Thursday, March 18, 2010

Persuasion

Persuasion is the art of causing someone to do something. It is a significant factor in politics.

In the past 200 years, elements of persuasion have been honed into the science of marketing, Those who reap the rewards of marketing use it to further their own interest, usually at the expense of those they persuade. One current manifestation is the marketing of politicians without regard for their character.

Our purpose here is to find ways to improve the quality of our political leaders. We seek to do that by harnessing our own natures to the election process. That requires that we consider the human characteristics likely to motivate the participants in the election process. We will do so by contemplating the likely attitudes of the people at the various levels of the Active Democracy process described earlier.

At the initial level, when the entire electorate meets for the first time to select one member of a their group to represent the other two, there will be three kinds of participants:

1) those who do not want to be selected,

2) those willing to be selected, and

3) those seeking selection.

In any group where all three participants do not want to be selected, the triad will not make a selection and all three participants will be eliminated.

Thus, among the groups that actually make a selection, the people who are selected will either be people who want to be selected or people who are willing to be selected. This is not to say that each person must be of one type or the other, but rather that each person is somewhere on the continuum from those willing to be selected to those wishing to be selected.

For simplicity, we will assume that the desire to be selected is equivalent to a desire for public office and that the people we mention as examples are at one end of the wish-willingness continuum or the other. The reality is infinitely more complex but the results will differ only in degree from what we learn by thinking about the kind of people who are at the hypothetical poles.

We must also note that the attitudes we've mentioned may not be static. Although a person seeking public office is unlikely to become a person willing to serve, a person willing to serve may well be transformed into a person seeking public office:

[If person-willing-to-serve (A) feels person-seeking-office (B) is not a good choice, (A) may seek to persuade the group that (A) or (C) is a better choice. Such an effort moves (A) closer to being a person-seeking-office because if A will not support B, the chance that A will be chosen increases.]

Based on this assessment, we can say that people who advance to the second level will have one of two characteristics: either they seek public office or they are willing to serve in public office. In other words, either they persuaded the other members to select them or they allowed the other members to select them. The difference is the extent to which they used persuasion to achieve selection.

In a pyramiding process of the type under discussion, it is reasonable to think that active seekers of public office will succeed more frequently than passive ones. Thus, after several iterations of the process, we can anticipate that each member of a triad will be a person seeking public office. Under such circumstances, the art of persuasion assumes mounting importance. Those making the selection want desirable qualities in the person they choose. Those seeking selection must persuade their peers they possess the qualities sought.

Whatever other qualities a person seeking office will have, we can assert with considerable confidence that two of them will be a desire for public office and persuasiveness. Our method of selecting public officials uses these traits; all three want the same thing and can only attain it by persuading the others to select them.

When persuasion occurs between two people, it takes place as a dialogue with one person attempting to persuade the other. In such events, both parties are free to participate in the process. The person to be persuaded can question the persuader as to specific points and present alternative points about the topic under discussion. In such circumstances, it is possible that the persuader will become the persuaded.

When persuasion involves multiple people, it occurs more as a monologue with one person attempting to persuade the others. The transition from dialogue to monologue accelerates as the number of people to be persuaded increases. The larger the number of people, the less free they are to participate in the process. As the number of people to be persuaded grows, the individuals among them are progressively less able to participate in the process. They can not question the persuader as to specific points or present alternative points about the topic under discussion. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that the persuader will become the persuaded.

Viewed in this light, we can say that when selecting public officials, a system that encourages dialogue is preferable to one which relies on a monologue. Discussion can best be encouraged by having fewer people in the "session of persuasion". Because of the need for a definitive decision, I believe the best group size to encourage active involvement by all participants is three.

Fred

19 comments:

Taffd said...

I've only just spotted this and it answers the question about threes and fives.

Fred makes a good point re people in larger groups being less inclined to participate.

I personally, don't think that fives are too many but....

What about fours. The possible need to break a deadlock would necessitate a more thorough examination of each persons suitability.

I think the system could work adequately using 3s, 4s or 5s.

Which is the best...I can't decide.

koikaze said...

Good Morning, Roy

I'd already posted a response to your question about threes and fives. You'll find it listed as "More On Groups Of Five".

Fred

ben said...

I could say that "pursuasion" is what got me the attitude I hold now ... pursuade, convince, compel, coernce, conquer ... I saw people adopting positions and opinions for reasons that are deeply human, but not often rational: personality politics, admiration, friendship, the social benefits of group membership etc etc etc. An individual who hasn't thought an issue through is very likely to be "pursuaded" in a process that's only slightly different from bribery. (Not that I'm against self-interest, not at all. But short-term gain really does set the stage for long-term pain.)

Discourse ... a real appreciation for why things are important to persons ... the subjective narrative rather than jingoistic slogans ... it's like nailing jello to the wall! 25yrs I've been at it, and it feels like 40.

regards
--@bentrem

koikaze said...

You are correct. Persuasion takes many forms. The important thing, when considering the Practical Democracy concept, is the progressive nature of the process. As participants advance, they are grouped with others who advanced by demonstrating qualities approved by their peers. Jingoism, for example, might be effective at the lowest levels but will quickly lose its value when used to persuade two people as eager for advancement as the jingoist. For this reason, advancement depends, increasingly, on the quality of the arguments rather than the adroitness of the persuasion.

Fred

ben said...

Indeed, Fred, persuasion does take many forms. What I studied in cog-psych was "conversion experiences", to understand what sort of things people took as so credible that they had some sort of major change of attitude and/or opinion. The fact is that we're influenced by a lot of things. Of course (no surprise), not all our impulses are noble. So we need to grasp what you've written here: "advancement depends, increasingly, on the quality of the arguments rather than the adroitness of the persuasion."

What I took as core to my project (years of beavering away gave me the design for a "discourse based decision support system") was the sort of personal exchange best described by Jurgen Habermas in his work on "discourse ethics". (If you're intrigued, I encourage you to google his name with that term.) My main point is that it has to be an exchange, not just one-way where the recipient is passive. Like discussion or debate, but with the person's individual "narrative" being central.

BTW / for the sake of your readers, Fred is one contributor in a new project: Participedia.net - "a tool for strengthening democracy. Based on a wiki platform, its main content consists of user-generated articles which describe and assess participatory governance throughout the world."

p.s. 2 little items, Fred. First, this: "Caveat / The ethical debate - Is persuasion a loaded gun?" on ChangingMinds.org and related, this: the Changing Minds discussion group (LinkedIn.com) which started off with a discussion of "Would greater skill in [changing minds] lead to more effective organizations?"

p.s. some vague documents about my project

koikaze said...

Good Morning, Ben

Attitudes and opinions are dynamic; they are affected by events. Since the way we experience events is different for each of us, the sort of things people take as so credible they yield a major change of attitude or opinion can only be determined by asking the entire electorate, frequently.

I agree decisions are best based on discourse. To be effective, discourse must be focused; issues must be raised and examined from all perspectives before decisions regarding them can be validated. Unfortunately, in America, 200 years of emotion-inspiring adversarial politics make rational discourse on political issues a novelty rather than the norm.

The essence of Habermas' concept was, I think, the voluntary association of those disposed to debate public issues? That is certainly a powerful concept, but I do not detect in it a method for refining the ideas discussed or a means of empowering those who reach actionable decisions. Alasdair MacIntyre's position that everyone must be allowed access to the political decision-making process to experience the internal goods that enrich society and benefit the community is also worthy of note. (See http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/p-macint.htm)

Practical Democracy seeks to correct the excesses of adversary democracy by blending the concepts espoused by Habermas and MacIntyre and implementing them in a straightforward manner.

Fred Gohlke

ben said...

Good day, Fred ... my, I love my Sunday mornings!

No disagreement here, not a bit! But a couple of things here caught my eye: First, I'm not sure what you're getting at with "the sort of things people take as so credible they yield a major change of attitude or opinion can only be determined by asking the entire electorate, frequently."
From my studies, just what strikes an individual as compelling is ... well ... is very, very individual. We can map out certain basic attitudes (conservative, communitarian, etc) but what floats a person's boat in the moment is really a function of that individual's identity. What I would like to see is a system that validates that person. Period. Along the lines of "It if matters to you, then it matters!"

"... rational discourse on political issues a novelty rather than the norm". Almost as though someone's trying to get away with something, yaa? Smoke and mirrors ... makes me feel like there's some sort of "divide and conquer" strategy at work. And I'll bet I'm not unique in that feeling!

What I took away from Habermas was a valuation of discourse qua discourse, distinct from debate and argument. And that's what I realized / actualized: the "hard data" here on one side, parallel to the more subject side of "why it matters". I figure a system like this would pull the plug on the worst sophistry ... by putting the facts on clear display, so any distortion is seen clearly as an attempt to game the system. In that context, an individual's heart-felt appeal might resonate as worth some consideration.

And thanks for the link. I encountered MacIntyre's work when reading in "historiography". (History very nearly seduced me away from cog-psych and criminology; fascinating stuff!)
At the moment I'm spidering Prof. Marshall van Alstyne. (I've come up with "Connecting Information Management Practices to Individual Performance" but no main page, yet.) My link to his work at UMichigan has gone stale.

As for "but I do not detect in it a method for refining the ideas discussed or a means of empowering" well huh huh that's where I was at, too.
I remember very clearly the evening at Killam Library (Dalhousie University) sitting with a stack of books, "Discourse Ethics" open along side one of Prof. Willinksy's texts on OpenAccess and the penny dropped. In that very moment I came up with an architecture ... and a methodology to go with it. (That was DEC2004.) Very exciting! :-)

p.s. a good example of how Twitter is very good, as far as it goes ... but it doesn't go very far: "Transforming Edmonton" Open City Workshop; #OpenYEG hashtag TweetStream

koikaze said...

Good Evening, Ben

re: "I'm not sure what you're getting at with 'the sort of things people take as so credible they yield a major change of attitude or opinion ...' can only be determined by asking the entire electorate, frequently."

The single-quoted (italicized) portion was a direct quote from your preceding post. I should have quoted it in my response. My comment was simply that the only way we can find out what those 'sort of things' are is to ask the people. We must ask them frequently because those 'sort of things' are affected by events.

As you say, "... what strikes an individual as compelling is ... very individual." The purpose of Practical Democracy is to let everyone pursue what they find compelling to the full extent of their desire and ability. In effect, to tell each of us (as you said) "It if matters to you, then it matters!" and give us a way to personally influence the outcome. Practical Democracy makes everyone's attitude important and will make rational discourse on political issues the norm rather than a novelty.

Fred Gohlke

ben said...

Good, now I think we're back on track. :-)
Let me quibble you on a couple of things. First, the cause of my slight confusion was the phrase, "can only be determined by asking the entire electorate, frequently". Given the state of the art (absent any radical new technique *hint hint*) that, to me, means something like polling ... or a referendum. But, from my perspective, that just blurs things. Sort of like sociological data: wonderfully precise, in some cases, but the individual gets lost in the process. (I was totally seduced by "fractals" for a while and that affected my appreciation of statistics in cog-psych.)

"the only way we can find out what those 'sort of things' are is to ask the people" ... I'd offer you an alternative! Technology forms the way people act. Now, of course, the way people behave influences technology. Or, at least, it should. (How come Vista was so unpopular? Even after Win2K, WinME, Win98, Win95, Win3.1WorkGroups, Win3? I'll suggest there's something like impunity at play here.) So ... it seems to me ... as a tool-smythe ... what we can do is deploy a tool/interface/technique that enables people, that empowers them by facilitating their self-expression. (And no, adding a comment to a heap of hundreds or thousands of other comments isn't what I call "self-expression"!)
"We must ask them frequently because those 'sort of things' are affected by events." How frequently? triggered by what events? in what terms? by what means? Sorry, Fred, and I don't actually disagree with you that this would be great ... I'm aiming for something that works in the other direction: a system that allows people to act and speak out on their own time, in their own terms, according to their own schedule, by their own lights.

So I differ with you as this being an immediate goal. Even given the best intentions manifest, that puts the cart before the horse. (Given less pure intentions we find that the process is subject to gaming ... "framing" is a potent dynamic ... we can easily skew the results by slanting the menu.)

"Practical Democracy makes everyone's attitude important and will make rational discourse on political issues the norm rather than a novelty." Now my tech_docs background kicks in big-time: "shall do this" is entirely appropriate verbiage for a detailed design document. But "does this" ... that, for me, is over-stepping.
"[T]o let everyone pursue what they find compelling to the full extent of their desire and ability" ... lovely ... wonderful. A fine expression of goal, of aim and intent. Now, it's my business /not/ to re-write that, striving for ever finer rhetoric. My business (as I perceive it, given my background and pre-dispositions) is to make it so. That means tools. Code ... interface ... design ...


What's on my screen at the moment: "Interview with Charlie Brown of Ashoka's Changemakers". And in another tab, "The Path Not Taken (So Far): Civic Engagement for Reform" ... a HuffPost from late January.

ben said...

p.s. I should have included one more item in this list: "a system that allows people to act and speak out on their own time, in their own terms, according to their own schedule, by their own lights, in response to the specifics of their own situation, as they experience it.

ben said...

p.s.2 Something I wrote over a year ago, hoping it would serve as a corner-stone: "GroundPlane 101". (I hope that someday the radio meaning of "groundplane" will become a sort of metaphor.)

koikaze said...

Good Morning, Ben

re: "... what we can do is deploy a tool/interface/technique that enables people, that empowers them by facilitating their self-expression."

I absolutely disagree. The purpose of Practical Democracy is to enable face-to-face deliberation on political issues. Tools, by definition, must be used. They are only valuable to those who can use them. Speech is the most universal tool we have and as Dr. Jane Mansbridge said in Beyond Adversary Democracy (p. 33), "... in practice face-to-face contact increases the perception of likeness, encourages decision making by consensus, and perhaps even enhances equality of status."

re: "... a system that allows people to act and speak out on their own time, in their own terms, according to their own schedule, by their own lights, in response to the specifics of their own situation, as they experience it."

In terms of government, that's a bit of a reach. Practical Democracy is not a proposal for Utopia. It simply gives the people a way to select better people to represent them in their government. The frequency I referred to was from one election to the next, which should not be overlong.

You say I've overstepped. Can you say precisely where and in what way? We know knowledge cannot be attained unless assertions are challenged and the underlying concepts examined. The concept of Practical Democracy is not exempt from that. If you can offer specific challenges, please do, so we can examine as many aspects of the matter as possible.

Fred Gohlke

ben said...

re: "... what we can do is deploy a tool/interface/technique that enables people, that empowers them by facilitating their self-expression."
I absolutely disagree ...

Fred - Before moving on, maybe we can make this clear. (Can it be as simple as it seems?) You disagree "absolutely" because you're aiming at face-to-face only?
We both of us make us of both the wiki at Participedia, we both of us use email (I just replied to your latest), and we are both here exchanging on your blog ... but you disagree with me "absolutely" because I'm proposing a new online tool that makes the best of those others?

Let me know if this is so.

ben said...

"You say I've overstepped. Can you say precisely where and in what way?"
Sorry? Well ... but ... I did. Right in the reply.

As I wrote, in something like a proposal or design document we project and anticipate, so talk about "will" and "shall". I can't say "my system does X, Y, Z until I have actually fielded it.

I assumed here you're exploring possibilities and potentials. Am I mistaken?

I wasn't disagreeing, Fred, with the attractive benefits of such activity, not at all, far from it.

ben said...

"We know knowledge cannot be attained unless assertions are challenged and the underlying concepts examined."
I might not adopt such absolutist language about the acquisition of knowledge but yes indeed, I agree with you whole-heartedly.

The notion of this sort of exchange has held my attention for 35yrs. The whole of my work has focussed on this one aspect specifically, on the effect of exchange ... dialog ... "discourse". I hope that's to be seen in what I've published.
When I write something like "GP-101 it's because I'm working on the implementation of that system, rather than exploring the peripheral abstractions.

ben said...

p.s. I'm not sure how things came off the rails. It appears, from your comments, that I discounted "face to face" and I never have. Not in theory, not in words, and certainly not in practice.

koikaze said...

Good Morning, Ben

re: "We both of us make us(e) of both the wiki at Participedia, we both of us use email (I just replied to your latest), and we are both here exchanging on your blog ... but you disagree with me "absolutely" because I'm proposing a new online tool that makes the best of those others?

Let me know if this is so."


Yes, that is so. Participedia and email and blogs are only accessible by people with internet access, and some of those people are not competent to use more than a small fraction of facilities available to them. Internet use demands manual dexterity and, insofar as we've seen to date, the ability to read, understand and write in the English language. I oppose any proposal for a political system that is only accessible to a fraction of the people.

Although that is my primary reason for opposing internet-based political systems, I also oppose them because they are inherently insecure. This article, by a person I have reason to respect, appeared in Dr. Dobbs Journal, a techical software publication, on December 12th, 2006. You may be able to access the article at:

http://www.ddj.com/embedded/196603544

Just in case access is limited to subscribers, please consider the compelling logic of Mr. Nisley's warning, "We will see national-scale attacks produced by teams with national-level resources, simply because the stakes are so high and the result is so attractive." (emphasis added)

Fred Gohlke

ben said...

"I oppose any proposal for a political system that is only accessible to a fraction of the people."
Well, there's agreement there for sure. I would likewise oppose any such proposal. But this is too abstract for me, since I've never seen any such proposal. If you've found one, please do let me know. I think that should be made known.

But my point is this: I have to be misunderstanding your opposition since you're obviously adopting the tools.

As for emphasis? In the late 70s I heard "Only a few people have access to computer resources", and in the 80s "only a few people have access to BBSs"; in the 90s it was "only a few people have access to the WWW", and now here "only a few people have access to the internet".
But even if it was true at one time, it was never a good reason to abandon the tool! And in any case it's no longer true. Anybody with a cell phone can access the net.
There aren't systems that allow people with minimal resources to participate effectively? Quite right ... which is one reason I took on the design challenge that I did.

As for security, that theoretical consideration is on someone else's desk. I'm in no way proposing that present practice concerning votes be changed. I think there are other needs that can be met.

If you're calling for more people to get involved more often, all I can say is that I've been there, week after week, for months and years and decades. So I don't see any disagreement.
If you're saying that the internet should be abandoned, all I can say is, "Ain't gonna happen."

If you're further saying that we should implement a complete re-engineering of our representative government, then I'll congratulate you for your enthusiasm and get back to improving present practices.

ben said...

p.s. we can facilitate one another's work by using the technology others have provided for us. A small example: http://www.ddj.com/embedded/196603544 can be transformed into "Root the Vote: The Hard and the Soft"; Dr. Dobbs December 12, 2006. (I know most people don't care about good technical communications. I've been practicing that skill set since the mid-70s ... believe me, I know that people don't care!