The Apples of Climate Science, Falling or Fallen

Climate Central is a respected Affirmer of Climate Change. This is how it describes the Science of Climate Science. It begins with the United Nations.

Established in 1988 by the United Nations, the IPCC does no original climate science research. Its role is to review current science from around the world, then synthesize and summarize that data within comprehensive reports meant for policymakers.

The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is entirely a creation of the United Nations. The UN in brief is a collection of representatives appointed by their national governments to participate with the UN and its units. And, of course, the United Nations has no constitutional power over any person or government in the world. It is the largest Non Government Organization (NGO) in the world.

Now. How does the UN’s IPCC do those Climate Science assessments?

Such assessments typically take five to seven years to complete in a slow, bureaucratic process: Thousands of scientists from around the globe, working as unpaid volunteers, first sift through the scientific literature, identifying trends and writing a draft report. That draft is reviewed and thoroughly revised by other scientists. Then a summary for policymakers, condensing the science even further, is written and subjected to a painstaking, line-by-line revision by representatives from more than 100 world governments — all of whom must approve the final summary document . . . IPCC’s four assessments — massive, multi-tome volumes released in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007 — are considered the gold standard in climate science.

As you consider the Climate Science of the UN’s IPCC please use the tension of Falling Apples and Fallen Apples as an interpretive standard. In other words, consider the difference between science and persuasion. Start with science.

As a trained, credentialed, and practicing scientist, I know of no scientific authority that has ever had the power of being the final word on an area of inquiry. That is, there is no duly elected or appointed group of people who work together, create a document, then present it as The Truth for an area of inquiry. That’s just not how science operates.

Climate Central presents an image of science that is wildly at odds with the reality. Science is a long, slow process where Truth largely wins out over the longer haul with critics, dissenters, and even deniers raising a howl of complaint as their numbers, arguments, and interest declines over time. Most often the reality of a new science overwhelms all the complaints and even the critics begin to feel foolish at their criticisms. Deniers become a Party Of One, and not in a good way.

Science simply does not operate through committees where the real experts determine the truth and explain it to their younger, slower little brothers and sisters. Scientists tend to go with Groucho Marx on this one: They’d belong to no such organization that would have them as members! Science is contrary to such kinds of cooperation and harmony.

As a small comparison to the IPCC, I’d point to the ridiculous Gang on Physical Activity at The Lancet. A small group of people who know and like each other enough have banded together under the brand name of The Lancet – one of the most widely read medical journals in the world – to issue proclamations of truth about physical activity. The folks, some of whom I’ve worked with, many of whom I’ve read and cited, are simply crazy by my scientific lights. Sure, it’s a self promoting persuasion play from all concerned, but the play is so obvious it is a joke. Nobody doing science would ever do such a thing (except maybe to get a grant, but that’s different).

The people of the IPCC are doing the same thing, just on a much larger scale as if quantity is a Strong Argument for anything other than frequency of sex. In science, size like this really doesn’t matter. With the IPCC, size is exaggeration, like totalitarian art that features massive slabs, big contrasting colors, and wildly oversimplified slogans. You see the folks at Climate Central falling for the revolutionary poster:

IPCC’s four assessments — massive, multi-tome volumes . . .

Massive? Multi-tomed? Voluminous? What kind of scientist finds this a Strong Argument worthy of the Long Conversation in the Head with complex webs of elaborated thoughts? It’s just silly. Adolescent. Worse still: It’s wrong. Science doesn’t work like this.

Worser more is this line describing the scientific process at the IPCC.

Then a summary for policymakers, condensing the science even further, is written and subjected to a painstaking, line-by-line revision by representatives from more than 100 world governments — all of whom must approve the final summary document.

What? I write the science then give it to politicians who revise it?!? And that revision becomes the gold standard of Climate Science?!? There’s no scientific publication process that operates like this, not even at The Lancet. Even with that persuasion play, at least scientists are still in control of the text and no politician gets a voice or a vote. Yet, the IPCC Climate Science requires the final statement to issue from people who are not scientists, merely unqualified people who think they can rewrite or revise science because they are representing . . . something or someone.

No wonder you can’t find any Falling Apples! But, you can find the Fallen Apples. Look at the obvious, recurring, and standard persuasion plays.

Thousands of scientists from around the globe . . . a Norm based Cue, the Consensus of Experts.

working as unpaid volunteers . . . look, Ma, no money, no bias!

massive, multi-tome volumes . . . Quantity is a quality all its own as if more is truer than less.

These Fallen Apples depend upon Low WATTage which makes Climate Scientists even funnier. They think no thinking is required whether doing science or persuasion. Just follow the bouncing Cue as it skips over the rising tide: Authority, Consensus, Norms, Size. You don’t have to think about science, we’ve done that for you. With Climate Science.

If you think simply about this, you see all the contradictions. Why would people who have the Falling Apples of science play these Low WATT games? Science does require heavy lifting and everyone knows that. If you want to make a science argument, you should be working on plays that increase Other Guys WATTage so that They can think about your Falling Apples. Instead, Climate Science does the opposite and insists upon ambling along the Peripheral Route with Gandalf the wizard by your side. Unfortunately they couldn’t cast a world class actor like Ian McKellen as the master and instead go with a literal cast of thousands like an old Biblical movie classic from Cecil B. deMille.

Now, I appreciate that the Other Guys here is not one large group of similar people and that any persuader would have different segments and different TACTs. Sure, for a lot of Other Guys, a pure Peripheral Route play is smart – just turn up or down the volume on Public Opinion as needed. But realize that Climate Science always operates on that Low WATT Cast of Thousands (whether of people or data!). That tactic led to the loss of the most important Other Guy of all, Barack Obama, certainly a Guy who is smart enough to go High WATT. And, of course, the tactic has produced a Public Opinion that literally turns on the weather vane, today for, tomorrow against, depending upon which way the wind blows, meaning that Climate Science has no control over it, always waiting for a Streetcar Named SuperStormSandy.

Let’s close with ancient persuasion advice.

He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.

That from Ecclesiastes, 11:4, which suggests a reconsideration for both the Falling, and Fallen, Apples of Climate Science.

Administrative Update

I’ve recently updated to the latest version of WordPress, the software behind the Persuasion Blog. While that change is unnoticeable on this website, apparently there are some bugs in the new version regarding RSS and email delivery. While new posts are published as planned everyday, the syndication feeds are not. If you depend upon this function, please understand I’m working on it, but thus far the usual tricks are not working. It’s entirely likely things will go back to normal without any intervention from me, but I appreciate your patience in the interim.

Magic Metaphors on the Peripheral Route

Magic explains the persuasive impact of Cues on the Peripheral Route. Consider this trick.

PINCH a coin at its edge between the thumb and first fingers of your right hand and begin to place it in your left palm, without letting go. Begin to close the fingers of the left hand. The instant the coin is out of sight, extend the last three digits of your right hand and secretly retract the coin. Make a fist with your left — as if holding the coin — as your right hand palms the coin and drops to the side. You’ve just performed what magicians call a retention vanish: a false transfer that exploits a lag in the brain’s perception of motion, called persistence of vision. When done right, the spectator will actually see the coin in the left palm for a split second after the hands separate.

Magic requires Falling Apples as part of the Box and Play. Magicians discovered through the College of Hard Knocks what the science of Falling Apples knows about the brain. Certain behaviors, like this coin trick, capitalize upon weakness in human nature, more specifically human perception and information processing, to create the magic of a visual illusion. Thus, there is no magic behind magic, but rather only science.

So too with persuasion on the Peripheral Route. Cues, particularly the persuasion Social Cues from CLARCCS, are a kind of truth that no one but a fool would ignore. Take Comparison. If Others Are Doing It, So Should You. This is not stupid. Observing what many other people are doing is a smart and adaptive tactic in almost all situations. Unless there is some magic in the Local as with our coin trick. Persuasive magicians use reliable Cues – like trusting your vision in that coin trick – to fool you into executing a TACT from the Peripheral Route.

These wizards show you many people buying FB on the first day of an IPO and lull you into believing the Comparison Cue (If Others Are Doing It, So Should You) is operating. But all those other people Doing It are just magic, an optical illusion, just like with the coin trick. Most other people are not Doing It, but the IPO operators make you watch a limited sample of observations and fool you into buying Facebook stock at the worst possible moment while making you think you are following the Wisdom of the Crowd with Comparison.

Thus, the trick with the Peripheral Route is NOT that Cues are bad, dumb, or misleading, but rather your Low WATT state fools you into believing the person is front of you is a reliable Cue. Peripheral Route magicians trigger the Low WATT switch with distraction, overload, or misdirection, then make you think the thing before your very eyes is the Real Deal when it is only the appearance of a Cue.

Nothing up my sleeve. Presto. Chango!

Stereotyping Yourself with Persuasive Science

Got a nice demonstration of how you can manufacture science to invent a social harm that moves from peer review to pop press and into the National Conversation. It’s easier than you realize. Start with this.

This candidate summary is part of an application package to a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professor that describes a young graduate student seeking a lab manager position in the professor’s lab. Among the myriad details in the application is the applicant’s first name. In this example, you see, “Jennifer,” a female name. We’ll introduce the scientific part of this persuasive study in a simple way. Half the professors who get the application package will read the name, “Jennifer,” and the other half – randomly assigned!!! – will read the name, “John.”

That’s it. That’s the science. Random assignment to the name of Jennifer or John. Otherwise everything else is identical in this “randomized double-blind study.”

Now. You probably don’t know this, but the Jennifer-John randomized double-blind persuasion play is one of the oldest independent variable manipulations in the social sciences. If you are bored one day hit a good academic search engine and search the lit for studies like this. You can waste all day on the large number of hits you’ll get in a wide variety of applications. All you do is vary one word in a written description, like with the name of John or Jennifer, sometimes a personality trait like sociable or quiet, or maybe a specific behavioral action like contributes or ignores. Everything else in the written description is the same but for that one word. The participants just read the profile or job resume or online biography, then provide a rating, often in a randomized and double-blind design!

Lost in most of these studies is the fact that they operate as persuasion plays that show Cues to Low WATT processors who skip along the Peripheral Route and respond with automatic, top of the head responses that extend no longer than the keypress and have almost no real world behavioral impact. With nothing more on the line than completing a survey, people who are busy, distracted, or unconcerned zip through these “randomized double-blind” studies with all the attention of a bored kid in the back of a minivan in the fifth hour of a nine hour drive to grandma’s house.

Do people stereotype? Of course. Stereotyping is part of the wiring in the human brain. The civilization trick here is not stopping stereotyping as a cognitive function, but learning how to control the behavioral implications of this human nature. And most people, most of the time have little trouble pushing aside their human nature and acting civilized when they meet people strange to them. In other words, there is a huge disconnect between the mind and the body here and persuasion theory explains it.

When you run a study like Jennifer-John you will find large immediate Changes in thinking and maybe feeling and maybe, if you design it right, maybe a little behavior – just place a push button right next to the computer that Fires the candidate. Yeah, these studies can show that kind of Change. But real world examples of rape, assault, harassment, discrimination or even just plain rude and thoughtless behavior? No. What you get is careless, top of the head responding even among elite and highly respected STEM professors who took 3 minutes to complete this survey. It’s worth reading the argumentative, rhetorical, and entirely inSincere abstract.

Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. We also assessed faculty participants’ preexisting subtle bias against women using a standard instrument and found that preexisting subtle bias against women played a moderating role, such that subtle bias against women was associated with less support for the female student, but was unrelated to reactions to the male student. These results suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science.

This is the abstract for a scientific report, yet it sounds like a press release from the Center To Right The Wrongs Of The World. Women aren’t in STEM careers because of the subtle sexism of STEM professors! Which oddly enough includes STEM professors who are women. Wouldn’t you think that female STEM professors would have fought through this hatred and prejudice and vowed, Never Again? Yet, according to this “randomized double blind” study, female STEMsters are as sexist as male STEMsters. Something must be done!

The present study is unique in investigating subtle gender bias on the part of faculty in the biological and physical sciences. It therefore informs the debate on possible causes of the gender disparity in academic science by providing unique experimental evidence that science faculty of both genders exhibit bias against female undergraduates. As a controlled experiment, it fills a critical gap in the existing literature, which consisted only of experiments in other domains (with undergraduate students as participants) and correlational data that could not conclusively rule out the influence of other variables.

This in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of people you’d expect to be better read than this. There is absolutely nothing in this “randomized double-blind” study that hasn’t already been found and reported since we figured out how to make mud. Yet, the Academy apparently thinks this is a new Falling Apple. Thus, the researchers pick a naïve population of smart people, present them with old research, and prove members of the National Academy and their ilk are Sexist Pigs. Even the girls!

And, yet, this isn’t the part of the story that proves how to manufacture science to get into the National Conversation. Nobody in the real world cares about what a bunch of sexist pigs in the National Academy of Sciences talk about. They care about what the New York Times talks about!

To that end, this research team pulls a string and gets this research report into the hands of an NYTimes reporter and we get the next step: A foreboding analytic story!

Not bad for a crappy piece of old news persuasion research that only fools the gullible guys at PANAS. Great headline. Plus if you read the story, they spell all the researcher names correctly.

But, wait. There’s more!

The Times decided to go where no news source has gone before and pursues this injustice. Scrutinize!

The Times keeps this running dog running with a thoughtful exchange in their thoughtful series called Room For Debate. Just look at the image. See all the competing voices in the different head shots? Big room for the big debate, although if you actually read the opinions you realize that most decry the sexist pigs everywhere and only one person stands up for all the problems boys and men are having nowadays without addressing the Sexism. In other words, the Times thinks the debate is over and Sexism blocks smart girls and women from STEM careers. Math has nothing to do with it.

So. Take an old line of persuasion research, do some dodgy selection of your audience, then take this manufactured science to the pop press and get multiple Exposures and you are in the National Conversation! The persuasion irony here, of course, is that this persuasion play has no impact on the National Conversation. Everyone in this National Conversation is Low WATT and talking off the top of their head, just like all the participants in these Jennifer-John studies who just click the most obvious response to get out of this chore.

Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students, PNAS 2012 ; published ahead of print September 17, 2012.


P.S. Pssst, PANAS. Wanna redeem your Sexist Piggyness? Recruit females with the Attractiveness Cue instead of all that math. Something like this.

P.P.S. “Subtle Gender Bias?” The Windowpanes in this silly study range from Smallish to Stupendous. Nothing subtle about the effects. Just the persuasion.

Mavens! Run, Don’t Walk, for This One

Of course, there’s no science behind this and that’s why it’s your persuasion opportunity!

Yeah. Some people benefit from exercise, others don’t, and some even die from it! How to tell the difference? Genetic Testing!

The new test, which is being sold by a British company called XRGenomics, is available to anyone through the company’s Web site and involves rubbing inside your cheek with a supplied swab and returning the tissue sample to the company. Results are then available within a few weeks. It is based on a body of research led by James Timmons, a professor of systems biology at Loughborough University in England, and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana and other institutions.

Any company called XRGenomics is already leaning forward towards persuasion. And, it’s led by a real live professor, so you’ve got the expert in the lab coat. Plus, he’s got the Gene Screen©™® to tell you whether you will run and: Live or Die or just Huff n’ Puff.

But, like I said, there’s no science behind this Gene Screen©™®. An expert I respect who doesn’t make many public appearances in a lab coat notes:

Their actual predictive value, based on the best currently available genetic science, “is approximately zero,” says Claude Bouchard, a professor of genetics at Pennington, who was the senior author of the 2010 study with Dr. Timmons, but has no involvement with XRGenomics.

Gee, a coauthor calls you out in public. That’s gotta hurt. Except we need to observe this about Bouchard.

He is a paid consultant for another company, Pathway Genomics, that offers gene tests only through physicians.

So while Bouchard is smart enough to avoid lab coat public appearances, maybe he understands the inside deal with consultancy?!?

You can make that inference if you wish, but Bouchard’s work doesn’t require his public pronouncements. His data speak for themselves. We simply don’t know enough about the genetics of exercise to offer a useful predictive test for most people. Yeah, maybe there are the OGODs, the One Gene One Disease tests that bear on exercise, but the kind of test implied by the NYTimes story? No way.

Don’t take my word for it. Take the numbers from Pennington at XRGenomics.

In the original 2010 gene study, the authors concluded that the gene profile they’d uncovered accounted for at least 23 percent of the variation in how people responded to endurance training, which, in genetic terms, is a hefty contribution.

Stated another way, that 23% explained variation is almost a Large Windowpane, a 25/75 effect. Yet, in this context even that Large Windowpane is almost meaningless in practical circumstances.

1. Hey, 77% of the variation in exercise effectiveness is nonGenetic, meaning lifestyle factors like specific exercise routine and diet and substance use (steroids, anyone?).

2. That 23% is not your individual mileage, but rather the group average for the sample under study. Among all people, the Gene Screen©™® accounts for about one quarter of the population effect. You cannot generalize that group effect to a specific individual.

3. And it’s all observational. You cannot randomly assign people to different genes (and lifestyles) then Count the Change. These are correlational designs with all the trials and tribulations of bias and threats to internal and external validity.

When I arrived at NIOSH in the late 1990s, molecular genetics was in full swing and I worked with some world class researchers dying on the bleeding edge of genetics work. What impressed me most from talking with them was their bemusement at the New New Thing hype of Big Genetics and how so many people were seeing the work as a Revolution that would Revolutionize everything. Even back then the guys in the caves were already just doing the grind that is basic research and none of them expressed anything remotely like a zealot’s belief.

Genetics has not yet produced the Revolution that will Revolutionize everything and it may yet. The OGODs clearly demonstrate that, but we knew about OGODs without the Human Genome Project.

But, get yourself an expert with a lab coat, a groovy sounding company name, and best of all a Gene Screen©™®, and, baby, you can do some persuasion!

All Bad Persuasion with Anarchists in Great Literature

The Rules from literature!

“Oskar died,” Ilse told him sipping fresh lime water on his mother’s table, “like a comedian. He went to talk to the army and told them not to be pawns. The fool really thought the troops would fling down their guns and walk away. We watched him from a window and I prayed they wouldn’t just trample him. The regiment had learned to march in step by then, you wouldn’t recognize them. As he reached the streetcorner across from the parade ground he tripped over his own shoelace and fell into the street. A staff car hit him and he died. He could never keep his laces tied, that ninny . . . he was the type that gives anarchists a bad name.”

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie, page 26, Penguin Edition.

Persuasion Dysquotation on the True Voter

Defeat displays the success of Self Persuasion contrasted against the failed persuasion on the Other Guys. As with elections. Consider the thoughts of Harvard philosopher, Harvey Mansfield.

Mr. Mansfield sat for an interview on Thursday at the Harvard Faculty Club. This year marks his 50th as a teacher at the university. It isn’t easy being the most visible conservative intellectual at an institution that has drifted ever further to the left for a half-century. “I live in a one-party state and very much more so a one-party university,” says the 80-year-old professor with a sigh. “It’s disgusting. I get along very well because everybody thinks the fact that I’m here means the things I say about Harvard can’t be true. I am a kind of pet—a pet dissenter.”

Professor Mansfield roots his thought and teaching in the classics from Machiavelli, Toqueville, and the ancients. From that he understands politics, elections, and voting. Consider his analysis of the 2012 election.

Consider voting. “You can count voters and votes,” Mr. Mansfield says. “And political science does that a lot, and that’s very useful because votes are in fact countable. One counts for one. But if we get serious about what it means to vote, we immediately go to the notion of an informed voter. And if you get serious about that, you go all the way to voting as a wise choice. That would be a true voter. The others are all lesser voters, or even not voting at all. They’re just indicating a belief, or a whim, but not making a wise choice. That’s probably because they’re not wise.” By that measure, the electorate that granted Barack Obama a second term was unwise—the president achieved “a sneaky victory,” Mr. Mansfield says. “The Democrats said nothing about their plans for the future. All they did was attack the other side. Obama’s campaign consisted entirely of saying ‘I’m on your side’ to the American people, to those in the middle. No matter what comes next, this silence about the future is ominous.”

Mansfield’s observation are typical of many Republicans and conservatives following Mr. Obama’s victory. Each finds a core belief whether about the free market or true voting and rallies the defeat around it. Of course, such thinking fails to understand why you lost and what you can do about it the next time. Nor does it seem to inspire much analysis about a core belief that you know is true and transcendent, yet loses elections. Can’t you both believe and win?

Persuasion is always about Counting the Change in the Other Guys and even Mansfield grudging observes that Rule. Persuasion doesn’t require to you to surrender your core beliefs, but does Rulify:

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

You don’t have to center your persuasion only upon your sincerity – those core beliefs – you need to hold those core beliefs as you Change the Other Guy. I’ll creatively metaphor another conservative persuasion theorist who suggests you go to an election with the democracy you’ve got, not the one you’d like. Take your core beliefs to the democracy you’ve got, analyze that Local, then devise the Box and Play that delivers the winning Count.

Finally, recall the persuasion advice from Oscar Wilde who despised sincerity and sought art that expressed core beliefs without wearing them upon your sleeve. We’ve noted before great artists who always seek to hide their heart in plain sight in a work of art, using the art to artfully express their soul while always Counting the Change in the Other Guys.

You can do both.

TV News Bias as Effect Size Example

You know the drill: Small, Medium, and Large. As the Windowpane those labels translate into 45/55, 35/65, and 25/75. And, you can then see these differences in various domains with examples in these Persuasion Blog posts or Primer chapters. Today we’ll look at TV viewership for common, practical illustrations of Windowpanes.

The NYTimes provides a fun article looking at research from TRA, the research arm of Ti-Vo. They built a database of 2.2 million users, tracked their TV habits, then compared viewing preferences by political party affiliation. If I correctly understand the metric here (and Interested Readers will correct me, right?) the Null condition with the TRA scoring is 100. A score of 110 would correspond to a Small Windowpane (that 10% difference), a score of 130 would be Medium, and 150 would be a Large effect. Let’s start with the obvious. Who watches Fox? Who watches MSNBC?

By that standard, the 144 Republican index for Fox News and the 143 Democratic index for MSNBC are enormous skews. In other words, the Fox News audience is tilted Republican by 44 percent above the base of registered voters nationwide. The number for MSNBC is almost the same for Democratic voters, a 43 percent skew.

Those index scores are close enough for public discussion to be called Large Windowpanes. Fox attracts considerably more Republicans; MSNBC, Democrats. Now, look at CNN.

CNN, which has branded itself as the cable news network without a partisan skew, has apparently made the sale among independent voters. The network’s biggest skew was among independents, 17 percent above the national average with that group. But CNN also scored 11 percent above the baseline with registered Democrats. Republicans watch CNN in fewer numbers: 8 percent below the base number.

I’d call the CNN effect a Small Windowpane. They get a few more independents than expected, a few more Democrats and a few less Republicans. A similar kind of Windowpane occurs with the network news shows from ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The index of registered Democrats for ABC’s newscast is 114 — 14 percent above the baseline for registered voters. The index for Republican voters was 98, two percentage points below that base . . . For the “NBC Nightly News,” the breakdown is also significantly more toward Democratic viewers, with an index of 112 with that group. The index for Republican viewers was 99, just below the baseline . . . CBS’s evening newscast had the most balanced audience. The program scored 10 percent above the average with Democratic voters, but it was also 3 percent over the baseline with Republican voters, and exactly on the line, an index of 100, with Independent voters.

Now, we’re not talking politics or TV here. We’re talking effect sizes. Fox and MSNBC produce Large effects in terms of attracting a disproportionate audience whether Republican or Democrat. The other four generate Small effects, tending toward Democrats, but again the important point here is the magnitude of the difference, not the content of the difference.

Anyone who’s spent any time watching TV news has a feel for the differences between Fox and MSNBC compared to CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC. You can easily spot how Fox and MSNBC are different from the other four in this comparison. And, you can feel how CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC are also slightly tilted toward independents and Democrats and away from Republicans, but that this tilt, this difference, this Windowpane is not nearly as strong as the Fox or MSNBC tilt. See and feel the difference between Large effect programs like Fox and MSNBC and Small effect programs like the other four in terms of the audience type.

Now, just to be pedantic about this demonstration, realize the many Tooth Fairy Tales I discuss on the Persuasion Blog are much smaller than the Small effect seen in CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Zealots on sitting or distracted driving or large serving soda are reporting the equivalent TRA index scores of 102 or 103, not even the Small size, 110, of the CNN or NBC tilt, and presenting them as if they are a Fox or MSNBC Large effect. When you don’t understand numbers and particularly the idea of an effect size, zealots can get away with presenting an index of 105 as staggering or dangerous or life threatening when it’s not.

Stated another way, Tooth Fairies are shouting Fox when the effect isn’t even Peacock.

Getting TACTful about the Weather

Sure, If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It, but!

If you can’t even define It, specifically as a TACT, you’re not even doing persuasion. As with the latest effort from the UN conference on Climate Change.

Delegates from more than 190 nations agreed to extend the increasingly ineffective Kyoto Protocol a few years and to commit to more ambitious — but unspecified — actions to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases.

The NYTimes article details the continuing inability of UN climate changers to agree on anything remotely approaching a TACT, the Who does What When and Where or the Target Action Context and Time. Consider this another way.

I have science. Cold hearted, irrefutable science that conclusively says X causes Y, but I can’t get a group of like minded scientists to agree on a TACTful statement of that science.

See the failure of both the Falling Apples and the Fallen Apples. There is no science and no persuasion here or else you would be stepping on TACTs like a barefoot visitor in a nail factory. Sincerity, however, abounds!

And lest anyone think the persuasion problem resides only within the professional meeting attenders at the UN, consider the mavens in this area.

I’ll take just one example of a persuasion campaign for Climate Change suggested by the good folks at Breakthrough Strategies. I don’t know these guys from Adam, Eve, or the Serpent and have no axe to grind, stone to throw, or eye to gouge. It sounds pretty much like other free campaigns I’ve seen from similar organizations whether from government, NGO, or even the charitable arm of forprofit units. They do persuasion for Good Hearted People with Money, including Climate Change Affirmers. They have published a free Guide (pdf) based on their persuasion analysis of the problem.

Here’s their point of entry.

While many have approached climate change cautiously, Americans have grown impatient with the lack of action and the excessive influence of fossil fuel interests. They respond positively to honest, confident problem-solvers who will lead our communities, nation and world to a stronger and safer future. This guide is for those leaders.

And how can you move the People? A persuasion campaign based on three elements.

A large body of recent research shows a solid majority of voters respond favorably to confident, pro-clean energy, climate leadership messages grounded in three core American values:

Responsibility. Stepping up to the climate challenge is the right and responsible thing to do.

Patriotic pride. America can rise to the challenge and succeed.

Accountability. We can’t allow the billionaire Koch Brothers and Big Oil to continue to rig the system and block clean energy solutions.

These mavens suggest a straight Central Route Arguments play for High WATT processors. Argue with Responsibility, Patriotism, and Accountability. People will engage the Long Conversation in the Head as they elaborate on Responsibility, Patriotism, and Accountability which in turn will produce favorable attitude Change which will then lead to favorable behavior Change.

Do you really believe this will work?

1. Nothing in the Guide says anything about creating High WATT processing. They just advise Arguments without offering any tactics for getting the kind of willingness and ability to think. And, I’d like to see a lot more about their data on Argument quality for Responsibility, Patriotism, and Accountability. Good grief, no one is against concepts like these, but the devil is in how you state them. Breakthrough Strategies provides these Mom, Apple Pie, and Flag vapories without any thought about how to express them in a way that generates a favorable Long Conversation in the Head. Worse still, this has been a primary persuasion play from Climate Changers for the past 18 years since the first UN meeting on this topic. In other words, there’s no new persuasion here.

2. Color me stupid, but I fail to see any TACT, Who does What When and Where in the Guide. Sure, the People want Change, but that’s not a TACT, a specific statement of Target Action Context and Time. That’s a vague, feel-good statement that has no concrete, observable behavior. So, what behavior will the three Arguments produce? It might attract those Good Hearted People with Money which is good for a consultant, but does it change the Other Guys who will then do something about Climate Change? I cannot see a simple straightline from Breakthrough campaigning to TACTful Climate Change.

The lesson here is not about specific people, organizations, and issues but about persuasion skill. All persuasion must begin with a good TACT. Without that, you have no direction, no control, no count. You’re in a 1930 MGM movie musical with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney that says, hey, I’ve got ten dollars and a pair of tap shoes, let’s put on a show that raises money to save the orphanage! If you are staging musical productions, then study all the Climate Change Affirmers! Of course, while they are putting on a show, they ain’t saving the planet or even an orphanage.

Even before It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid, it’s about the TACT.