January 26, 2020

Steve Martin and Joe Marks: The Messenger is the Message

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.

 © 2020 Behavioral Grooves 



Stephen Martin, PhD: @scienceofyes

Joe Marks, PhD: @joemarks13

“Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why”: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/43522604

Robert Cialdini, PhD: https://www.robertcialdinibf.com/

“YES: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive”: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2208661.Yes_?from_search=true&qid=Tk8IuivDSr&rank=1

John Henry Marks, MD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Marks_(doctor)

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts0XG6qDIco


Musical Links

Bettye Swann: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8iSfknnMfc

Otis Redding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTVjnBo96Ug

Prince: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXJhDltzYVQ

ELO “Electric Light Orchestra”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQUlA8Hcv4s

The Beatles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q_ZzBGPdqE

New Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYH8DsU2WCk

The Baseballs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM2177pHMT0

Joy Division: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dBt3mJtgJc

Ed Sheeran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymjNGjuBCTo

Adel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08DjMT-qR9g

Aretha Franklin “Think”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqYnevHibaI

Aretha Franklin “Respect”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0

Right Said Fred “I’m Too Sexy”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5mtclwloEQ

AC/DC “Back in Black”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoMLhnvV-yM

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