January 2009

Eye Askant

Governance and political campaigns from a marketing perspective.

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Government's Original Sin.

The thesis is simple: Governments (or governors), by default, have perceptions to fix. Administrations are born with original sin, branded corrupt from day one. Sociologists call it Implicit Prejudice, or bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs.

Call it unfair, but accept it. It is the result of Generational Sins of previous public administrators.

“Most fair-minded people strive to judge others according to their merits, but our research shows how often people instead judge according to unconscious stereotypes and attitudes, or 'implicit prejudice.' What makes implicit prejudice so common and persistent is that it is rooted in the fundamental mechanics of thought. Early on, we learn to associate things that commonly go together and expect them to inevitably coexist: thunder and rain, for instance, or gray hair and old age.

  1. Mahzarin R. Banaji, Max H. Bazerman, Dolly Chugh Harvard Business Review 2003

Like politicians and corruption.

“But, of course, our associations only reflect approximations of the truth; they are rarely applicable to every encounter. Rain doesn’t always accompany thunder, and the young can also go gray. Nonetheless, because we automatically make such associations to help us organize our world, we grow to trust them, and they can blind us to those instances in which the associations are not accurate—when they don’t align with our expectations”.

In the same manner, there are incorruptible politicians.

If the last line struck the reader as an oxymoron, then the point is indeed made: implicit prejudice is stronger than one's ability to allow the existence of an incorruptible public servant.

Banaji, Bazerman and Chugh explain: "Because implicit prejudice arises from the ordinary and unconscious tendency to make associations, it is distinct from conscious forms of prejudice, such as overt racism or sexism. This distinction explains why people who are free from conscious prejudice may still harbor biases and act accordingly. Exposed to images that juxtapose black men and violence, portray women as sex objects, imply that the physically disabled are mentally weak and the poor are lazy, even the most consciously unbiased person is bound to make biased associations."

Why governments disappoint.

Implicit prejudice is stronger than one's ability to allow the existence of an incorruptible public servant.

About the Professor

In his 35 years in advertising, Professor Pozon has been been involved, in varying degrees, independently and as an agency man, with political campaigns.


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