How the Media Hijacked Your Mind in September

“Wait, What? I don’t think so! How could the media hijack my mind? I am in complete control of my thoughts.” Yes, you may be in control of those thoughts, such as what to do with them and where they go, but who puts them there in the first place?

How the Media Suggests What You Think About

Ask yourself this question, How’s Puerto Rico doing? Need to look it up? The country of Puerto Rico is devastated. Irma and Maria not only destroyed homes and buildings, but many inhabitants don’t have basic utilities or fresh water. Some are still missing, or at least due to lack of functional cell towers, they can’t communicate with others. 

Now, another question. What professional sports players/teams knelt during the national anthem this week? Odds are many of you can answer that question, while few know about the extent of damage in Puerto Rico without looking it up. Which one is more important?

The Peril of TMI

No, I am not talking about the TMI (too much information) of when your parents told you the story of how you were conceived. I’m talking about all the information that bombards us daily…trying to get your attention. This blog is part of that information. There is so much information, we don’t know how to sift through, filter and prioritize it. We can’t give attention to everything. This is where the media “helps” the brain.

Many of us are influenced by the availability bias, which basically plays on our brains’ need to have information prioritized. The more we hear something, the more often we see the same story, it tells our brain “Prioritize Me.”

We take our cues from the media. They are the ones that influence our initial thoughts. So your humanitarian side may want to pay attention to Puerto Rico, but the media is making sure you are paying attention to tweets, pictures and stories about who is kneeling for our national anthem. Sure, there are stories on Puerto Rico. But with the availability bias, the question is what information is more available. In this case, the media seems to think it’s about presidential tweets and kneeling during a song, rather than the livelihood of our fellow neighbors…aren’t we all neighbors on earth?

This Influences Investors Too

It goes without saying that the availability bias does not discriminate. The more often we hear an economic thesis or predictions on a certain sector or stock, the more likely we will heed that advice. That is why my core advice to any investor is to focus on your plan. I’m not saying changes will never happen, that is between you and your advisor. But it should not be predicated on what people are talking about today, or tomorrow. It should be based on things that have a shelf life longer than a few weeks.