How The Media
Influence Our Decisions

Easy access

Have you ever considered exactly how the media influence our decisions? Television, radio, the Internet, cinema and advertising is easily accessible to many of the people on the planet.

In fact, we accept it and even expect it to be present. This means that the people controlling these things have access to billions of people. They can quickly and easily get their messages out to the masses.

Rather than give lots and lots of examples of how the media influence our decisions, I will look at the structure of some of the techniques that are used when the media influence decisions.


Repeated exposure over time to similar messages makes it easy for people to accept them as true, and more importantly, act as though they're true, even when they 'know' the messages are false. Just consider how often television ads are repeated. The companies behind the ads are only too willing to pay for such repetition. Because it works!

Think also political messages, religious tenets, business decision making trends and economic ideas and it becomes obvious how, through simple repetition, the media influence our decisions.

Use (and misuse!)
of experts

Whenever scientists, researchers or other experts are quoted, people rarely check the validity of any claims made. It is assumed that if these people are doing such work then it must be valid information.

There are two types of this kind of tactic. The first is to quote, for example, research done by doctors on the latest medical development. It is difficult for people to disagree because they don't have the background knowledge and the current information available to these experts.

The second type is more subtle. Many companies now use famous people to advertise their products. Organizations will publicise the fact that a celebrity agrees with their standpoint. Because they understand how the general public holds celebrities in high regard. And more importantly, how this high regard gets spread across contexts. So, for example, if a favorite athlete or pop star is endorsing some food product it must be good simply because that person is endorsing it.

Another way of using this technique is to suggest that large groups of people are in agreement about an idea. Advertisers and marketers understand that many people only know what action to take based on the actions of those around them. So enough information is given so these people do exactly what it is the advertisers want. For example, the information given out is that eight out of 10 people prefer x washing powder. It's easy for people to fill in the information they need so they can choose x.

It's more difficult to have to think and ask questions such as 'Which 10 people?' 'Who chose them?' 'How were they chosen?'

And this is one of the ideas behind much of the media broadcasting today. The advertisers, marketers and propagandists don't want you to think for yourself.

The media influence our decisions because they would like you to think that they are making your life easy and organizing things so that lots of these decisions become unnecessary for you.

What they are doing is limiting your self awareness, eroding your instinct and intuition and deciding what you should conform to in terms of living your life.



Another useful tactic whereby the media influence our decisions is that of commitment. When people commit to something, they tend to continue in this vein because they want to appear consistent, not just to others, but also to themselves. If someone can get you to commit to something, especially if its public and you consider that you committed to it yourself, you tend to build reasons and justification as to why you should stay committed.

You will also be more willing to agree to requests that are in line with this commitment. Because it's easier to continue with a decision already made than to make a new decision.

This will be used in various sales pitches, getting buy in for groups, changing conditions in a deal, adding in unpleasant features and the give-it-and-take-it-away scenarios.

The first indicator that this is occurring is often a 'gut feeling' or 'knowing in your heart'. To be able to deal with it, it's useful to have a working knowledge of these signals for yourself.


Somehow, for humans, when something becomes scarce it becomes more valuable. The media influence decisions frequently with this particular tactic and use it in a systematic and diverse way.
  • Limited editions
  • Members only clubs
  • Time sensitive ads
  • Fear of loss of opportunity
  • Having to compete
  • Threat of loss of freedom
  • Banning something

makes an item more attractive and generates a strong emotion around it. This invariably affects your decision making.

Use the emotional charge as a warning to you. Chances are it's one of those times when the media influence our decisions.

To deal with this kind of thing, ask yourself whether you want to own something for the sake of owning it, or to actually use it. If it's to own it, and its rare, you need to decide how much it is worth to you.

If you simply want the item because of its function, remember that the function will not be affected by the scarcity or availability.

These are just a few of the ways in which the media influence our decisions. Sometimes just this knowledge itself is not enough to make a difference. Having an awareness of yourself and how your own system functions is what gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you're making your own decisions.

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