The Negative Ad Fallacy

You can tell a lot about a person or company just based on what they choose to showcase in their ads. The superior one is usually the one who highlights their strong points instead of pointing out the weaknesses of their competitors.

This can be seen in ads for both products and politicians. For instance, if you’ve ever seen an Optimum Online commercial, all you hear is negative things about Verizon’s FiOS service. Some smug guy is telling you about how FiOS customers keep switching back to Optimum and trying to scare you into thinking that the fact that FiOS is superior is a myth.

Their other commercial features a FiOS salesman going door-to-door while his mother reveals the “ugly truth” that her son is keeping from the unsuspecting Optimum customers.

The idea here is that is Optimum is selling an inferior product, the only way they can keep their customers is to scare them into thinking that Optimum cares about them like their moms do and FiOS is the guy in the van full of puppies trying to kidnap your children.

FiOS, on the other hand simply spits out statistics about their superior picture quality and internet speed and call it a day.

As mentioned above, the other place you see this constantly is in politics. Whenever one politician has a better platform because they are more closely aligned with the people, the inferior competitor comes along with a negative ad campaign that highlights obscure, out-of-context anecdotes from the superior politician’s life.

The lesson here is to not be fooled in scare-tactics. If you can sense that someone is trying to scare you into trusting them, they’re entirely full of shit and should immediately lose you as either a customer or voter. Consider it a decision-making shortcut.

Homophobia & The Illusion of Choice

When you listen to homophobic people explain their point of view, you will often hear some very peculiar things. Now, when I say homophobic, I include anyone who is against gay marriage, gays in the military, and any other discriminatory points of view you can think of. Their reasons usually include a word that in no way belongs in the conversation. That word is “choice”.

I always hear things like “it’s a lifestyle choice” and “if they choose to do that, it’s not my problem.” Recently, Carl Paladino (who recently ran for Governor of NY State) even said that it’s wrong for children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option.” But, where is this word ‘option’ coming from?

As a heterosexual, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to be attracted to women. After puberty I didn’t take a look at some men and some women and think “hmm.. I know most people want to sleep with women, but those men are preeeetty tempting!” For that matter, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to like ice cream or chose to dislike the smell of horses either. That’s because nobody chooses what they prefer, they just enjoy the things they like, and avoid the things they don’t.

So why is it that homophobic people just don’t seem to get this? Well here’s one possible solution that helps put my mind to rest:

Let’s say you were a homosexual man (and if you really are a homosexual man you can still play along). You come to a point in your life where you know very well that most men are attracted to women, but you find yourself mysteriously drawn to men. Your church tells you that homosexuality is a sin, and you know your family would frown upon it if you were gay. So what you do, even though it’s less pleasurable, is go for the women. You get married, have a family, and you’re very proud of yourself because this was quite an accomplishment. You think that this is how most men must feel, and that’s why the bible was making such a big deal out of it. Life is a struggle!

Now you see some openly gay people and you think to yourself “that’s not fair! They took the easy way out!” To you, resisting this temptation was one of your major accomplishments in life; a sacrifice that you had to make. Why should these people who chose the easy route be entitled to the same privileges as you?

And there it is: the choice. This was not a choice to be gay, but only a choice to be honest with oneself.  You often hear about people who are openly against homosexuality getting caught having a gay affair (Ted Haggard comes to mind), and then their defense is that they were “tempted by the devil and gave in to that temptation.” Well I have some news for these people: There is no such thing as a temptation to have a gay affair when you’re straight, you’re just gay! (or at LEAST bisexual!) As a heterosexual, I never look at a man and think “I know he looks yummy, but I must resist” because I am actually a straight man, and not just playing the role of one to avoid judgment. I don’t ‘resist’ men for the same exact reason I don’t look at a horse and fight my temptation to sniff it’s… well you get the picture. There’s nothing to resist!

Nobody ever chose to be gay or straight, but any attack on openly gay people is an attack on honesty. If you aren’t ashamed of your society for preventing gay people from marrying and openly serving in the military, you’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

Update: This video goes perfectly with this post. Special thanks to Alec N. for contributing.

How Many Real Friends Do You Have on Facebook?

Take a look at your friend list on Facebook. How well do all of these people really know you? Sure, you might have seen them at a party once, went to school with them, work with them, maybe even hang out sometimes. But does that mean you’re really friends with them? Let’s test them.

Login to Facebook and change your birthday to any other day. Better yet, change it to tomorrow (if your birthday really is tomorrow, use your imagination). Now all there is to do is wait. How many people will wish you a happy birthday because Facebook told them it was your birthday?

Aside from some close friends who really know your birthday (and hopefully won’t call you out on it via your wall), most people will probably see everyone wishing you a happy birthday and hop on the birthday train.

That’s my theory… but let’s test this one. I’ve changed my Facebook birthday to tomorrow’s date. I will update with the results tomorrow.

Further speculation:

I also think this is going to cause some problems and possibly make my “friends” feel bad when they realize they did a nice deed that ultimately made them look foolish. Does that make me mean for doing this? Maybe. But what can I say? I’m a curious scientist.

UPDATE:

After letting this go on for the full fake birthday, I was surprised with some of the results. Many people wished me a happy birthday, including some family members and close friends, while other people, who I didn’t expect to know my real birthday, actually called me out on it. The best part was that when I went into work, I was greeted with “happy birthday” from several people (who I had to awkwardly tell the truth to). I would like to do this again soon, except with some interesting variations to it (maybe just removing my birthday and having a few people purposely wish me a happy birthday to see who follows their lead). I won’t be posting that one, though, until it is complete.

UNRATED, UNCENSORED, UNFUNNY!

A clear sign of a mediocre comedy movie is when it comes out on DVD and they stop advertising the comedy part and instead brag about the fact that it’s the UNRATED edition.

“Mediocre Comedy Movie: UNRATED… there might be boobs in it, who knows?”

Look at the cover above, it’s four confused guys who just drank a bunch of beer and a giant girl with cleavage. If I didn’t know any better, I would think this was either a porno or a Girls Gone Wild video.

Beware of these movies, they usually either flopped in the theater or went straight to DVD. By the way, was the girl in the “O” really necessary? Do we not get the point that naked women might be in the movie yet?

2 Years Later

Two years ago today, I started this website, and I’m happy to see how much it’s grown and evolved through that time. Over a half million people have visited in the last two years, and I just want to say thank you to everyone who has come back and a special thanks to all who contributed, commented, sent e-mails, and follow the site on Facebook. To start something like this doesn’t take a lot of motivation, but I wouldn’t see any point in keeping it going for all this time if I didn’t feel supported. So thanks everyone, and expect this third year to be even better than the first two.

Reckless Driving? There’s an App For That Too

Technology is getting better and more portable every day, and unless you’ve been living in isolation, you’ve seen it all around. While these new gadgets are making life much easier for everyone, they are also creating quite a distraction from our surroundings.

When cell phones first began to grow in popularity, laws were quickly made to prohibit their use without a hands-free device. The misconception was that people were getting into accidents because they were driving with only one hand. We now know that this is not the reason for all the accidents because nothing changed once people started using hands-free devices.

What’s actually happening is focus that normally is 100% devoted to the road (minus distractions from the radio or people talking in the car) is now transfered over to the conversation. So, while these laws had all the right intentions, they were not solving the problem.

But now we have a new problem, which I feel is more dangerous than having a conversation while driving: texting a conversation while driving.

With texting, now people are literally taking their eyes off the road to have a conversation. This is considerably more dangerous than a loss of concentration on driving because things on the road can change very quickly, and if your eyes aren’t paying attention to it, you’re just asking for trouble.

Now, I am not even close to the first person to recognize this problem, but I would like to suggest a solution: the text away message.

For years, online messaging services have used the “away message” which send an automatic response to anyone who tries to contact you while you’re unavailable. I think it’s time that cell phones adopt this feature as a standard in text messaging service.

As you’re getting into your car, you would switch the phone into driving mode and you will not be alerted of messages until you arrive at your destination. During the trip, every text message you receive will automatically be responded to with a personalized message like “Hey, I’m driving right now, I’ll text you back in a little while.”

I’m sure there are some apps out there for phones that implement similar features to this. But I’m not talking about an optional add-on for people who are obviously responsible enough to search for the app. I’m talking about a standard feature, just like silent mode. On top of this, these automatic responses should not be charged to your account, but instead come free as a part of any cell phone plan.

All of these things (standard feature, no charge for texts, easy to switch to) are very important because any hurdle placed between a person and desired action lowers the chance of them actually doing it. If this was a hard-to-find/use feature, it might as well not exist.

Content Updates Coming Soon…

Hello, everyone, I just wanted to briefly update you on the state of the site. It’s been a busy month for me, which is why there has been a lack of updates.

First, I’ve been fixing some technical problems with the site itself and implementing some new features (such as the Facebook integration). Some of you have noticed that there is a problem with the search engine, and that is another area I’ve been working on. I’ve also been busy working on some psychological research, so most of my time has been devoted to that.

April was a big month for Here’s My Theory, as the site received over 120,000 visits (highest amount in a month to date). I’m looking forward to keeping this site moving in the right direction, but at the same time, I never want to post anything just for the sake of updating. Thanks for sticking around, and expect some content updates real soon.