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Suppose you were a skilled hypnotist, and so charismatic that you knew you could change the opinion of an average person simply by your choice of words. Would it be ethical to be that persuasive?

To make it interesting, let's say you believe in the rightness of your own views, and you are talking to someone who firmly believes the opposite. You both have the same information at your disposal, so it is simply a case of different opinions. If you knew you could sway that person with your words, without adding any new information to the mix, would it be ethical to do so?

I encountered this dilemma after learning hypnosis. You can extend the methods of hypnosis into normal conversation, the way a trial lawyer, politician, or top salesperson would. You can't turn anyone into a zombie slave, but obviously a skilled salesperson can close more deals than an unskilled one. Your choice of words has a huge impact on how other people form their so-called opinions. Where do you draw the line between a normal exchange of views and an outright manipulation of another person's brain?

Long time readers of this blog know that I view humans as moist robots who have no free will, and therefore morality is an irrational concept. But most of you disagree with that view, so for you this is a fair question.

Allow me to put it into concrete terms. Suppose I knew that I could use my powers of hypnotic persuasion, in the form of common words in this blog, to cause some portion of you to change your vote in the upcoming election. And suppose I believed I was helping the country by doing so. Would it be ethical to change people's opinions without adding any data to the process?
 
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-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
Unethical would be to lead someone to do something they don't want to do. Or motivating them to do it because you have a vested interest in it, although you know it may not be in that person's best interest (without conveying that to them).

Now, in such a !$%*!$%*!$%* where you clearly state you are adding no new information, merely an interpretation, it is the person's responsibility to choose which side to take. You are not forcing anyone to do anything. Suppose your view is flawed but you manage to convince someone to change their opinion. In this case, you might be unethical if you know of your flaw in advance. But if not, then you are merely expressing your view in a way you believe will create more empathy and understanding from your readers. Those who are convinced by flawed arguments (such as I am so very often) are responsible for which views they choose to defend and on what grounds they defend it.

We're all prone to mistake. And we're responsible for our own beliefs.

An irresistible opinion is just an opinion I very much want to believe, not because you make it irresistible, but because I choose it to be irresistible and decide to turn off my critical reasoning. That is not your fault, it falls on me and on the education system which I was raised in and didn't do wonders for my critical assessment of arguments.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
All conversation is, to some extent, skilled hypnosis.

Politics is the art of exploiting bias. The masters of political persuasion are particularly particularly skilled hypnotists who craft their messages deliberately to exploit people's biases.

So: This ain't hypothetical. It's the essence of how politics is played.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
If you truly believed that we have no free will, how could hypnotizing/suggestiveness change anything? More importantly, how could you stop yourself?
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
That stuff only works on the weak minded, and most of them have stuck their heads in the sand and just keep mumbling something about 'Change'.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
What's the point?

Just Hypmotize me to think it's ethical.

Problem solved.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
I don't see any difference between what you're describing and modern marketing techniques.

So, yes.

Also, your user registration process sucks. Please tell your resident techweenies to allow OpenID logins. They'll know what it means. It's easy to set up. Make them do it.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
I think it is a matter of your intention if such behavior is unethical. I don't know anything about hypnosis, but I'm also pretty good at influencing people. I even asked myself the exactly same question as you did (but in another context). I think elections is not a good topic to demonstrate this, and people being aware of the fact that you're trying to convince them are also less susceptible.

A good exaple in my opinion is trying to convince someone to go out with you or to get intimate with you. Everyone is trying to do that regularly (most people call that flirting) - so up to which point is it still flirting (what everyone does) and when does it start to be unethical because you' re just to good at convincing people?

BTW - of course you can hardly change the mind of a person in a completely different direction. But most people have their opinion and already also some tendencies towards the opposite opinion too, so you just have to influence them a little more than everyone else does ;)
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
phantom II.....the problem with the type of hypnosis that Scott is referencing in this post is that the "target" is unaware that hypnosis is happening. The person doing the convincing doesn't say I'm going to hynotize you. Since you don't know; the process has more chance of working on some people. Forewarned would of course be forearmed
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Yes. In fact since you assert that "you believe in the rightness of your own views", and that "you are talking to someone who firmly believes the opposite" it would actually be unethical to NOT hypnotize/persuade the person to your viewpoint. Since the same information is available to both parties, and you believe in your infaliable rightness, you should believe that the other persons conclusions are incorrect or flawed in some way. By persuading this person to your "right" viewpoint you are doing them a service by helping them find the "correct" view.

At least that seems to be the opinion of the religious people / missionaries who attempt to convert non-believers to their religion. They believe in their rightness and try to convert people to their beliefs in an attempt to "save" them. They believe they are correct and it would be unethical for them to let you continue in your wrongness.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
I question the relevance of this question coming from someone who is a self-professed non-voter.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
I believe it would be unethical, that comes from a framework of believing that we do have free will. this would be akin to subliminal advertising.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Sometimes, you mildly surprise me with one of your false syllogisms; sometimes you amaze me, but today you have really stunned me. Since I have no free will, I don't understand how I can have any reaction at all, but I did.

Here is the statement that stunned me (which I'm not the only one who has seen and commented on): ". . .I view humans as moist robots who have no free will, and therefore morality is an irrational concept." HUH???

To boil this down for those of you in Rio Linda: no free will = morality is irrational. I say again: HUH???

Let me try one in the same vein. Fish breathe oxygen, so therefore water is irrelevant to their life. Or how about this: Obama is for change, so therefore we should vote for him.

Which leads me to your question. Which is a hypothetical without basis in fact, by the way. There is no way you could do what you're positing, so there is no real answer to your question.

If you doubt that, then let me throw out this challenge: I'll meet you at either Stacey's (your choice, but Walnut Creek is closer to me), and you pull out all your hypnotic stops and try to convince me that I should vote for Obama. If you are able to do it, then I'll answer your question. I'll even let you buy me all the wine you want, in order to make me more susceptible to suggestion.

I have visions of you wearing a Dracula cape (it IS near Halloween, after all!) and you saying, a la Bela Lugosi, "You are getting sleeeeepy. . . sleeeeeeeepy. . ." You must see, in retrospect, how laughable your post is, either intentionally or unintentionally. One is tempted to say absurd, but I will refrain. After all, you are (or were) a Mensa member, so all those smarts are sure to show through sometime.

Just not today.

 
 
Oct 23, 2008
If you can convince somebody to change their viewpoint just by your choice of words, then they didn't deserve to have a viewpoint in the first place. You have to deal with people in the way that they need to be dealt with, not by simply shouting your side repeatedly. Hypnosis and salesmanship is simply the art of telling the otherside your viewpoint in a manner that can be accepted by the other side. Find a military officer who's also a hypnotist ... aint gonna happen, shouting and repetition just dont work.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
It's not a question between "ethical" and "non-ethical", it's a question between "Right" and "Wrong". If what you believe happens to be right, then, yes, of course it's ethical. If what you believe doesn't, then it's not.

Take the example of religion. They brainwash millions of people. Is it ethical? No, because they happen to be wrong.

Or take the example of people (teachers, parents) who teach kids that stealing or murder is wrong. Is it ethical? Of course, because stealing happens to be wrong.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
Persuasion (and this is all you describe in my view) is ethical, as long as you aren't using force & threats at the same time. If you have to lie, then it would not be ethical.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
have you tried persuading somebody who is extremely good at logical reasoning scott? Try persuading a mathematician. In all likelihood, it won't work.
Of course, it depends upon the topic, but you said with no new information, so that would mean that reasoning ability makes the difference and what you face here is a veritable wall. Mathematicians are used to solving thousands of egregiously difficult problems in logic and know how to fish out the one right answer from a gazillion wrong ones. They can probably detect baloney like no one else can.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 23, 2008
As your subject suggests, you can only influence, not brainwash. Anyone who does not wish to be influenced by you would not read this blog to start with. Honestly, I am intrigued as to how you would go about it. I know who I am leaning towards in my vote, and the only doubt my vote is that it's a toss up between them and a third party, and my state is pretty solid in the other guys favor. Convince me, Scott.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Yes
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Switching the context of the question a bit: Which is less ethical, a skilled rifleman going on a homocidal college campus rampage or an unskilled rifleman? I'd say that the intention is what makes the action unethical. The skilled rifleman racks up a bigger body count, but that doesn't make the poor shooter a more ethical person.

With persuasion, I'm not sure that it's a crime to begin with. I guess it depends on what your motives are, and how they affect the people you persuade. People try to persuade each other of things many times every day. I'm not inclined to condemn a person more for having a greater aptitude for the behavior.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
I’m going to go with Machiavelli on this one and say that the ends justifies the means.
 
 
 
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