What are customer testimonials really saying?

Every day we are surrounded by advertisements.  Billboards, buses, radio and of course the internet and television.  Even watching a video on youtube.com these days fires an advertisement at you.  How often have you seen those adverts that have a testimonial in them?

“I used ‘Product x” and within 2 weeks I was a millionaire with beautiful skin!”

We take them for granted, we may even occasionally pay attention, but what are they really saying.

We can listen to the words, but are they the real words of the customer, or are they scripts?  Are these really customers or are they actors?

We take a lot of things at face value, especially in advertising, and rarely pay attention to what is going on until we have made a decision that we are planning to buy.  But what if the advertisement is sending out the wrong message.

I have looked at a couple of ads this evening and had the briefest analysis of what is going on with the people providing the testimonial.  Some of them are really great ways of honing your skills at MFE detection.

Slips of disgust, anger, emblem slips, sadness.  All the signs are there in direct relation to the comments that are made.

I have posted one here for your view.

let me know what you think of the first couple and their statement.  Would you believe their testimony?  Does this give you a good impression of the company or a bad one.

I welcome your views, let me know what you see and think and I will post my views as a comment in a week.

 

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The Joy of Melancholia

There is a tendency these days to state that any form of low mood is a form of depression and should be dealt with post-haste.  With elevated public awareness of mental illnesses and stress or as it is often termed these days Mental Health, we seem to be under the impression that feeling a bit down is a bad thing.

Our emotions are there to help us through our day-to-day life.  They all have a reason to exist and have a defined purpose in what they do.  Moods are a more prolonged but less intense form of emotional state.  They allow other emotions to occur at the same time but can colour the way you react to other emotional stimulus.  Why do we have such an issue about “negative” emotions (I already have issue with the term negative as there is a positive reason behind all emotions.)

Some people will deliberately go to the cinema or watch a DVD that will cause them to feel scared or sad.  The classic “weepy” film still has a huge following. People go to theme parks to ride roller coasters and watch a horror film or a thriller to be scared.  If these emotions are so negative, why do we sometimes indulge them?

If we had no emotional ups and downs everything would be on an emotional level.  We would be terribly bored!  We sometimes need those low points in our life as they put the high points into sharp relief.  If we didn’t have fear would we ever really feel safe?  If we did have sadness, would we ever really be happy?

There is something terribly satisfying about coming out of the other side of a negative mood.  There is a sense of victory at getting over it and moving on.

Fear has a reward of its own, adrenaline.  That rush that you get when the heart races and breathing increases.  Once the adrenaline breaks down other chemicals in the system give you an almost euphoric high.  We love the thrill of danger, within certain limits.  We still have a very strong sense of self-preservation, and danger is all very well if it is still perceived as having some degree of safety to it.  The fairground thrill ride is a thrill because it scares us, but has its safety checks and restraints.  For the same reason people bungee or abseil.  Your are unlikely to see many people riding a coaster with a poor safety record.

So what about sadness?  There is no doubt that people love a good weepy movie.  Indeed Hollywood has made a very lucrative business out of tugging our heart-strings.  But why are they so successful.  There are two reasons that immediately come to mind.

Firstly, a sad situation on a movie can throw our own life into sharp relief.  There is the though in the mind that someone else is always worse off than we are.  There is the new perspective offered by seeing that things are not so bad.  Most of the time people do tend to watch these films when they are particularly low in their life and often they are going through the same situation as the person on the screen, surely this would compound the issue?

The reason for this can be quite simple when you think about it.  As a race we are empathic creatures.  We feel the emotions of others quite keenly.  When we see an emotion on the face of another we tend to mirror that emotion, especially if we have a connection to that person.  We do this without even realising we are doing it.  It is our way of letting others know that we know we understand how they feel.  We tend to mirror but often to a lesser degree.  If someone is showing an expression of Anguish, we are unlikely to show the same.  That could be seen as mocking.  We would demonstrate sadness to show that we understand how they are feeling, but we know there is a limit on how we should feel in relation to someone else’s pain.

So why do we watch sad films when we are feeling low?  Why do we watch a film about divorce and heartbreak when we are going through the same thing?  It is reverse empathy.  We want that feeling of community and that we are not alone.  Rather than impose that uncomfortable feeling on our friends we watch someone going through the same things so that we can empathise with them and on a subliminal level, they are empathising with us.

Romantic comedies have the same draw and for very similar reasons.  We see someone in emotional difficulty but we are given the opportunity to laugh at their situation, because that is the easiest way to laugh at our own.  We often use comedy to mask true feelings or to get a message across in a way that is more easily accepted.

There is no excuse for Meg Ryan though, and if you ever want to see a textbook example of stone-walling, watch her interview with Michael Parkinson.  

So why the joy of melancholia. I term melancholy as that time when you are just feeling out of sorts and slightly low.  You want to withdraw from the world for a little while and just be with yourself.  You feel disassociated from the world around you.  You can get snippy and peevish for no real reason.  I think this is perfectly healthy.  Indulge the melancholy.  Go and sit quietly for a while in your favourite seat, watch the rain pour down the windows and treat yourself to your favourite temptation.  Wrapped up in your favourite woollen jumper and the cat on your knee.  What can be better than that?

Even anger has its place.  Sometimes you need to be angry.  If you bottle all that anger up eventually you are going to end up in a flash-point situation where the slightest thing would be like a spark to a powder keg.  If you feel angry then feel angry.  At least then your anger is focussed in the right direction and unlikely to be vented on an undeserving target.

We should indulge our emotions and feelings, though we should avoid being a slave to them.  Analyse why you are feeling the way you are, then either rationalise it and move on, or accept it and indulge it.

Guilt and Shame, The same side of a different coin

Most people when they talk about Shame and Guilt are generally meaning the same thing.  But there are differences between the two and different reasons for the two appearing.

Both guilt and shame fall under the sadness family of emotions and have many similarities in body postures and facial expressions but there are also differences that are subtle in their appearance.

Lets look at the the dictionary definition of the two words:

Guilt [gilt] noun: A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong: whether real or imagined

Shame [sheym] noun: The painful feeling arising form consciousness of something dishonourable, improper, ridiculous etc.

 

Their definitions are quite clearly different but we seem to blur the edges between guilt and shame quite a lot. Perhaps we need a more understandable explanation of what guilt and shame are about.

I see shame as internalised about how we are being perceived, you can associate it with the question “what would people think…?”  This is why I say it is internalised.  A lot of the time shame appears before we even have any interaction with others.  These feelings can then be increased depending on the reaction of others, especially those we respect.  I still believe that shame starts with us.

Guilt can be both internal and external and is based on our understanding of moral limits.  If we have broken a well established behavioural rule we are likely to feel guilt.  As these rules are socially recognised by all people from the same social group we know we have breached the acceptable.  It is important to know that guilt would only be felt if you also accept the same moral code.  For instance something that is acceptable in your own country but considered a crime elsewhere would not necessarily result in guilt, unless you were aware that you were committing a crime and accepted the reason behind the crime.

It is also important to know that you can feel shame and guilt independently of each other.  Lying to a person in a position of power to protect someone else may not be shameful but would still have elements of guilt.  Stepping out of the toilets with your skirt tucked in your knickers would not cause guilt, but may make you feel shame.

Think of a man whose mother is very ill with a serious terminal medical condition.  There is no prospect of getting better and she is in constant pain.  There is no longer a quality of life.  She asks her son to help her end her life.  In the performance of the act would there be a feeling of guilt?  Guilt based on the ingrained ethical rules of killing another is morally wrong may be overridden by the need to help his mother.  The moral and ethical need to prevent someone he loved from suffering my override this more distant legal issue.  By giving permission the mother may have removed some of the guilt issues.  Would he feel shame at the act?  It is unlikely, he is given permission, he is helping his mother and stopping the ongoing suffering.

This is a very important distinction to be understood when you are looking at the responses that someone gives you.  Motives play a big part in the shame response.  If someone believes, either rightly or wrongly, that they are doing something for the right reasons, shame is unlikely to appear.  If they know they have committed a crime or a wrong they will feel guilt.

I would also consider that guilt is a developed and reinforced response.  As we grow older and come into contact more and more with the rights and wrongs of our society, the moral fences we work within are reinforced and built upon.  Exposure to media and social interaction further reinforces the ideas of right and wrong, making it more likely that guilt will be felt if one of these boundaries are crossed.

As mentioned, guilt and shame both fall under the sadness family of emotions so there will be many similarities with the sadness emotion.  Eyebrows pulled in and up in the middle and down at the outer edge; a turn down of the outer edge of the lips.  Lowered shoulders or a slumped posture. Often there will be a turning away or a down and away head posture, especially with shame, an almost “don’t look at me” pose.

There is something very important to consider when we are looking at shame and guilt.  They are key factors to being able to detect deception.  The emotional leakage required to pick up on a statement that lacks credibility may not be present if the deceiver feels no guilt or shame over the act.  No internal ethical barriers are broken, there is nothing to leak.  There could be reasons for this to happen.  Lack of experience in that particular area (unknown crime with no past experience of the rules); Autism and other medical conditions that can affect the emotional understanding may give a different result.

However, there is one other group that would not show shame or guilt, but instead may even show excitement or happiness.  The psychopath does not have the same moral or ethical triggers as the rest of society.  Their own pathology will allow their behaviour without consequence.