As a private investigator I talk to people a lot. And people will use all sorts of tactics to try to throw you off or conceal information.
A common one is trying to influence your emotions, and therefore your judgement and reasoning.
And it’s not just the people I’m interviewing, everyone does it. This is because everyone has a bias, however hidden it may be.
This includes the media. While their bias may not be to misrepresent a story, or promote one side over the other, they certainly have a bias to try and get more eyeballs on their article.
And how do they get more readers? By eliciting some sort of emotional response. Usually in the headline to draw you in, and then the first few paragraphs to keep you reading. If they can make you angry, sad, frustrated, scared, then they’ve done their job. It’s not just about the facts, it’s business.
Here are some common emotive traps I’ve recently noticed being used by the media (or people in general):
- Quoting someone who overly inflates or misrepresents part of the story. Even if a story is 99% good news, they will find the 1% bad news and make that the headline.
- Making it seem like there are only two sides to take. There are never just two sides, sometimes you don’t need to take a side at all.
- Forcing you to have an opinion. It’s ok to not have an opinion. Especially when you don’t have all the facts.
What can you do to avoid these traps?
- Firstly, you don’t have to read or be drawn into every item of news. It’s ok to be selectively ignorant.
- If it is something important, try to see all sides of the story. If an article is heavily focused on one side only, it’s not balanced.
- The same goes in conversation. If someone is talking about an issue passionately, ask them to explain both sides of the story. If they can only explain one side, and say anyone who believes otherwise is an idiot, walk away. This is not a balanced or worthwhile conversation.
- Try not to form an opinion until you’re satisfied you have enough facts to do so.
Remember, they’re called emotive traps because they’re designed to cause an emotional response in you. This is the enemy of reason. Don’t fall for it.