Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sexual Content in Mass Effect

This video features a debate on Fox News (January 2008) about the sexual content in the video game ‘Mass Effect’, released in November 2007. The sexual content in question, as Geoff Keighley correctly states, is a very small part of a sprawling game.

A primary tactic that the ‘psychology specialist’ Cooper Lawrence uses to discredit Mass Effect is the ‘slippery slope’ argument, which is a logical fallacy (Van der Burg, 1991). She proposes that if America’s youths (read: teenage males) are continually exposed to sexual content in video games, this will lead to some kind of irreparable moral catastrophe via the sexual objectification of women. This argument could also be interpreted as a variation of the ‘extreme consequences’ template from Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon (1999), or an attempt to induce fear (Janis & Feshbach, 1953), which are both effective tactics.

Unfortunately for Lawrence, her arguments largely fall flat, making this an example of ineffective persuasion in a conversational setting; her arguments are based on misrepresentative information, which is correctly refuted by Keighley. In the empirical literature, Van der Burg (1991) theorises that the slippery slope argument, though flawed, is often difficult to discard, as no conclusive evidence can be given for or against it. This particular example on Fox News is an exception to Van der Burg’s conceptualisation.
Janis, I. L., & Feshbach, S. (1953). Effects of fear-arousing communications. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology48, 78

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science18, 333-351. 
Van der Burg, W. (1991). The slippery slope argument. Ethics102, 42-65.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. A perfect application of slippery slope to extreme consequences.


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