Digital Sandboxes, Cognitive Domain Management, and RFK Jr.’s Presidential Run

I ended up doing a livestream today as part of my personal sorting out of this Substack situation. A friend passed along some information about the structure behind managed behavior change – Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion. I then found a paper from BehaviorWorks Australia that provided more detail, and it explained so much about what I think happened that I wanted to share it with you in the context of impact finance and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign.

The feature image is from Celia Farber’s post, to which the comment was made that drew me into her crosshairs. Her advice to the Kennedy campaign was to foreground his Catholic upbringing, which is important given the Vatican’s role in the coming era of social impact finance, especially since many of the donors to RFK Jr.’s long-time former employer, Natural Resources Defense Council, were involved in building out third sector stakeholder capitalism since the 1990s.

The first part of the stream lays out how ELM works. I also revisit Paul Glimcher and the field of neuroeconomics with respect to Substack and gamified social relations. I discuss Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his ties to Vantage Point Capital, energy, free-markets, Tom Steyer, and the Catholic church towards the end. This morning I pulled the final hour of the stream where I focus on RFK Jr.’s candidacy and the implications of an “above critique” health freeDOM leadership class. I’ve also been asking myself if the whole “movement” was maybe a simulation gone live where many were pulled in as unwitting agents to be gamed. I think that’s definitely something worth mulling over. Here’s the link to that final hour for sharing with those who don’t yet have the stamina for my long talks.

I pulled the four-minute clip below, which was filmed at  a progressive event in Houston in 2012. It offers interesting insights into what may be coming with a distributed cybernetic “optimization” energy grid. It hints at smart home infrastructure and impact finance for the common good. Don’t forget LEDs are used for optogenetics! I was surprised to hear NRDC played a pivotal role in restructuring energy policy in California in the 1980s. He’s big on free markets, but neglects to bring up Enron’s role in the California Energy Crisis. I wonder if he would consider energy arbitrage crony capitalism, or just part of the game?

This is my reference list. I’m sorry, but somehow the video got blurry after it posted. I hope it clears up. If you want to look at the materials directly, you can find them here. Just click on the circle to open the sidebar with the source material links.

Interactive Map:

Here’s the stream. Below it are a few notes I made, and excerpts I highlighted on the BehaviorWorks paper. 

My thoughts after reading: 

Central route thinking is higher order and more persistent. Peripheral is almost automatic. We were kind of talking about this before. They want people stuck in peripheral thinking – listening to influencers and defending teams rather than thinking about substance. 

My call to think for yourself and do your own research is a central route approach.  As long as they can keep people in the peripheral route and steering them they are golden. Peripheral is the ant computer. In fact there is a TV show people keep telling me to watch that is Peripheral. 

There is another part about motivation that drives how you think – it’s the reward system. Influencer culture is about being approved of by the queen bee. Independent thinking is not rewarded. 

Excerpts from the document: The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion 

This is the closing line – think “the medium IS the message”: Models such as the ELM highlight how mass media and other forms of influence involve a complex web of determinants, variables and processes, and that the extent and nature of a person’s thought responses to external information can at times be more important than the information itself (Petty, Briñol, et al., 2009). 

Under low elaboration conditions, persuasion variables are likely to function as simple cues rather than strong arguments, as people are unlikely scrutinise the message-relevant information for its merits related to the advocated position or behaviour. Any evaluation that is formed is therefore likely to result from simple associations or inferences that do not require much thoughtful effort

The elaboration route used to form or change an attitude has a number of ramifications, as attitudes shaped by the central route will have different consequences and properties compared to those shaped by the peripheral route. In general, attitudes that result from central route processes tend to be more stable over time, resistant to counter-arguments, are likely to guide (and bias) thinking in a pro-attitudinal way, and perhaps of greatest importance, lead to attitude-consistent behaviour. Taken together, these enduring and durable outcomes are considered to represent features of a “strong attitude”. As a result, attitudes produced through central route processes increase the chances of eliciting sustained behaviour change (Petty, Barden, et al., 2009; Rucker & Petty, 2006; Wagner & Petty, 2011).

Despite the obvious benefits of shaping attitudes through the central route, they are typically more difficult to achieve given the higher elaboration demands that are placed on the target audience. As such, the temptation exists to focus on producing attitudes through the less demanding peripheral route. However, such attitudes are sometimes described as a “hollow victory”, as the elaboration short-cuts that are taken to create these attitudes mean that they tend to be less enduring, are vulnerable to counter arguments, and are less likely to lead to attitude-consistent behaviour (Rucker & Petty, 2006). While peripheral approaches can be quite powerful in the short term, especially when an immediate change is all that is required, the problem is that over time emotions dissipate, people’s feelings about sources can change, and cues can become disassociated from the message (Wagner & Petty, 2011). In combination, these factors can undermine the basis of weaker-natured attitudes shaped by the peripheral route.

Where people fall along this continuum is determined by considering their motivation and ability to process the message presented to them. A person’s motivation can be influenced by several variables, such as the perceived personal relevance of the issue, general enjoyment of thinking (some people simply like thinking more than others!), and being personally responsible for processing the message. For example, if a person has a family history of cancer, he or she might be particularly motivated to carefully consider information on new cancer screening technologies, especially if they are charged with passing this information on to other family members looking for guidance. Ability refers to an individual needing the resources and skills to understand and attend to a message. Several factors impact on this ability, such as intelligence, time available to engage in the message, a person’s level of actual or perceived knowledge (e.g., an individual is likely to elaborate and respond more to messages when they are aligned to pre-existing knowledge structures), the amount of distraction in the communication environment (e.g., a noisy environment might inhibit a person’s ability to think), and the number of message repetitions (i.e., with increasing amounts of message repetition, people are better able to comprehend, scrutinize and recall the arguments conveyed in a message) (Rucker & Petty, 2006; Wagner & Petty, 2011). 

The first step is to consider whether recipients of the message are likely to scrutinize and attend to it carefully or process it more peripherally.

After estimating the target audience’s elaboration level, the second step considers what elements should be built into a persuasive message and whether they will serve as strong arguments, simple cues, or both. In other words, this step examines the available options for developing and communicating a message that fits with the audience’s elaboration level. These options may involve, for example, developing substantive arguments that can withstand intense scrutiny, or components that can serve as simple cues such as a credible and engaging message source. 

The third step (although it could be argued that this should be the first step) involves being clear about whether the goal of a message is to produce an enduring or immediate change in attitude (and ultimately behaviour)

The fourth step looks at the level of fit between the three preceding steps. This involves examining whether there is alignment between the audience’s elaboration level, the components contained in the message, and whether this might create the type of attitude (and ultimately behaviour) change that is desired. 

Then test message effectiveness. This step involves experimentally examining the effectiveness of the message in persuading the target audience, and should involve several common evaluation themes.

Evaluate message effectiveness/ Finally, it is important to make an overall determination about whether the message was effective. With the data from the previous step on attitudes, certainty, and beliefs, it is possible to explore whether the message had the intended effects. For example, did people attend to and process the strong arguments? Did people rely on cues? Were the resulting attitudes held with certainty? Depending on the answers to these questions, the message might be ready for a broader roll-out, or instead need some further fine-tuning before this takes place (Rucker & Petty, 2006).

First, although some attitudes are based on effortful thought processes where externally provided information is deemed as personally relevant and integrated into internal and stable belief structures (through central route processing), other attitudes are formed as a result of relatively simple cues contained in a message and the persuasion context. Second, any one persuasion variable (e.g., source expertise, mood) is capable of achieving persuasion by either the central or peripheral route in different situations by serving one or more roles (i.e., affecting motivation or ability to think, biasing thinking, affecting thought confidence, serving as an argument, operating as a peripheral cue). 

Taken together, if the goal of a mass media campaign is to produce durable changes in attitudes with behavioural-consistent consequences, the central route to persuasion would be the preferred persuasion strategy. But as noted previously, one of the most important determinants of motivation to process a message centrally is its perceived personal relevance. However, most mass media messages that people are exposed to are probably not perceived as directly relevant or have few immediate consequences in their eyes. As such, many of these messages are given cursory attention or processed primarily as peripheral cues. 

Frameworks such as the ELM can offer a means of diagnosing past mass media campaigns, especially in situations where certain messages did not deliver the scale of expected attitude and behaviour change. According to the logic of the ELM, there are a number of reasons why this might be the case. First, the information contained in a message might have been perceived as irrelevant, or might have led to unfavourable rather than favourable reactions. 

Second, despite achieving desirable attitude changes, people might lack confidence in these changes, and if they were triggered based on simple peripheral cues rather than more elaborate processing, they are not likely to persist over time. Finally, even if central attitudes were produced, the ability of people to act on these attitudes might be restricted by a lack of skills, resources or opportunities, or undermined by competing social norms (in other words, attitudes are just one component of a bigger picture of determinants related to behaviour change) (Fishbein & Ajzen, 2010; Petty, Briñol, et al., 2009). 


11 thoughts on “Digital Sandboxes, Cognitive Domain Management, and RFK Jr.’s Presidential Run

  1. Rodrigo says:

    I’m watching it right now and I was reading this morning a chapter from the book “From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond” written by Mihaela Ulieru that resonated with what you’re saying about the true function of DLTs. This quote summarizes it:
    «The logical/software ontology must emulate the physical ontology through software entities (agents) that enable the coordination of cooperative tasks. This enables the deployment of a living, self-directed “digital ecology” in which humans are not just “consumers” of data and computing applications. Actors in this social network operating environment are much more: They are producers, “players” and “inputs” in a new “socio-technical combinatorics” ecosystem. Their interactions, mediated by digitally animated artifacts (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and Google Glass-like devices and more futuristic brain implants), can be coordinated and synergistically orchestrated to steer complex, interdependent global-scale systems.»

  2. Rodrigo says:

    The other thing I wanted to comment was about Tom W. Bell, the libertarian legal scholar. He has written a very interesting monograph titled «Blockchain and authoritarianism: The evolution of decentralized autonomous organizations.»
    Unfortunately the text is under restricted access but the abstract says a lot:

    «Though Blockchain technologies make traditional authoritarianism less likely, they make a new kind of authoritarianism, born of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), more likely. Created to liberate computational systems from any and all human interference, DAOs have quietly been growing, thriving, and evolving in their natural environment – decentralized networks like the Internet or Ethereum. By design and accident, DAOs will tend to develop into the computational equivalents of eusocial colony animals such as ants, bees, and termites. Once formed into such superorganisms, DAOs will exhibit emergent behaviors like swarming and collective intelligence. Humans venturing into the DAOs’ native habitat would then find themselves forced to live under the arbitrary will of not another human, but instead of a vast, mysterious hoard of nonhuman, and perhaps inhuman, entities. This is not an outcome that traditional sources of public law – treaties, statutes, regulations, and court rulings – have the tools to prevent. The distributed nature of DAOs makes them inherently resistant to centrally planned attacks. To prevent DAO’s from running wild will instead require correspondingly distributed defenses, taken by many various parties alone and coordination, that together render the Blockchain environment less susceptible to infection by programs that threaten to evolve into digital autonomous authoritarians.»

  3. Amy Harlib says:

    Once you understand that the globalist predator technocrat ruling class agenda is THEY WANT YOU DEAD OR A SLAVE, then you must resist and not comply by any means necessary! This evil trickles down to the local bureaucrats and is insidious everywhere.


    Use bare minimum tech, I have a landline and a wired laptop and monitor screen and that is all the tech anyone should ever want or need and I refuse to use those infernal mobile devices!

    Live clean and eat an all organic diet, as healthy a lifestyle as possible – do NOT ingest or inject any products from big corrupt pharma corporations!

  4. David Elliot says:

    Wow! Your video got watched in one sitting. 3:48:24. Sometimes your arguments can get complicated, and they make my head hurt- LOL! This time not so much, though. I already felt perhaps a little bit conflicted about RFK, Jr. Largely, I admire the guy. He has risen to the challenge and has proven (at least at surface level) a capable advocate of medical health freedom. But all along, these past three years, I have had a strong sense that we are indeed being played. This includes within the resistance community BTW. There are no doubt ‘double agent’ types active there.

    I think my strongest takeaway from your video is my realization that a lot of the time my thinking is indeed peripheral. I do feel myself at times being pulled along by narratives that match my world view. OTOH I usually get a strong sense that the few groups I frequent consist of a hodgepodge of unique individuals. I have already progressed to the point where I do a lot less catastrophizing when pelted with another instance of “ain’t it awful?” Yes, constant outrage is the order of the day- by design. My ‘center of gravity’ is a lot lower these days. I figured out the nature of the con (mostly) early on, and won’t be as easily fooled- or spooked/stampeded- the next time. Fortunately I wasn’t conned into surrendering my bodily or spiritual integrity during the melee. Many of my countrymen and women were, but they will find only love from me, not derision or condemnation.

    It pains me greatly to imagine that current figures in the counter-narrative may not be as they appear to be. I’m thinking of Malone here. Charming, keenly intelligent, well spoken. I can imagine he might just be ‘controlled opposition’. Sure hope not. But considering his background, it’s not difficult to see how that might somehow be. I feel the same about RFK Jr. Your concerns do seem valid to me. That saddens me, but I think I should be at least open to the possibility. I hope he can overcome some of the objections raised by his past, and convince us he has had a genuine change of heart. Face it, no one who manages to attain the Presidency is ever squeaky clean. We always do hope for ‘least awful’, though. We can perhaps keep in mind that some candidates probably enter a race expecting not to win, but for the purpose of putting their narrative ‘out there’. This is an occasionally successful strategy, and we have seen it in past elections. It would be most satisfying to see the debates forced into giving at least some coverage to the recent tyranny.

    I’m glad you learned such a powerful lesson from your ‘kerfuffle’, Alison. I’m grinning here. A group like that is totally outmatched by you, and no, they are in no way ready for your ideas. Must admit enjoying the lesson as you present it. I wish I could go back in time and choose the blue medication instead, and just be massively clueless like most. Too late for that. I generally do get much of what you are sharing. I certainly grasp your arguments here. You navigated the emotional part of your experience well, it appears, as you handle the discussion with good cheer and some amusement. Good for you. And thanks!

    • wrenchinthegears says:

      David, can I ask you if you think what we experienced was a pandemic and if you would accept a CHD-authorized “personalized” vaccine? Those are the questions everyone should be asking themselves. Look at the structure, not the individual. The system will hand you your “heroes” and your “villains.” The trick is to learn to think for ourselves from our own center.

      • David Elliot says:

        Definitely no, not a pandemic, Alison. A massive and clever psyop. And no, I would resist with all possible vigor any attempt to administer anything in that broad category. I am now full on with natural health and healing at this point in my life. I will continue to view some parts of the CHD online presence. If it ever became obvious they were going to push *any* such ‘solutions’, I am outta there! CHD in my rear view mirror…

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