Trust, credentials and how you are manipulated

As you go through life, you will find yourself meeting and working with many different people. Some of them will be brilliant, some of them will be so intellectually challenged that you ask yourself how they managed to tie their shoes without killing themselves, and most will be absolutely mediocre. With experience comes the ability to learn which category someone fits into rather quickly, but unfortunately, it is often camouflaged by credentials and other forms of social proof.

If someone told you “My friend would be perfect for you, she has a great personality, she’s intelligent and she is so caring!” would you take them on their word, or would your internal voice be saying “So, she’s ugly then?” This is what you will encounter if you elect to go through life avoiding long-term relationships, a series of people presenting the “Eligibility CV” of their various questionable friends, accomplices and malcontents. “She is a great and caring girl, (you can tell from the 11 cats/dogs she adopted)”, “She is so generous (you can tell from the hundreds of thousands of credit card debt)”, “She will be such a great mother and housewife (she cannot really handle working)”. “She is such a free spirit (you just cannot count on this bitch)” or my personal favorite “She has a really rambunctious personality, and is a strong woman (she will nag you to death, and start fights over nothing)”

Social proof comes in many forms, personal recommendations, the reputations of former employers or the degree awarding institution that signed off on this person having a certain level of competence. However, one must take into account the incentives each of these parties have to be less than truthful.

The case for third-party trust

When you start reading red pill literature “Social proof” is probably one of the first concepts you hear about, frequently in the context of “If you are with an attractive woman, other women are more interested in you, because of social proof/pre-selection“. From a business perspective it could be argued as the equivalent of credit rating agencies, or other organizations that offer analysis, due diligence and other services that aim to reduce risk. In this example, a case of trust in a third-party, leading to you suspending your own critical analysis. It is a form of “Milgram experiment light” [1] Rather than engaging our brain in the energy intensive work of research and analysis, we elect to take the easy way out by assuming that someone else has already done such critical analysis and research.

We put our trust in that a second party has the knowledge base and necessary critical thinking ability to make an educated judgment about a given situation, thus saving ourselves the need to engage in calorie intensive system 2 thinking. I can see where this made sense in terms of evolution, the basic idea of teaching is that each human being does not have to expend the necessary energy to learn a range of information that could be made available to them in a more efficient way. However, the human preference for “cheap and easy” over “expensive and difficult” tends to have unintended consequences. Nowhere is this more clear than in the “diet and weight-loss” industry, which is overflowing with quick-fixes and magic pills for a problem that is both complex and challenging. The answer is simple, but the execution is difficult.

When we accept an analysis from a third-party, we are in fact not only saving energy by accepting our analysis, we are saving energy in our critical evaluation of their knowledge and experience base for making such an analysis. Human interpersonal relationships is a lot like art history, in that there are certain facts and some technical knowledge that could be used to make sounder and more accurate judgments, however they tend not to be used because “it’s about emotions“.

So the judgments you do not accurately make when accepting a third party analysis is:

A) That they made this analysis using the relevant facts.

B) That they made the analysis using sound and valid logic

C) That they are not hampered by bias

D) That they do not have a vested interest.

For instance, when your mother sets you up with that “nice girl from next door” by saying “She is such a nice responsible, go-getter” did she take into account:

A) That the “nice girl next door” is still living next door at 32, because she has had 5 different “careers“, and has 3 baby daddies?

B) Did they use logic to construct a syllogism such as:

Premise 1: She has 3 kids by 3 different men.

Premise 2: She has had 5 different careers in 10 years.

Premise 3: People who are stable, responsible adults have stable career paths.

Premise 4: People who are responsible adults do not have 3 baby daddies.

Conclusion: Therefore she is not stable, responsible or an adult.

C) Did your mother consider that perhaps she is influenced by a bias that you should be married at your age, or perhaps that since she never goes out and only interacts with “nice responsible girl next door” that she may have a massive case of availability bias.

D) Does your mother’s desire for grandchildren, and her failing health influence her urgency for you to knock someone up?

These will obviously differ from person to person, D could just as easily be that your best friend just got married, his wife only lets him hang out with “couples friends” thus he wants to couple you up so you can double-date and he can get some freedom from the utter boredom. However, a third party will always have their own interests and therefore, one runs into a case of agent-principal.

Referential proof

This type of proof is also sometimes called “borrowed authority” in that a speaker borrows or transfers authority from one field or area into another, or from one person to another. One example is the “Dr. So and So said solar roadways makes sense” without mentioning that “Dr So and So” has a doctorate in education. Even children understand this concept intuitively when they argue with their siblings or friends using such arguments from authority as “My mom says” or “Teacher said that“. They are borrowing the authority of a third party to add more weight to their argument, but in doing so they are fairly free to play around with the information. The concept of information asymmetry touches on this in that it deals with two parties having access to differing information with usually one party having more or better information than the other.

You will face the referential proof issue less in your dating life as a man because men tend not to be convinced by arguments such as “You know, she fucked the lead singer of Whitesnake in the back of their tour bus” or “She dated rich wealthy men“, but they are crack to women. If you can offer a woman third-party referential proof that you are a high status man you win. However, men are very prone to assume that because someone is something, they can tell you how to become what they are. However, this is not always the case. Those who have interacted with men who are “naturally good with women“, have without a doubt experienced the natural’s “You just talk to them man” or “Just act like you normally do“, which is true for them, but offer you little in terms of actionable advice.

Referential proof is faced frequently in the job market, where it is a very high contributor to why certain types of people get hired. This is a function of brand image in many cases where people have a certain perception of a company or an institution that lead them to associate the qualities and reputation of the institution or company, with the person. In some cases, the reputation of the institution and the reputation of the company, are intertwined in a manner which creates synergy for both of them. A great example is Harvard University, that through connections to top ranked firms in both consulting and finance are able to place graduates at these firms, not necessarily graduate merit, which leads to a perception of Harvard as the way to the big leagues, and lead to the perception of the firm as prestigious and selective. This becomes known as a self-reinforcing feedback loop, that benefits both brands by increasing their status through synergy.

This plays into a variant of the halo effect [2] where the quality of the work done by a person, and that person are viewed more favorably as a result of marketing rather than concrete results.

Summary and conclusions

Everyone has people in their life who they trust and who gives valued advice. However, if one discounts the incentives behind the advice, or hold the wrong person in high regard, this can be a perilous journey. Referential authority often holds a lot of weight, and that if you can figure out what authority figures a person you are trying to manipulate view through the halo-effect, you can add force to your manipulations. Social programming relies heavily on referential authority, and repetition in order to slowly alter our perceptions and opinions in the desired direction.

Beware of authority in general, and be aware that in order to be a thinking man, you have to do the work. You cannot get by allowing other people to influence the most important decisions you will make in your life. Getting advice is one thing, we all need and want that at differing times, however once you stop relying on your own knowledge base and logical faculties, you have given up control of your own mind and life. Beware of people who use their academic credentials or employers as shields.

More Reading

Thinking fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Influence by Dr. Robert Caldini

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Sources/references

[1] Milgram experiment

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect

 

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3 comments on “Trust, credentials and how you are manipulated

  1. Lionel Fox says:

    Humans are by nature not rational beings and prone to make the wrong decision. The use of propaganda & manipulation to sway them into a specific direction is mandatory. Under no circumstance should you trust people (especially women) on making the right decision.

    Also, I believe that this is not called the Halo-effect, though similar, but the so called “association fallacy”.

    I agree with your conclusion that it is essential to make your own decisions. Being able to make difficult decisions or any decisions for that matter is an essential skill to possess.

    I want to leave a quote here:

    “It is good to trust people, but not doing so is much better.”

    Like

  2. ronin says:

    Third party trust? I have completely stopped that with women some time ago. For men, I am very selective.

    This is because people wrongly attribute the causes all the time. Sometimes they quote a third party, who has heard it from another third party and so on. The bad analysis reaches out farther like a chain. What’s worse is, only the conclusion part of the analysis is spoken. It becomes quite hard to track it down. The way you can see the bullshit for what it is, is to be relatively informed about the subject. A man who might need such information in the first place, is the one easiest to convince to the lie.

    Like

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