The third person effect: everyone is brainwashed except me

Each of us has an idea of ​​ourselves, a concept of ourselves. We also have an idea of ​​the world, a way of representing the reality around us and the people with whom we relate. And we also have an idea of ​​how we or others can capture or be affected by things. In this regard, we can observe that when it comes to displaying advertising, we generally consider that it has a different effect on ourselves than on others. this is called the third person effect, Which we will explain throughout this article.

    The third person effect: what is it?

    We call the third person effect a a distortion in our belief system through which we see others as more influential than us.

    The effect in question is observed that, given an advertising element or subjected to a concrete argument to an attempt at persuasion, we tend to consider that the effect it has on ourselves is weak or non-existent while in turn we consider it much more likely that third parties will be affected and change their beliefs. The effect in question was formulated by Davidson in 1983, observing people’s beliefs about the power of persuasion in advertising.

    The term “third person” is based on the idea that we generally think that not only will we not be affected by persuasion but also those close to us (friends, partner, family or people we feel united with in general), so that yes, they will be people who are unknown to us or with whom we do not feel a connection. In other words, we believe that neither the subject we call “I” nor what we consider “you” will be easily persuaded, but those we usually call with some vagueness if we consider them more sensitive.

      What are these beliefs due to?

      The third person effect is one that is common in most people and is not pathological. But once defined, one has to wonder why such beliefs. And on the one hand, is this effect it is an overestimation of one’s own ability to resist an attempt at persuasion, While, on the other hand, it is an underestimation of the resistance capacity of others to attempts at persuasion.

      In this sense, the same author who invented it (Davidson) considered that the cause of the effect in the third person lay in pluralistic ignorance, that is, in the consideration that others they will not be able to analyze the situation with the same level of competence as us, Either for lack of competence, or for not having the same information. This will cause outside persuasion attempts to have more of an effect on them than on the subject itself.

      Other authors, some of a more psychodynamic nature, indicate that this effect is the product of individuation and the defense of self-concept: we think that we are less vulnerable than others as a mechanism to protect our self. own self-concept, so that we subconsciously overestimate our resilience.

      influencing factors

      It should be noted that the third person effect it does not appear in the same way and with the same intensity in the face of any attempt at persuasionThere are several factors that influence the consideration we have regarding a message’s ability to generate behavior change.

      One of the main influencing factors is the message, which affects aspects such as its level of consistency, generality and abstraction. A message that is unclear, worded generically and with little specificity and with a somewhat abstract theme has a greater tendency to generate a third person effect. Interestingly, if the message is much more structured and specific, the consideration is reversed, no longer appearing the third person effect to switch to the first person effect: we believe that third parties will not be as deeply affected or moved by the message we.

      On the other hand, the sender of the message and our relationship or consideration for him or her is also an element that can have a great influence on the differentiated belief as to his ability to convince us and others. In general, the worst consideration we have of the subject or institution that emits the most intensity is the third person effect.

      for example if we hate someone, we will consider their messages to have no effect on us or our environment, while we accept that third parties may be more easily persuaded or deceived not to have the same information about the issuer.

      Finally, another element to consider is the emotional sphere and the subject’s interest in the message itself. Greater emotional involvement or the existence of motivation or interest tends to imply that the third-person effect is not or to a lesser extent, with the aforementioned first-person effect being more likely to occur.

      bibliographical references

      • Davison, WP (1983). The effect of the third person on communication. Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 47: 1-15.
      • Paul, B .; Salwen, MB and Dupagne, M. (2000). The third person effect: a meta-analysis of the perceptual hypothesis. Mass communication and society; 3 (1): 57-85.
      • Falces, C: Baptista, R and Serra, B. (2011). The third person effect: the role of the quality of the arguments and the type of estimation. Journal of Social Psychology, 26 (1): 133-139.

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