How “anchoring” influences your interpretation of propaganda messaging

How “anchoring” influences your interpretation of propaganda messaging

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I saw this post and immediately hit the “1/3” number, making the following claim quite large:

Wow. My mind had “anchored” on the “1/3” … “veterans”. Some times wording like this is deliberate – what was written is technically accurate but our mind “anchors” around the wrong number. Propagandist’s know this and use it frequently. More examples are available in past blog posts. In this example, we have no idea how many “low income veterans” there are (no number is provided), making it easy for the target to fixate on the 1/3d number.

Next, I looked up some numbers. Low-income veterans comprise 6.9% of the veteran population – versus low income non-veterans at 14.4%. (Source Veterans Administration, page 3).

The VA says this group constituted 1.465 million in the period 2010-2012. The tweet above says 33% of low income veterans lacked Internet access at home and 40% lack a home computer.

One third of 1.465 million is just less than 1/2 million total veterans. But the original quote in the San Diego Union Tribune tweet, above claims “millions”:

Millions of low-income veterans are on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

Since when is 1/2 million equal to “millions”? In this case, a combination of anchoring and a false assertion are being used in a clear case of propaganda messaging.

Second, low income veterans are doing better than most low income Americans.

47% of all low income American’s lack broadband Internet access (compared to 33% of low income veterans) and 45% lack a home computer (compared to 40% of low income veterans) (in 2016).

The column that appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune opinion column was written by Elizabeth Dole. No matter how virtuous the goals of the column, some one should have fact checked this or clearly labeled it as propaganda. With all due respect to the Dole family, this column is unfortunate.

These issues, as used in the above column and twitter campaign, are good examples of

  • anchoring
  • false assertion (“millions”)
  • logical fallacy (citing numbers of veterans that are actually better than the general population)
  • WYSIATI – What you see is all there is, by leaving out that low income veterans are doing better than similar low income non-veterans.

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Nearly 1/3 of low-income veterans don’t have internet service at home and ~ 40% don’t own a computer, leaving them without an essential lifeline. That’s why we’ve partnered w/ to bridge the digital divide in the vet community.

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