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The Ugly Truth About Comments and Reviews That No One Knows

The Ugly Truth About Comments and Reviews That No One Knows

How much do you feel you’re influenced on a daily basis? Social media opens us up to comparison of others but what about our opinions? If you’re presented with a video or article, it’s hard not to read the plethora of comments posted underneath before we’ve even clicked on it.

Many times people read movie reviews on IMDB to decide whether or not they will watch a film. And many times people meticulously read customer reviews and ratings on Amazon before deciding to buy something.

In essence, we’re being made to create an opinion before we’ve had the chance to make our own. Most of the time it’s alarmingly unconscious.

The Dangers of Reading Comments and Reviews

While we think we’re reading comments to make a balanced and informed decision, we don’t take into account the intentions behind another person’s comments.

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Most of us only leave comments if we strongly agree or disagree with something, meaning that around 90% of the comments you read are left by either very loyal supporters or people who are emotionally charged in a negative way. Therefore, we need to take into account that these extreme opinions tend to be biased and not constructive.

Emotions can drive our decisions. They can easily interject into our daily situations quickly and with little thought. If we get a positive emotion (excitement or enthusiasm) or negative emotion (anxiety or worry) in any given circumstance where a decision can be made, we are highly influenced by that emotion.

A study was conducted in 2003 where a group of American citizens were asked to read either a fear-inducing news story about anthrax mail threats, or an anger-inducing news story about Middle Eastern nations celebrating the 9/11 attacks. The research found people who were put into an angry state saw the world as ‘less risky’ and therefore supported harsher measures against suspected terrorists.[1]

This illustrates that, when we read seemingly harmless yet influential comments, we really have no idea about the commenter or their emotional state while writing their opinion. We can easily read them as authentic comments but in reality this is a myth.

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An Unknown Conspiracy

How genuine are the comments you read? The opportunity to make money is unfortunately allowing businesses to create the power to alter our opinions and decisions.

Many companies actually employ people to create fake comments in order to influence a customer’s decision. Even worse, some employ people to write negative comments about their competitors in order to attack their reputation.

Don’t underestimate the power and knowledge big guns have on how to strategically sway customer’s ideas and decisions through simple reviews and ratings. While it’s not yet illegal, watchdogs are becoming increasingly alarmed at the amount of fake reviews currently out there on all major sites. It’s worrying when many of us trust what we’re reading and even make big purchases based on seemingly positive reviews.

How Not to Be Manipulated by Comments and Reviews

We need to be very vigilant when it comes to comments. Being aware of either fake comments or understanding the possible emotion used by the writer at that moment it was written is a first step.

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Don’t Be Quick to React to Comments

You may read a comment you don’t agree with and often in this case, anger may rise up. But commenting in this state is only adding to a biased view. How many times do our emotions cause us to act in a certain way only to feel differently once we’ve stepped back and evaluated things?

It’s best to react with as little emotion as possible or make them irrelevant to your decision. It could be an opinion you feel extremely offended by or a review you just don’t agree with. While your opinion is important, take time out before you respond so your emotions are more balanced. This way you won’t add to the influence of emotional charge.

Be Critical of the Comments You Read

You may read a harsh and angry review about a product you’re thinking of purchasing but try to read between the lines.

Is there a specific reason or circumstance that has influenced their negative comment? Perhaps it’s something that wouldn’t apply to you. Try to read other comments the poster has written to see if they have a tendency to write negatively. In other words, step back, take what they’ve said into account but be aware of it’s overall influence.

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Others’ opinions are based on personal and emotional perspectives. While some may be valid, it’s best to use them as a reference only. Doing solid research especially when we’re investing money into buying something, is always a must to get a thorough and balanced view on the product. Read more about how to shut down the voice of the peanut gallery: The Jeopardy of Taking Others’ Opinions Seriously

The sad truth is we can miss out on great things if we’re influenced too much by negative comments or reviews. Instead of basing a movie on it’s IMDB rating or choosing a book on Amazon with the most stars, choose the genre you like and find out for yourself. It’s how we find those hidden gems that add value to our lives.

Reviews and Comments Are for Reference Only

At the end of the day, we need to be more aware of how much we’re influenced by others. Be mindful of the comments and reviews and don’t always take them at face value.

Our general life experiences and emotions can dictate how we react in any moment so the only opinion that matters will be yours – find out for yourself and form your own opinion. What doesn’t work for others may work for you.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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