive dissonance may cause memory distortion. In terms of the American public, those who recognized the real crowd size were more likely to distort and question this initial belief than those who did not. In other words, those who had agreed with Trump’s statements were less likely to feel any kind of dissonance. Therefore, being told to believe in a false crowd size challenged the public’s memory. People’s memories had to be re-adjusted to fit their self-perceptions after being told the crowd was larger than it was.

It’s fascinating to see how Trump’s behavior is reinforced by psychological data. His willingness to distort the truth is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, as is his willingness to distort reality.

 

Works Cited

AP. (2017, January 25). Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’ [Digital image]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from This pair of photos shows a view of the crowd on the National Mall at the inaugurations of President Barack Obama, above, on Jan. 20, 2009, and President Donald Trump, below, on Jan. 20, 2017. The photo above and the screengrab from video below were both shot shortly before noon from the top of the Washington Monument.

Fox, M. (2017, January 25). Tall tales about Trump’s crowd size are “gaslighting”, some experts say. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/some-experts-say-trump-team-s-falsehoods-are-classic-gaslighting-n711021.

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (7th ed.). New York:    McGraw-Hill.

Rodriguez, D. N., & Strange, D. (2014). False memories for dissonance inducing events Memory, 23(2), 203-212. doi:10.1080/09658211.2014.881501

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women In The Film Industry

By: Emily Indriolo

In today’s media,we see a lot of controversy over gender inequalities in the industry almost every day. If you go on social media, it will likely be one of the first news topics to pop up. This was the case when we found the article “Women still woefully underrepresented in Oscar nominations, study finds,” written by Nicole Sperling on Entertainment Weekly (or EW). The article outlines the disappointment of this years Oscar nominations, a very lacking lineup of female nominees. The behind the scenes roles seemed to be the ones to suffer the most, dropping by 2% compared to last years nominees. The Women’s Media Center conducted an investigation on the matter and concluded that 80% of all the nominees of behind the scenes roles are men. San Diego State’s Center for the study of Women in Television and Film also conducted research on the matter. They found that of all the top-grossing 250 films in the United States in 2016, that only 17% percent of all the behind the scenes workers were women. This article gave interesting points for how women are being forgotten in the industry, but it also contradicted itself. The writer may not have realized it but for as many negative points as she gave, she provided just as many positive ones.

This article presents examples of two important concepts. The first concept shown in this article is of an illusory correlation. An illusory correlation is a concept to describe the imagined relationship between two things or, in the case of the article, a stronger relationship perceived between two things (Myers, 2015). The two “things” would be the nominations and women. The imagined relationship is the theory this article suggests, that because they are women they are not receiving Oscar nominations. The author of the article makes it seem like there is a stronger relationship between the two. Those who vote for the Oscars are those in the industry themselves and they vote for who they believe to be the best of that year. Hollywood is a very vocal community in demanding equality for everyone, so it would be odd to think that they would purposely snub women. The second concept presented in this article is of confirmation bias. A confirmation bias is when a person seeks out information to further prove or confirm what they already believe (Myers, 2015). This article decided to highlight the negative factors and gloss over the positive ones. Some points the author briefly mentioned was that there were films nominated with strong female characters as the main protagonists, nine female producers were nominated in the Best Picture Category as well as women taking nominations in usually male dominated categories. Those are quite honorable and noticeable achievements but that is not what the article was focusing on. The author brought in facts, which are mentioned in the first paragraph, that further confirm her point.

Although this article may show examples of an illusory correlation and confirmation bias that does not mean that there is not a real issue at hand here. In 2004 two studies were conducted by Dean Keith Simonton that analyzed the gender differences in the film industry. Study 1 analyzed 2,157 films that received Oscar nominations or awards between 1936 and 2000. In study 2, 1,367 films were analyzed that received awards or nominations from seven major professional, journalistic, and critical associations between the years 1968 and 2000. Both studies showed a statistical difference between genders. Both studies uncovered that outstanding acting performances by women are less likely to be associated with outstanding films (Simonton, 2004). Simonton coined this phrase the “Best Actress Paradox.” While Simonton proved there was a statistical difference between the two genders, he also made sure to include the fact that other factors, such as time period, genre, and acting performance, play a role when it comes down to it.

 

Works Cited

Simonton, D. K. (2004). The ‘Best Actress’ Paradox: Outstanding Feature Films Versus Exceptional Women’s Performances. Sex Roles, 50(11-12), 781-794. doi:10.1023/B:SERS.0000029097.98802.2c

Sperling, N. (2017, January 30). Women still woefully underrepresented in Oscar nominations, study finds. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://ew.com/awards/2017/01/30/oscars-2017-women-underrepresented/

Myers, D. G. (2015) Exploring Social Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

We Knew They’d Win

By: Jordan Benavides 

The city of Boston has been glorified by historic sports teams like The New England Patriots, which has pleased the city with five Super Bowl wins since 2002. Led by arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time Tom Brady and multiple players with Super Bowl experience, a 21-3 halftime deficit during Super Bowl LI was “obviously” nothing to worry about for their supporters and some players.

After the Patriots had completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, many of their fans claimed “they knew it all along.” Even one of their own players, Matthew Slater claimed to be calm about the huge hole they had put themselves in. “No panic. We are squatting 80 percent of our maxes on Super Bowl week. We worked for this,” he said. Another one of their players, Chris Hogan said, “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. We have one of the best quarterbacks that ever played the game.”

The look on most of the Patriots and even their fans didn’t express much confidence when they were down 25. Broadcasters praised the play of the Atlanta Falcons as cameras kept showing a look of defeat in the eyes of Tom Brady, who AFTER winning the game claimed he “wasn’t thinking much” when the Falcons went up 28-3 during the third quarter.

Optimism? Cockiness? Both? Or just your average case of the hindsight bias. Also humorously known as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon, hindsight bias occurs when we don’t expect something to happen, but when it does, we claim to have “known it all along.” The hindsight bias is composed of three levels. Memory distortion, inevitability, and foreseeability (Roese 2012).

These three levels were all clear and seen during Super Bowl LI.

Level One: Memory Distortion

There’s no question some Patriots and their fans had to have given up during the start of the 4th quarter. The second they finally tied the game, all those negative thoughts quickly disappeared.

Before comeback: “Damn, it’s over. We lost.”

After comeback: “I knew we’d come back!” (Previous opinion gone like it never came)

Level Two: Inevitability

One has to justify this complete change in opinion after the amazing comeback.

“The falcons didn’t have enough experience. Tom Brady’s the greatest, he played in 6 Super Bowls before this, he had to bring us back.”

Level Three: Foreseeability

“I knew we’d come back, and win!” (Or every other Patriot quote mentioned above)

The hindsight bias comes up frequently in sporting events, especially if you’re a “die hard” fan. Everyone loves “knowing” that it was going to happen, even after the majority has given up. Patriot nation didn’t look like they had much confidence when Stephen Gostkowski clanged the extra point field goal off the post to end the 3rd quarter. They didn’t look confident when Tom Brady was sacked for a fifth time during the 4th quarter. But with the Patriots being the historic franchise they are, who could have doubted this historic comeback???   

 References

Pells, E. (2017, February 6). Patriots Comeback Tops Them All. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://newbostonpost.com/2017/02/06/patriots-comeback-tops-them-all/

 

Roese, N. J. (2012). Hindsight Bias. Association For Psychological Science. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1745691612454303

 

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI Press Conference, “Been on the Other Side of Those Catches”(2017,February 05). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1pkGdGHKWM