The Science of Satire

Cognition studies clash with ‘New Yorker’ rationale.

Brilliant comment on the New Yorker cover controversy by 3QD friend Mahzarin Banaji, in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

BanajiOn the morning of July 14, the Internet was clogged with discussions of the latest New Yorker cover depicting a Muslim Barack Obama and a terrorist Michelle Obama in fist-bumping celebration before a fireplace in which lies a burning American flag, while above it hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Asked by the Huffington Post whether, in retrospect, and in response to the public outcry, he regretted having produced the cover, the image’s creator, Barry Blitt, said: “Retrospect? Outcry? The magazine just came out 10 minutes ago, at least give me a few days to decide whether to regret it or not.”

If Blitt were aware of the science of social perception, he wouldn’t need a few days to decide. If he were cognizant of the facts about how the mind works, the simple associations that typify the brain’s ordinary connection-making, he might have thought differently before he sketched the first flame in that fireplace. If he had paid attention to a few of the dozens of experiments available — even in the popular media — that describe how the mind learns and believes, he and his boss wouldn’t have responded as they did to the questions posed to them the day after the cover appeared.

More here.