virus: Manipulation 101, Lesson #17

Tadeusz Niwinski (
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 00:19:15 -0800

Lesson #17 Perceptual Contrast

Sorry to keep you waiting (I had three mid-terms in my Visual Basic classes
and they all have to be marked...) I am two days and almost one hundred
unread messages late. The duty before pleasure: here is lesson 17.

As you all know this course is going to end on lesson 21, which means: soon.
We have to get into some text books! Here is a good one: "Influence,
Science and Practice" by Robert B. Cialdini.
"Perceptual Contrast" is explained in Chapter 1. If we are presented with
two items and the second item is fairly different from the first, we tend to
see the second item as more different than it really is.

A trained sales person, for example, will always offer an item *way* more
expensive than the one the client is interested in. Eventually the client
sees the second item as cheeper than it really is and is more likely to buy
it. Cialdini mentions a study in which "male college dormitory residents
rated the photo of a potential blind date. Those who did so while watching
an episode of 'Charlie's Angels' TV series viewed the blind date as less
attractive woman than did those who rated her while watching a different
show. Apparently it was the uncommon beauty of the 'Angels' female stars
that made the blind date seem lass attractive."

There is a hilarious letter from a female student who writes home. 80% of
the letter is a description of an incredible bad luck she had. Then she
ends the letter with:

"Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you that there was
no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not
in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I am not infected, and
there is no boyfriend. However, I am getting a 'D' in American History and
an 'F' in Chemistry, and I want you to see those marks in their proper

When David R wrote:
>I will produce a product that will outcompete anything within the
>memetics-based paradigm. (Tad and I are working on such
>a product right now.) This has to do with the fact that objective
>reality DOES exist and people ARE conscious of it.

he announced that a product based on Ayn Rand's axioms will outcompete the
concept of "meme-space flexing on the fly" (previously known as "conflicting
ways to map Objective Reality").

How can we make this new product look much weaker? By contrasting it with
something *very* popular. Was David talking about converting millions of
Catholics to Objectivism? No. Was he talking about astrology? No.
Comparing Objectivism with such powers would make it look much less
attractive, wouldn't it? When it looks weak enough, even "meme-space
flexing on the fly" may look like something sensible.

I admire Richard's systematic approach to start with Chapter 1:
>it would cast GRAVE DOUBTS on my theory! However,
>until there is an Objectivism column in the Sunday Seattle Times
>where the astrology column is today, I won't be convinced.

When I first read it, I thought that Richard sounded even quite sympathetic
to Objectivism, and in fact Objectivism is not that popular... Then I
remembered the Perceptual Contrast principle!

Is there a column in the Sunday Seattle Times with memetics-based paradigm?

Regards, Tadeusz (Tad) Niwinski from planet TeTa (604) 985-4159