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Beware! Media Influences Your Content

Updated: 2 days ago

“I read that global warming is slowing down today,” you bragged about your knowledge. “Where?” “In… Financial Times.” “That’s weird.” Your friend moved his head. “I read FT today as well and there was nothing about…“ “You had to overlook it!“ You jumped in the middle of his speech. You’re too embarrassed to admit that you have read about it in The Sun. 

This article is inspired by The Choice Factory. A book written by Richard Shotton about cognitive biases in marketing and everyday life. Read another article from this series.


you’re at work and you need your 5 minutes of mindless scrolling before the next task. You go on Instagram. You see ten photos of cute cats and one toddler.

The next post is from The Sun. You’re prepared for shocking photos of naked Hugh Laurie, but nothing. The post is in a green frame and it says: “If you flatten your plastic bottles before throwing them out, you’ll help the environment.” “Good, excellent,” you nod your head. “I am as green as any other good person out there for sure.“ Then you put your phone away and go back to work. 

After an hour a slight wind tickles you in the hair and knocks over an empty plastic ice green tea bottle on your desk. You moan. Grabbing the bottle you look around. Everybody’s working. The office is more quiet than a Sunday lunch with your mother when she asks about grandchildren. 

Finally, you approach the happy, buzzing yellow container and carefully throw the bottle in. But wait… why didn't you flatten it first?

A. You're a lazy prick who wants the whole planet to burst into flames.

B. You forgot.

C. You did not want to disturb your colleagues with noise because of advice you read on a tabloid account.

Not sure about the correct answer? Keep reading. I’ll help you.

In 2005 neurologist Michael Deppe and his colleagues from Münster University conducted an experiment measuring the importance of media context. 

21 consumers read 30 headlines from one newspaper and rated their credibility. Then researchers mixed things up. They randomly showed them the same headlines but in different newspapers. There were 4 newspapers in total in the run. 

The credibility of the medium influenced the credibility of the headlines big time. Headlines from respected newspapers got on average 5,5 / 7 credibility points. Headlines from tabloids got only 1,9 / 7 credibility points. 

Those are not groundbreaking results. But it might give you a chill when I say this. According to the results, the context of the information was 2 times stronger than the information itself.

It might mean that sometimes it does not matter what you say. if you do not have a strong enough social status or you’re in the wrong place, nobody will hear you. Everything matters. How you look. What you wear. Sometimes your tie speaks louder than you. 

But don't worry. You got this! This is my advice: pay attention to your surroundings. Create carefully not only your message. But also the context where your message will appear.

Correct answer: C. You did not want to disturb your colleagues with noise because of advice you read on a tabloid account.

Source: Richard Shotton | The Choice Factory 

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