Third Person Effect

What is Third Person Effect?

Imagine you’re watching a TV ad for the newest smartphone. You think to yourself, “I don’t need that phone; these ads don’t really work on me.” But then you also think, “Other people will probably rush out to buy it because of this ad.” When you have these thoughts, you’ve just experienced the Third Person Effect. This happens when we believe that other people are more likely to be influenced by what they see and hear in the media, like advertisements or news, than we are ourselves. In other words, we believe we can resist being persuaded by things like ads or opinions much better than other people can.

Let’s break that down a bit more. The Third Person Effect is a psychological idea where we usually think two things: First, we tell ourselves that we can see through the tricks and messages that media throws at us. Second, we think that other people – maybe friends, classmates, or even strangers – can’t do the same; they are more likely to be tricked or convinced by what they watch or read. This is a mistake in how we think because, often, we are just as affected as everyone else.

How Does Third Person Effect Affect Us?

So, why should we care about the Third Person Effect? Well, it’s more than just a quirky thought we have once in a while. It actually shapes the way we act and make choices. Below are some ways it shows up in our lives, and let’s talk about why each one is an example of this effect:

  • Censorship Support: People sometimes want to block access to certain TV shows, video games, or books. They think, “This won’t hurt me, but it could harm others.” So they end up supporting censorship. This is an example because it shows how we think we have strong willpower to resist bad influences, while we believe others might be easily harmed or misled.
  • Advertising & Shopping: When we see ads, especially during big sales like Black Friday, we might think we’re just looking. But then we find ourselves buying stuff we hadn’t planned on. This shows the Third Person Effect because we didn’t realize the ads had an impact on us, even though we felt immune to them.
  • Political Campaigns: If you watch an ad against a political candidate and think it won’t change your vote but might influence others, that’s the Third Person Effect. You’re assuming others are more susceptible to changing their views because of the ad, while you are not.
  • Risky Behaviors: Consider warning messages about the dangers of smoking. If a teenager thinks they’re too smart to start smoking but worries other teens will be affected, they’re showing the Third Person Effect. They don’t think the message applies to them, only to others.

Imagine a community meeting discussing a new law. You might hear people say things like, “I follow the rules, but we need this law because other people don’t.” This really captures the Third Person Effect because it highlights how we believe others need more help or control than we do.

Dealing with Third Person Effect

Knowing about the Third Person Effect can help us make better decisions. Here’s how we might tackle it:

  • Reflect on Your Thoughts: If you find yourself thinking, “This won’t get to me, but it will get to them,” pause. Ask yourself if you’re really that different or if it’s just this bias making you think that way.
  • Seek Other Opinions: If you talk to others, you might find that they think they’re immune to media influence, too. This can show how common the Third Person Effect is.
  • Be Aware of Influence: Accept that everyone can be swayed by messages to some degree. This can make us look at ads and news more carefully.
  • Educate Yourself: Learning about different biases, including this one, can help you spot when you might be underestimating your own susceptibility.

Related Biases and Concepts

Let’s look at some other biases that can affect the way we think, just like the Third Person Effect:

  • Confirmation Bias: This happens when we only notice information that agrees with what we already believe and ignore stuff that doesn’t fit. It’s related because it can also make us think we’re not influenced by new ideas.
  • Optimistic Bias: We often believe we’re less likely to have bad things happen to us compared to other people, which is a bit like thinking we won’t be influenced while others will.
  • Self-Serving Bias: This is when we give ourselves credit for our successes but blame something else, like bad luck, when things go wrong. It’s connected to the Third Person Effect as it also involves thinking highly of ourselves.

Learning about these biases helps us understand that sometimes our minds play tricks on us, including when we experience the Third Person Effect. They’re all part of how our brain tries to keep us feeling good about ourselves.

Why is it Important?

The Third Person Effect is important because it influences many parts of life. If we think we’re immune to ads, we might overspend without realizing it. If we think other people can’t handle certain content, we might back rules or laws that limit everyone’s freedom, even if that wasn’t our intention. And in politics, this bias could stop us from having open, honest discussions because we’re afraid of how ideas might sway other people, even if we feel secure in our own beliefs.

For the average person, understanding the Third Person Effect means we’ll watch commercials or read news articles with a bit more thought. We might double-check whether our actions, like voting or talking about rules at school, are because we really think they’re needed or because we’re underestimating how much we’re also affected by media and messages.

Final Thoughts

In short, the Third Person Effect is a common mistake our brains make, thinking we’re tough against persuasion while others aren’t. Knowing about it can help us avoid underestimating our own susceptibility to media and ads. Reflecting on our beliefs, considering other perspectives, and accepting that we’re not as different as we might think can all lead to smarter choices. And that’s something to think about, whether you’re a kid or an adult – we all face these influences, so it’s good to be aware and critical of them, together.