As part of our ongoing series We’re So Fucked, Ye Olde Blogge is explaining the psychological reasons behind our collective wickedness. Today, we’ll be relying on the work of Katy Milkman and her colleagues as published in her book, How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be as heard on the podcast, Hidden Brain hosted by Shankar Vedantam.
In case, you have just emerged from a cave-in after being revived from a coma, and released from an iron lung and hadn’t yet noticed how good and truly fucked we are by the Putin-GAP disinformation campaigns on #COVID19, the 2020 election, and culture war racist bullshit go back and look at the previous two We’re So Fucked posts.
In We’re So Fucked: The Greedy “Defector,” edition, we explore how the game theory study, Intergenerational Goods Game, suggests that there are just enough psychopathic self-serving mo’fo’s among us to duck up whatever constructive collective good shit we’re trying to do on climate, #COVID19, race, and whatnot.
We’re So Fucked: The Vaccination Rates, Political Polarization, and Presidential Voting, edition takes a deeper dive into the unheard of correlation between presidential vote and #COVID19 bad rates. Spoiler: 0.85. These numbnuts are gonna have their very own chaos inducing, resource consuming, healthcare provider exhausting outbreak in the fall and winter and saddle the world with a bad resistant strain.
And just for fun and edification, read about who benefits from keeping us divided and chaotic and who are the useful idiots that are helping them in The Six Types of Conservative and How They Explain Our Current Craziness.
If you’re like me, one of the things that has been driving you crazy the last couple of decades is the question, why. As in why the fuck would anyone want the things conservatives say they want? Dangerous deadly back alley abortions, unrestrained reproduction rates, high infant and maternal mortality rates, Flint water, Cancer Alley, Texas utilities, rampant gun violence, and now an unending #COVID19 pandemic. Who the fuck would want any of that, yet they do and they keep passing laws and winning court cases to make it all so.
We’ve explained why the rank and vile MAGA voter supports this crap: the seductive allure of racism and misogyny, gaslighting, groupthink, and cognitive dissonance. We’ve explained why backbencher and the long-serving yet ambitiousless politicians go along with this crap, diffusion of responsibility and groupthink. We’ve even explained the self-servingness and short-sightedness nature of their leadership. But why the fuck would people who are leading the parade of the stupid and gullible circus parade embark on such an obviously self-destructive path? Why do so many billionaires want this dystopian nightmare for us?
Here’s Katy Milkman’s explanation and how to apply it to one of our current problems, getting more people vaxxed!
Katy Milkman’s Explanation: Present Bias
Present bias is the cognitive tendency “to focus on all the things we want right now and how lovely it will make us feel to have something right now.” In other words we are BIASED towards instant gratification. “What do we want?” scream the cheerleading gremlins in our psyches. “Satisfication!” we answer. “When do we want it?” the mindless cheer continues. “NOW!” it concludes blotting out the possibility of everything else.
This kinda thing might be great for football games and midnight runs to the Donut Shack, but it’s not what we want in our political, business, and social leaders. We rely on these folks to have some notion of what lies ahead of us and take steps to mitigate the disasters that are laying in wait, especially the ones that we can predict.
That’s the role of We the People in a free society: elect political leaders that will make political decisions that will keep us safe even if it is something that we don’t want to hear or do; support companies that balance profit with social needs; and follow people on social media who understand when instant gratification is fun and useful and when we need to make hard choices to continue living in a sustainable world. When we don’t hold up our end of the bargain because we fell for the sweet lies of the Trumps, Bezos, and Carlsons of the world who are willing to sacrifice our future for their immediate satisfication, we can’t have nice things, not now, not ever.
Just knowing about present bias can help us avoid the pitfalls it presents, but, as we’ve experienced, it can still bite us in our collective assets if a minority of us can’t resists its sweet siren seductive song. Part of Katy Milkman’s research has been on how we can can get better at doing the things that are less immediate and more future oriented. While she’s focused on things like diets and New Year’s resolutions, we’ll be focused more on getting people to vax.
Katy Milkman’s Brain Hacks
Setting and Achieving Personal Goals
As promised Milkman is the real deal. She has examined that age old dilemma of, That’s a nice New Year’s Resolution you’ve got there; it’d be a shame if anything happened to it. We’ll look at her suggestions and then apply them to increasing vaccination rates.
- Make it fun! I’ve run three marathons and a tri. “What you? Mr. Irregularly Erratic Haphazard?” Yeah. One I trained for and ran with a friend, one I trained alone but ran with a small group, and one I did all by my lonesome.. The one with the friend was the easiest to do because it was FUN! Or at least funner.
- Temptation bundling: Pairing a hard task with an enjoyable one. Listening to a podcast or audio book while working out or doing housework.
- Breaking the complex into smaller steps. An interesting study showed that people were more likely to save more if you asked them to save $5.00 a day rather than asking them to save $35.00 per week or $150.00 per month. Do the math: it all works out to $5.00 per day. Smaller and more immediate is better.
- Immediate feedback. Knowing what you’re doing right and wrong as soon as you’ve done it does wonders for keeping you on the straight and narrow. This is the basis of persuasive design and we’ve seen how successful that’s been for games, social media, and Fox News. Capture your liking and wanting systems and you’re gonna wanna do one more.
- Chapter breaks. As it turns out we divide our lives into chapters, you know, before, during, and after prison. There are other days like birthdays, important holidays, and significant anniversaries that primes us to make changes. We do it automatically, mentally, without effort or realization.
Milkman’s Hacking Of Our Vaccine Fuckedness
As it turns out, Katy Milkman has already studied what works works for #COVID19 — See? I told you she was the real deal — but that was back in September 2020, so a life time ago. Still, looking at what she found in those studies will be interesting and will get our own creative juices flowing.
She and her colleagues put together a huge natural experiment that encompasses urban, suburban, and rural settings and thousands of people so they could test what types of phrasing worked best and where. They tested these phrases:
- Everyone else is getting the vaccine
- Do it for the person you love
- They used a lame dad joke that I’ve already forgotten — I know, lame.
- A vaccine has been reserved specifically for you. It’s waiting for you with your name on it.
The last one worked best. It activated the endowment effect (we put higher value on things we own). It made the vaccine seem special, it produced a feeling of obligation in the recipient.
Hacking Vaccine Resistance and Anti-Vaxxers
I think many people have concluded that there a are just some people who are so dead set against getting the vaccine they are beyond reach. That may very well be, but are there other folks that are persuadable? What about Biden’s plan of sending volunteers door-to-door to appeal to folks? And the GQP governors who have sworn not a penny of state money or an ounce of state resources are going to help with the effort and other folks who have likened it to fascist gun grabbing and invasions of privacy?
- Make it fun!
- Give it a jazzy name riffing off of pop culture, like Magneto’s Magnetizing Summer of Vaccinated FUN! You know taking advantage of how popular super heroes are nowadays.
- Use fun little gimmicky toys like a Biden-shaped metal refrigerator magnet with catchy phrases like “Don’t let #COVID19 stick to you, when you can get stuck to the vaccine!”
- You get the idea.
- Temptation bundling
- Get businesses around the vax sites to donate gift certificates and gift cards to be redeemed after being vaccinated.
- Include a free 5G Obama phone, you know, something everybody wants.
- Break it into smaller manageable steps
- Make a checklist of the steps.
- Include information about the vaccine and where and how to get it.
- Provide names and numbers of known community members willing to talk about the vaccine.
- Provide a list of hospitals and doctors specializing in #COVID19and respiratory illnesses.
- Include a coupon for a mortuary redeemable only by the unvaxxed who died of #COVID19.
- You know each step of the process can be checked off and has its own special little thing with it.
- Chapter breaks
- Target upcoming holidays. Labor Day is just before the cold and flu season and it’s right around the corner!
- Birthday reminders — the perfect gift for that guy or gal who has everything!
- Death anniversaries of famous or local people who died of #COVID19, especially vax refusers. Charlie Pride, Herman Cain, Nick Cordero, and any loudmouth preacher or social media influencer who refused the vaccine.
You see how these ideas can be applied. You could also adapt them to more personal use like dealing with a friend or relative. Here’s an idea, let us know how well these hacks have worked for you for New Year’s resoltuions, getting vaxxed, or anything else!
Well, you’ve done it again. You’ve read the entire post and now your final task is to resist leaving a tangible sign that you’ve been here, you know, like one of the following:
- Comment: How successful have you been at making changes?
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- Join the score or so of people who are already receiving email notifications everytime a post goes up according to my erratic irregular sense of doing things!