Stephen Martin and Joe Marks, PhD dive deep into one of the most important eye-openers about communication in our world today: the importance of WHO delivers the message. Their book, “Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why,” is a major revamp on the claim made by Marshall McLuhan in 1964 that, “The Medium IS the Message.” While Steve and Joe are hard-pressed to say McLuhan’s refrain is dead, it’s being outsized by a more contemporary and relevant one: “The Messenger IS the Message.”
In our conversation with Steve and Joe, we discussed the way they’ve broken down their research and organized their book. The first section is on what they refer to as Hard Messenger Traits: Socio-Economic Position, Competence, Dominance, and Attractiveness. The second section works its way through the Soft Messenger Traits: Warmth, Vulnerability, Trustworthiness, and Charisma.
Their comments deconstruct how motivated reasoning is more than just aligning our tolerance for untruth with our desires; more importantly, it’s an alignment with the person who is expressing our desires.
To illustrate this point, they asked UK voters if they thought that Boris Johnson lied about Brexit. Seventy-five percent agreed that he did. Then the researchers asked if the voters still considered Johnson trustworthy. For “Leavers,” the lies no impact on his trustworthiness. He wasn’t tainted because his lies served the voters’ underlying goals.
While there are decades of psychological research on the impact the messenger has on the message, no one has synthesized it into a single narrative as Joe and Steve have. It’s an excellent read and we found our discussion with them filled with anecdotal gems and slightly uncomfortable laughter.
It’s also worth noting that Steve is a co-author with Robert Cialdini, PhD on several great papers their groundbreaking book on persuasion. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Joe and Steve.
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