Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Donald, master persuader

Scott Adams, best known for is Dilbert cartoons, predicted early on that The Donald would win the presidency, even as everyone else was declaring it impossible.

Adams understood how Trump was persuading us, and now he's written a book about it. Here is some of what Adams understood.
Adams paints a dim picture of human rationality. Rather than using facts and logic to make decisions, he maintains, most of us decide based on emotion and various illogical heuristics.

We also tend to elevate in importance whatever we’re paying attention to, which helps explain the power of the media, which can’t necessarily tell us what to believe but can move certain issues to the top of the agenda. Trump won in part because he made his issues—the border wall, for example—a focus of the debate.

Adams examines the Trump persuasion toolkit, including techniques that he calls “thinking past the sale” and “anchoring.” For instance, Trump would frequently make an assertion that was technically wrong yet directionally correct, invariably drawing a flurry of media attention to “fact check” and correct him—all the while drawing attention to the issues that he wanted to highlight.

For example, Trump claimed to be worth $10 billion; critics scurried to prove that he was worth less, unintentionally certifying Trump’s main point—that he was extremely rich. Now that everyone agreed that Trump was a successful, wealthy businessman, the only question was how wealthy. The mere act of focusing on Trump’s relative wealth also raises the perceived importance of Trump’s business success as a reason to vote for him.

Trump pulled a similar trick when he promised that he would get Mexico to pay for the border wall that he planned to build. If your reaction was that there’s no way Mexico will pay for that wall, you were already “thinking past the sale.” You’ve implicitly admitted that there will be a wall; now the debate is over how to pay for it. 
The Donald just announced that he will run again in 2020, a really early announcement. I'm sure he knows exactly what he's doing.

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