Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Fooled by Psychographic Profiles and Social Engineering

In the 1960s psychographic researchers began studying how to understand consumers and their behaviors at a deeper level based on personality traits, emotional triggers, interests, needs, values and attitudes, etc.  A few decades later these findings were dusted off and combined with neuromarketing (the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers' motivations, preferences, and decision) to study how various advertisements and political messages impacted people with different psychological or psychographic profiles.  

The data for a large number of psychographic profiles was infamously collected from personality quizzes, surveys and games on Facebook and other social media platforms without the knowledge of the user, or as claimed - the platforms themselves.  All of this data was eventually combined with social engineering strategies and methods, and a military tactic called “information operations” by political strategists for the purpose of  influencing large populations.

In 2010, software “bots” on Twitter were activated and shown to be able to create the perception of an upswell of grassroots support for a cause.  The discovery that bots could impact human perceptions and elections was a big discovery.  Later, an additional study was conducted on the impact of bots on the 2016 US presidential campaign.  The study found bots were effectively used to spread 14 million micro-targeted messages for the purpose of influencing voters.  Social engineering, as a tool for manipulating large populations, was demonstratively effective.

It’s hard to imagine that data centers full of rented bots sending political messages, personalized specifically to emotionally impact and influence each of us based on 2,000-5,000 known data points, is what our democracy, constitution and forefathers had in mind for election campaigns.

In defense of all who were fooled by these bot-sent Twitter messages or Facebook postings, and followed their links to seemingly legitimate sites with news and information that seemed interesting, agreeable and credible, and then possibly motivated us to retweet and share - tens of millions were fooled.  These messages were not random or generic. They were based on our individual psychographic profiles.

The last decade was round #1 of the bots vs. humans battle for our brains, and the bots and their political strategists won it.  Fortunately for us, there are many more rounds and humans learn.

Read more on the Future of Information, Truth and Influence here:
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.