- Politicians, celebrities, journalists, and authors are positioning themselves in front of their bookshelves in the background of Zoom calls.
- Social media profiles and media outlets have sprung up to analyse the contents of what’s behind experts on TV.
In almost all appearances of experts on TV during lockdown, they’ve positioned a bookshelf behind them. The construction of it, in lieu of a super-imposed city skyline behind a talking head, is intended to represent for intellectual credibility and shows the person knows what they’re talking about.
This is a new expression of a very old principle in psychology from Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – the principle of authority. We tend to follow the lead of credible experts and look for signals of their expertise. Patients are more likely to comply with physiotherapists who hang medical diplomas on their walls, for example. In lieu of other cues, the bookshelf as a backdrop shows us that we should be listening.
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