Monday, September 28

Seing is Believing ...

... or, How I Got Repeatedly Duped in Egypt.

A few years ago, I visited Egypt, along with a group of friends. We went with an organized tour and were taken by a professional guide, to see the Pyramids and the Sphynx, the National Museum of Egyptology, the Nile and a bunch of shops we weren't interested in. These shops are what I wanted to touch upon:

We saw leather shops, Egyptian parchment shops, volatile essences shops and a few other shops that our guide insisted were a good idea, but that we didn't really want to see. In all these shops, we also bought a lot of things we didn't need (parchment spelling our names or reproducing writing from the Pyramids, essential oils and so on).

It went like this: we were angry with the guide for bringing us to the last shop. He would insist we still have one to see, we would go into it determined that we wouldn't buy anything at all and we would exit the shops half an hour later, having bought new stuff and happy about it. It would take us between a few minutes and an hour to realize we had been duped again.

I tried to realize how these guys did it: how did they convince a bunch of strangers that buying that crap was a good idea and how did they do it so reliably?

Now, a few years later, I may have found an answer in reading Why You Can’t Help Believing Everything You Read.

Apparently, absorbing information is done in two separate steps:
  • First, you comprehend and believe what you hear. That is, all in one step; seeing really is believing.
  • Second, you think about it in critical terms (eventually confront the information with what you already knew or with new information) and determine it's validity.

This means that if you don't have the time (or inclination) to think about it, you just absorb it as "fact", as the way things are. This not only explains what happened to us all those years ago in Egypt (the shop keepers sat us down, and talked continuously, not giving us time to think about it), it also explains some hypnosis techniques (create more than one thread for the attention of the subject to focus on, then use one of them for your purposes), why charismatic people get their message across easier and a bunch of other things.

Now, take the time to think about this :-)

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