We can see the effects of behavior modification in religion and politics but seem powerless to stop it. People are under a type of hypnosis, and they act like a trout chasing shiny objects. They react without thinking. The ongoing programming of our culture is so ingrained that most people don’t notice it. Do you see it?
The advertising industry teaches us to chase the outlandish, trending, and flashy items. We act just like a school of trout. We have short attention spans, just like our fishy friends. The anglers who design social programming understand how to manipulate and cultivate psychological triggers to maximize their “return on investment.”
Unmasking Behavior Modification
They learn to make the right lures and know how to get us to buy what they are selling. It doesn’t matter if we don’t need it. They will create the need and make sure we will buy it. What’s behind this programming?
Media development as a selling tool began in the modern age with the first films in the 1920s. The German military and political propaganda department pioneered the advertising machine, using focus groups and response ratings at showings. “Triumph of the Will” is a propaganda film created in post-war Germany (1935) and is the most famous.
“The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be ‘what knowledge is of the most worth?’ but ‘what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?’ The possibilities virtually defy our imagination.” — John Goodlad
Social manipulation has found the home of the advertising industry, but the roots go back much further. Today, various organizations use these tactics to sell everything from cars and soap to religious and political ideologies. You’ll see all the same tactics used in propaganda films, from celebrity endorsements and brand recognition to fear, greed, and sex appeal.
They play on our social fears and appeal to our deepest desires. This kind of psychological manipulation is what psychologists call behavior modification. The techniques themselves are not evil, but how they are applied can be harmful. It’s based on classical or respondent conditioning along with operant conditioning. These link either positive or negative results to products. They program people to act the way they want them to and disregard whether the person needs the product.
For example, early soap commercials linked the smell of the soap with sexual desire so that by using their product, you would become more desirable. Automobiles are marketed to male buyers by exploiting the sexual connection between the car and the driver. They are more likely to buy “sporty” rather than practical transportation. And these exact tactics have been used for over 50 years, but people still fall prey to the instinctual connection.
The same techniques can also change thinking and behavior in positive ways. Clinicians use modification-based therapy techniques to help people overcome everything from addictions and insomnia to obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
“I was a terrible student. Still, I managed to get into college, but my daydreaming threatened to sabotage me. Behavior modification was used to break the cycle. I started by setting an arbitrary time limit on studying: for every 15 minutes of study, I’d allow myself an hour of daydreaming. I set the alarm.” — Sandra Cisneros
Program People to Act Like a Trout
Advertisers like Facebook and Google can track our aliment with products and issues. So, advertisers know what ads we view, which ones we click on, and even how long we view them.
They sell this information to the highest bidders, who use it to sell everything from deodorant to ideologies. With this technology, they have learned to trigger our fears and desires. We act like trout, following flashy lures resembling something we think is edible.
But, just like the trout, we often find out too late that they have deceived us, but it’s too late; the hook is in our mouth, and this is their goal. Are things beginning to sound fishy?
The behavior we discussed above is the stated goal of “behavioral modification (1).” And the processes or techniques that can achieve this goal center on two areas: our fears and desires. The idea is to elicit an emotional response, fear, anger, sexual desire, social acceptance, etc. They use everything from shame to peer or social pressure. Their favorites are triggering our basic fears.
“What about self-awareness, the mysterious ability of the brain to reflect upon itself? Self-awareness can be tampered with by brainwashing, psychoactive drugs, electrical stimulation, political or religious propaganda, even advertising. A lifetime in front of a TV set may be the equivalent of a self transplant.” — Chet Raymo
Another part of the programming is the cultivation of a short attention span. The reason for this is simple: you get people to make quick emotional decisions to buy. To optimize the effect, you start early in life. It’s best to start the programming when they are children. Then you can exploit their habitual behavior for as long as they live. The long-range goal of behavior modification in religion and politics is to make us lifelong customers of whatever they sell.
If you didn’t know this programming was going on, it’s not your fault. A great deal of effort goes into making you act like a trout. Psychological conditioning is expensive but worth the investment. Advertisers look at what they have to sell and then create an emotional link to drive people to buy their product or idea.
We are accustomed to chasing after flashy things. Advertisers of early television used this strategy effectively. Commercials were short one-minute sales pitches. Then advertisers got more sophisticated, more concise, and more subliminal. The researchers did their homework. The window of effective commercials is now less than ten seconds. They have learned to trigger a buying decision in less than ten seconds.
The news media picked up on this as a way of boosting ratings. The format of news has become fact-spinning to derive emotional responses. So, people think the news is a series of short sales presentations. Someone is paying them to sell specific ideological points of view.
Behavior Modification in Religion and Politics
Who came up with the techniques to make people act like a trout? It goes back to when harmful religious ideology completely controlled the cultural narrative. Oh, wait, you can see examples of this today in many parts of the world. Religions control the governments in the Middle East region. Here we find the Abrahamic religions (2) of Judaism and Islam reign supreme. But, the many variations of Christianity still have an overt and covert influence on much of the West.
“Counter-knowledge covers the propagation of false legends and conspiracy theories often used for political purposes or fundamentalist religious propaganda.” — Antony Beevor
The tactics used by the Abrahamic religions aren’t new. They adopted these systems from Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. These earlier prototypes are the pioneers of propaganda, which drive thinking and behavior.
These mystery religions developed today’s popular brainwashing methods, which can control people and make them act like a trout, and packaged them in mythology and superstition.
“The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticated and children.” — Richard Dawkins
Western organized religions spend a lot of effort projecting the idea that their doctrines, superstitions, and ceremonies make something look and sound spiritual.
Most people won’t finish this article because it’s too long. Sorry about that. If reading this offends you, you must ask yourself why I am offended. Is it because this assessment is correct?
However, if you’ve made it this far, we hope you grasp the need to question the cultural narrative. There is a paradigm clash going on between two different ideologies. Most people don’t recognize it because it’s been happening for so long. Learning to recognize and handle this conflict is necessary in our modern world.
How do you spot behavior modification in religion and politics? Anything that projects values that control, restrict, or diminish the rights of others is a misuse of these techniques. Anything which creates scapegoats or attempts to blame a group of people for any social or economic problems is a misuse of these methods.
“The kind of propaganda that some of the religious groups, aided and abetted by the opposition, put forth in that campaign utterly disgusted me. If I needed anything to show me what prejudice can do to the intelligence of human beings, that campaign was the best lesson I could have had.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
They also program us to judge, but not with the truth, like the Greek God Themis. She wears a blindfold to symbolize being unbiased and impartial. But we all have a long way to go to achieve this Greek God’s status. However, that should not deter us from removing as much negative bias and prejudice as possible.
The techniques for programming the mind are not evil in themselves. They are tools used to change thinking, values, and behaviors. Clinicians use the same techniques and tools to help change unacceptable behaviors and make people happier and more productive. However, behavior modification in religion and politics is used to skew the thinking and values to support their nefarious agendas.
Religion and our commercial culture use these tools for profit and control. Yes, to make you act like a trout and buy whatever they sell. Your challenge is to learn how to spot these tactics and then minimize or eliminate them from your life.
(1) Psychology Today, Dec 13, 2019, Understanding What Makes Behavior Modification Work, Daniel Marston Ph.D.
(2) Abrahamic Religions: