Systematic VS Heuristic Processing
Saint Thomas University Professor Dr. Monika Stelzl, guest speaker at Occupation Fredericton, talks about the two kinds of processes that are involved when trying to influence thinking.
Dr. Stelzl immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1989 from a totalitarian like state to the west where she believed was more Idealistic with more Freedoms. Upon arriving she realized that the west was not as Utopian as she envisioned, after spending time in the West she gradually realized that there are “forces beyond us that influences us on how to behave and think”. It was this realization that inspired her to develop the course that she is teaching “Social Influence and Authority” at STU.
According to Dr. Stelzl it is important to understand the working mechanics of “Social Influence” and why it effective in changing or maintaining a belief system of a society. She explains Social Influence from the perspective of social psychology while outlining the principles that influence social thinking.
In her presentation she cites that there are two fundamental processes that are involved in shaping our attitudes or beliefs, she refers to these processes as “Systematic processing” where the subject carefully and deliberately uses higher cognitive functions to analyze the information given to them, and “Heuristic processing” where, unlike systematic processing the subject does not process information, but makes decisions based on habitual or automatic responses. She adds, “When we don’t process information carefully we are more apt to be vulnerable to be influenced at any level because we are not paying attention to content of the message being given to us”. Ideally we should be processing information systematically when we are given information by government the media and including the occupy movement, but that is not necessarily the case because there are other factors that detract from us to think systematically.
Dr. Stelzl identifies some common reasons to why we think Heuristically rather then systematically, some of the things that interfere with our systematic thinking is routine, where a message is repeated over and over, which can have the effect of tuning out, but as well as believing in the message. Information overload from a perceived authority can cause the person to stop processing and take the message for granted because your are not going to question the behaviours as inappropriate. Tiredness and motivation is another factor that can deter from Systematic thinking to Heuristic thinking.
She cites according to Cialdini, the “Click and Wirr” principle which is a trigger feature leading to a fixed-action response, we will only pay attention to one single feature in the environment and ignore the rest of the relevant information or context such as; a police uniform will lead to obedience regardless to context. It’s very rare that someone will question why the police is there, it is not because of the person, but what the persons uniform represents.
Dr. Stelze explains that they are six weapons of influence that is encapsulated within Click and Wirr, these weapons can serve as click/triggers in eliciting Heuristic thinking, she list them as; Liking, Social proof or social validation, Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Scarcity, and Authority.
Dr. Stelzl concludes by saying that once a belief system is accepted as true by a segment of the population it is very difficult or impossible to influence a change in belief, the target group should be those who have not yet formulated and hardcore belief,, that is the group that will most likely be influenced.
The following video is an excerpt of her talk
A couple of Videos on Authority.