The Self-Confrontation Technique as an Andedote to Politicians Who Attempt to Redefine Freedom
Section: Spin U
Social psychologist Milton Rokeach, developed a classification system for values. His research suggested that two values are particularly important to people in determining their political preferences: freedom and equality. In 1979, he conducted an experiment to determine if people could be convinced to change their values. To the surprise of many, he was shockingly successful. Reporters who covered the study voiced their concerns that his technique could be used to manipulate elections. Rokeach and his colleagues stated he felt this was unlikely. He felt that politicians were focused on getting voters to like them. In an upcoming article on compliance, The Impartial Review will focus on Rokeach’s belief that politicians focus on getting people to like them or at least like them more than their opponent.
Rokeach’s experiment was based on the idea that people need to reminded of or have their values challenged or they may not use them in making a decision. In 1979, Rokeach’s experimental intervention was a 30 minute TV show. Those who watched the show underwent radical changes in attitudes toward the environment, women’s rights and racism. The researchers found that donations to these causes went up dramatically after the show aired.
The TV show starred Actor Ed Asner and talk show host Sandy Hill and was entitled “The Great American Values Test.” The hosts were chosen because audiences considered them to be highly credible personalities. The show was written by Rokeach and other social-psychologists. The show appeared to be a discussion of American values. However, the discussion actually revolved around the idea of confronting the audiences values. That is, the show was designed to show people that their behavior is not consistent with their values. For example, Asner pointed out during the show that most Americans rank freedom as a more important value that equality. Then, Asner asked the audience.
“What does that mean? Does it suggest that Americans as a whole are much more interested in their own personal freedom than they are in the freedom of other people?
The idea of such statements is to create cognitive dissonance within the viewer. Each viewer is being forced to confront why they don’t value equality which is typically rated much lower than freedom.
Some research suggests that equality is the distinguishing feature between political beliefs because freedom tends to be highly valued by everyone. Another view as noted in the above video above by President Lyndon Johnson is that equality and freedom go hand in hand.
A random survey was sent out to the TV community before the show aired and then again after the show aired. As expected, the community rated equality much higher after they had viewed the show. In addition, racist attitudes declined. A group that solicited donations for African-American colleges saw its donations skyrocket after the show as did groups that solicited donations for women’s sports and the environment.
The Republicans’ theme in the current election has been one of personal freedom. Mitt Romney’s Republican Nomination Acceptance 4,102 word speech, used the word freedom or free ten times. However, many Republican arguments for freedom don’t define freedom as freedom that everyone can enjoy equally. Rather, it only gives certain individuals more freedom while reducing the freedoms of others. For example, right to work laws prohibit the right to form unions and free employers from the responsibility of only firing a person for just cause. Economic freedom often includes provisions relating to freeing businesses from safety regulations and regulations relating to paying employees the same regardless of gender or race. Freedom from safety regulations could be viewed as taking away someone else’s right to a safe workplace. Freedom for a employer to choose a health care plan that doesn’t pay for abortions also denies female workers the freedom to have health insurance coverage for an abortion. On the issue of Internet freedom, Republicans argue a company with a copyright should be free to protect their interests and the U.S. should support that through trade policies. However, other companies argue that inhibits their freedom as defined by Net Neutrality and their freedom to trade. The Republicans argue that repealing the health care law gives consumers more freedom in terms of choice. However, others argue that it denies the right of health care to some and gives big insurance companies the freedom to unfairly raise health care costs. Republicans define religious freedom as the right to have students listen to a school prayer but that’s not freedom for the child who doesn’t want to listen.
Similarly, Republicans frequently argue that freedom is only about freedom to succeed of fail. However, freedom also means an even playing field. It also requires than one is not over-rewarded if one succeeds or that one is rewarded for harming others in society (e.g., manufactures of harmful products such as tobacco or the radium dial industry.
Democrats including President Obama have focused on the theme of inequality. The President argues that wealthy investors pay less in taxes than secretaries, wealthy incomes have risen but the middle class and poor have decreased or stayed the same. The President frequently points out that women earn less on an hourly basis then women. He argues that wealthy Wall Street entrepenurs were bailed out so why can’t we bail out car companies that create jobs or middle-class and poor-people influenced by the Wall Street collapse? It’s clear the Democrats message is remarkably similar to the Rokeach intervention and the Republican campaign strategy is to convince you that you should focus on your personal freedom.
Understanding Human Values by Milton Rokeach.
Values and Frames Easy to read detailed discussion of values
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