“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time … Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
~ Neville Chamberlain, September 30, 1938
“If we, as a nation, continue to believe the blatant lies being fed to us by this administration, we are heading for a world where Iran is a nuclear armed terror state and an arms race with other Arab nations in the region.”
In 1938, the British Prime Minister, waving the document signed by Adolf Hitler over his head declared that negotiations with the Nazi regime had ensured “Peace for our time.” The reason Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” is remembered is not that his theory of international relations was wrong but because he was hopelessly, dangerously naïve about Hitler’s intentions.
To make matters all the worse, declassified documents released by the British National Archives in 2011, Chamberlain held secret talks with Hitler’s henchmen to work out ways of making the Nazis look more sympathetic to ordinary Britons – a kinder, softer face of totalitarian dictatorship that would be turned toward Britain as Europe fell under the heel of the Nazi jackboot.
A year after Chamberlain waved the paper on which he had signed the Munich Agreement, ceding the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia in return for Hitler’s promises of peace, Germany had invaded Poland and Britain was at war. By the time the world had put a stop to Fascism at the end of WWII in 1945, 56 million people had been killed, largely due to the desperate need for Chamberlain and his appeasement supporters in the British government to get a deal they could believe would be true.
Strange things can happen to us, psychologically, when we are negotiating with other people or groups. Our need to believe we are right will often override the real objectives of the negotiation. This phenomenon has many different names, but the one I use is the Confirmation Bias. So pause for a second and ask yourself a question: Where do your beliefs and opinions come from? If you are like most people, you probably like to believe that your beliefs are the result of years of experience and objective analysis of the information you have available. The reality is that all of us are susceptible to a tricky problem known as a confirmation bias. While we like to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective, the fact is that our ideas are often based on paying attention to the information that upholds our ideas and ignoring the information that challenges our existing beliefs.
A confirmation bias is a type of cognition problem that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. For example, imagine that a person holds a belief that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. Whenever this person encounters a person that is both left-handed and creative, they place greater importance on this “evidence” supporting their already existing belief. This individual might even seek out “proof” that further backs up this belief, while discounting examples that do not support this idea.
Confirmation biases impact how people gather information, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes.
A number of experiments conducted during the 1960s demonstrated that people have a tendency to seek information that confirms their existing beliefs. Unfortunately, this type of bias can prevent us from looking at situations objectively, can influence the decisions we make, and can lead to poor or faulty choices.
For example during an election season people tend to seek out positive information that paints their favored candidates in a good light while looking for information that casts the opposing candidate in a negative light. By not seeking out objective facts, interpreting information in a way that only supports their existing beliefs, and only remembering details that uphold these beliefs, people often miss important information that might have otherwise influenced their decision on which candidate to support.
Biases of this nature do not work alone in a vacuum, but are aided and abetted by other outside influences that drive our internal behaviour. If the negotiations we are having deal with “facts” we want to adhere to AND there is time pressure to act AND the thing we want / are negotiating about may not be available for very long (or so it would appear), we have the perfect storm for skewed decisions in a negotiation.
Case in point is a story from my friend Professor Bob Cialdini. In his book, “Influence: Science and Practice,” Dr. Cialdini shares how his brother Richard sold cars to pay his way through college. He didn’t work on a lot or for a dealer. Instead, he scoured newspaper ads for cars he could buy near the bottom of their blue book range then legitimately resell near the top. And he always got his asking price.
How did he do it?
The ads always came out on Sunday and he was good enough at writing them that his phone often began ringing that morning. Next, for those interested in seeing the car, he began scheduling appointments—for the same time. So if four people called, they were all scheduled for, say, 2:00PM that afternoon. So the first person would show up, walk around the car, kick the tires and make a low offer. Then the magic of scarcity and time pressure kicked in when prospective buyer number two showed up. Richard would politely ask number two to wait as number one was still looking at the car. Number one now had competition! Maybe the car was worth the asking price, maybe the paint looked a little shinier and the car was just a whole lot more desirable! Now, number two is keenly interested, as if number one is taking his sweet time, it has to be a good deal, so he is ready to pounce if number one can’t see the bargain in front of his face.
All bets are off when buyer number three shows up! Number one, victim of his own biases, time pressure and scarcity, hands over the cash and Richard makes his asking price!
The same is true of nuclear negotiation with Iran. July 14, 2015, will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst foreign policy “deals” this nation has ever taken part in, and we have to face the consequences of giving Iran the keys to the atomic Pandora’s box. Hell bent on the destruction of both the USA and Israel, the motivations behind Obama and John Kerry’s actions have to be questioned. Telling the American people this is a good deal as it stops every pathway to a bomb that Iran may have had is, frankly, a lie of tremendous proportions and implications. Three days of telling the world what a great deal we have was followed by either a major gaff on the part of the president, or the off teleprompter leaking of his true opinion on the deal:
“The only argument you can make against the verification and inspection mechanism that we’ve put forward is that Iran is so intent on obtaining a nuclear weapon that no inspection regime and no verification mechanism would be sufficient because they’d find some way to get around it because they’re untrustworthy.”
- Barack Hussein Obama, White House press conference 7/15/15
So much for the phony unfettered access to the Iranian nuclear program we were force fed by the administration. So much for holding the Iranians back from a bomb for at least ten years. A day after Obama’s press conference confession, the Iranian were baying for our blood – and that of Israel.
What does this have to do with psychological biases? Everything. If we, as a nation, continue to believe the blatant lies being fed to us by this administration, we are heading for a world where Iran is a nuclear armed terror state and an arms race with other Arab nations in the region. I do not believe Obama is a stupid man, so this act of appeasement, on a bigger scale that the well- meaning Chamberlain, can only be part of a larger strategy to destabilize the region and change the world order in favor of the Islamic state of Iran.
The drive by Kerry and company to believe what was being told to them by the Iranians has all the hallmarks of a race to buy a used car from Richard Cialdini. Obama gets his foreign policy legacy. Kerry is on the path to a Nobel Peace Prize. Iran gets the bomb.
The principle architects of this horrendous deal may do well to recall the words of one Winston Spencer Churchill to Neville Chamberlain after he crowed on about his so called pact with Hitler:
“You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”
Dr. Steve Moysey is psychologist, a writer, editor of AmericaInformed.org, and contributor to FreedmanReport.com
First published in AmericaInformed.org here.