7/18/17 Show feat. Betsy Levy Paluck on Social Norms, Radio and Reducing Conflict

Today’s show features Betsy Levy Paluck, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, expert on the dynamics of social networks and behavioral norms. We discuss how groups normalize behaviors in a variety of contexts, and what we know about intervening to change behaviors. How much do we really know about the effectiveness of diversity training and media campaigns? What is the role of the mass media in creating or reducing prejudice? Listen for all this and a broader discussion on large-scale conflict resolution and how personal relationships feed into cultural trends.

In other news:

  • According to newly analyzed DNA from ancient dogs, humans domesticated wolves just once in history–about 20,000 years ago in Asia.
  • The early solar system may have been swarming not with rocky meteors, but with giant balls of mud, solving a longstanding paradox in understanding old space debris.

The full playlist is available at WPRB’s website or below.


One thought on “7/18/17 Show feat. Betsy Levy Paluck on Social Norms, Radio and Reducing Conflict

  1. It makes me wonder about more subtle forms of creating and promoting social norms through mass media, especially corporate media that has immense wealth and authority to frame public debate and influence public perception. I’m specifically thinking of the power of ideological realism (e.g., capitalist realism) and what Noam Chomsky discusses in terms of the propaganda model of media.

    Social norms don’t just determine social behavior but more importantly form social reality, which can be used as part of social control in maintaining a social order. This is concerning in how closely aligned is corporate media with the two-party stranglehold on politics, in the context of how neoliberalism and neoconservatism dominate our entire society. Some have warned that this has already developed into inverted totalitarianism or at the very least the soft fascism of corporatism, from regulatory capture to lobbyists writing bills Congress passes.

    This has become a greater danger as most of the media has become consolidated within a few transnational mega-corporations, wielding more influence than many smaller governments. These same mega-corporations are also gaining much influence over scientific research and academic institutions, as universities becomes increasingly more dependent on private sources of funding. Even public radio has become more heavily funded by private sources than ever before, much of it from corporate interests.

    Governments have successfully used mass media in the past to promote their agendas, both good and evil (consider the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird). But what happens when private interests take control of such propaganda tools to ensure private power?

    Knowing that such potential of influence exists, how do we guarantee transparency and accountability in its use? If we don’t figure that out, a free society won’t be possible. And for those who wish to help create ever greater democracy, where are they to find the funding to study this area and implement what is learned? In a society like ours, where are the incentives to promote what is contrary to what benefits those with concentrated wealth and power?

    Can the media itself be made more democratic? If so, there might be some hope for the public good. But we have a long way to get to that point.


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