This talk touches on several applicable cognitive biases:
1. Anchoring bias: people are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear.
It is found that only 6 media firms (Comcast, Time Warner, Disney, News Corp, Viacom, and
CBS) control 90% of all the media we see (including movies, songs, TV shows, and books).
Though the media doesn't tell us what to think, they are able to control what we think about,
which is a key aspect of keeping things the way they are.
2. Availability heuristic: people overestimate the importance of information available to them.
Considering the small number of people who actually know about the large corporations behind
the media they see, they may tend to wholeheartedly believe whatever these companies spew
out. The sarcastic saying "if it's on the Internet, it must be true" actually does hold some truth in
this scenario. If people see a piece of information somewhere (whether that be in a commercial,
in a newspaper, or in a documentary), they tend to believe it is true.
3. Blind-spot analysis: people fail to recognize their own cognitive biases.
The second half of this TED Talk discussed the public pedagogies of what it means to be a
"masculine female" or a "feminine male" in today's society. He gave examples of his own
daughter being strong, athletic, and loving Star Wars, and how society chalked her up to being a
Tom Boy, and "feisty." The speaker made no effort to hide his disgust at terms like these in
regards to how his daughter expressed herself. He also talked about a young boy who likes My
Little Pony, and how society had bullied him so much that he'd tried to hang himself. In reality,
most people don't recognize their own cognitive biases, especially biases about the "proper"
way genders should act in society.
4. Selective perception: allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world
This can be applied to our own perceptions of the world, as well as to the media companies that
control those perceptions. We live in a 100% media-saturated society in which Disney has
achieved 100% penetration. Many people think that Disney stands to mold young girls into
strong women, and they tend to think Disney is a great company that does fantastic things for
the world. However, Disney has refused to market princesses like Leia from Star Wars, or
superheroes like Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Widow from The Avengers.
In some cases, Disney has even replaced these prominent women with their male counterparts,
just to sell higher amounts of merchandise. Still, since the public expects Disney to be such a
positively influential company, they tend to look away whenever Disney plays into the negative
and archaic stereotypes that are still prevalently permeated in our society.
5. Stereotyping: expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real
information about the person.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Media companies are successfully contributing to
already-unnecessary stereotypes. Unfortunately, too few of people realize this, and the world
has yet to see improvements.
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