Within minutes of taking questions, Karl Rove and Howard Dean had a largely well-informed audience deep in the weeds of their conflicting, complex facts last Monday night at our Marin Speakers Series. We watched enthralled, attempting to keep up with their swift verbal combat. This was a meatier discussion than we usually get via media coverage and the truthiness-packed saturation TV ads that are blanketing the battleground states.
Our Bias Bond Us for Good and for Bad
The topics they covered are innately complex, from health care to the fiscal cliff. Two women popped up early with a banner calling Rove a war criminal and were promptly escorted out. Two other women vigorously nodded whenever Rove spoke and others clapped when Dean talked.
As many social science studies show, we look for ideas that reinforce our bias and usually hang out with people who share our values and views. When we don’t have a strong view on something, we turn to people we trust to help us decide.
Those notions are supported by the results, announced today, of a massive social experiment that will have far reaching affects. The study showed that about one third of a million more Americans voted in 2010 because of one Facebook message on Election Day.
My Friend, Who Are You Voting For?
The experiment involved 61 million Facebookers, and led to the creation of an algorithm that, if used by either political party, might tip the scales of this presidential election. Yes, that’s a staggering conclusion.
The discovery may also alter target marketing, and word of mouth and cause campaigns. It may even boost Facebook’s stock price. It will certainly affirm the inordinate value of our close friends, especially those we know online and in the real world. Consequently our collective and individual behavior in all these spheres, on line and in real life, may morph more swiftly as people tinker with the results of this study.
See the rest of the story at my Forbes column, Connected and Quotable.