The BPS Research Digest has a post up on the tools of persuasion used by the BNP. Here is a link to the abstract of the paper in question. There is discussion of the accentuation effect and essentialism. These are two concepts that are new to me – so it would almost certainly be better to read what BPS and the study authors have to say for yourselves rather than my uninformed witterings (or as well as I suppose, if you’ve got the time – I’ll try to be brief). There is also, later in the BPS post, reference to a “show concession” – this reminded me of Cialdini because his book Influence – Science and Practice refers to this phenomenon (albeit under a different name).
Basically, the idea is to concede something unimportant or to merely appear to concede something. For an example of this tool of persuasion, Cialdini relates a story of a boy selling $5 tickets to an annual Boy Scout Circus. When Cialdini declined the offer of a ticket, the Boy Scout came back with “well, if you don’t want to buy any tickets, how about buying some of our chocolate bars? They’re only $1 each.” Cialdini duly purchased some chocolate bars and promptly realised that something of note had occurred – because, for one thing, he doesn’t like chocolate (Cialdini also points out that he does like dollars; that he (Cialdini) was standing there with two bars of chocolate; and that the Boy Scout was heading off with two of Cialdini’s dollars). This all comes under the reciprocity rule – we feel obliged to return favours and to make concessions when others offer make them for us. Here’s a quote from the BPS post on the BNP use of reciprocity:
Griffin also uses what the researchers describe as a “show concession” – making an apparent admission (e.g. “yes, we’re politically-incorrect”) before invoking a morally superior motive (e.g. “but at least we’re telling the truth”).
The concession is that they are willing to admit to a minor failing – but they then hit you with a plea that seems to imply what they are doing is for the greater good, that they have to be politically incorrect in order to tell you the truth. They give you a small concession in admitting to this minor failing, but ask for a larger concession from you – to concede that what they say is true. I think that if someone admits to something you can plainly see for yourself, you will tend to ignore the fact that what they have admitted to is obvious and will begin to think of them as being more trustworthy than you otherwise might have done.
This is a good example of why Social Psychology can be important. Racism is not a frivolous issue. Here’s why the authors wrote this paper:
“If social psychology is to offer suggestions as to how to reduce prejudice, it must also look at how to upset these malign sources of social influence,” the researchers said. “As many anti-racist campaigners have pointed out, opposing right-wing extremism requires us to have a detailed knowledge of their arguments, so that effective counter-arguments can be made.”
Essentially, they are telling you to ensure you ‘know your enemy’. This is something that is worth taking the time to do whether you are blogging about AltMed quackery, listening to politicians making a pitch for your vote, or buying something. Understanding the tricks they use can help you immensely.