Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Israeli Flag Rorschach Test

What happens when you look at your national flag? They did an experiment in Israel and the results were not what they expected:
Led by cognitive scientist Dr. Ran Hassin, the experiments involved over 300 participants recruited from the university's Mount Scopus campus. In the first experiment, the Israeli participants—divided into two groups chosen at random—were asked about their attitudes toward core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They were then asked again to share their opinions on the subject, but this time, prior to answering the researchers’ questions, half of the participants were exposed to subliminal images of the Israeli flag projected on a monitor and the rest were not. The results showed that the former group tended to shift to the political center.

Another experiment, which was conducted in the weeks leading up the the disengagement from Gaza, replicated these results whereby participants subliminally exposed to the Israeli flag expressed centrist views in relation to the withdrawal and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.

The third experiment was held just prior to Israel’s last general election. Here too, the subliminal presentation of Israel’s flag drew right-wing, as well as left-wing, Israelis toward the political center.

Participants who were subliminally exposed to the flag said they intended to vote for more central parties than those who had not been exposed to the subliminal message. The researchers then called the participants after the elections and discovered that people who were exposed to the flag indeed voted for more moderate candidates.
At Contentions, David Hazony theorizes about what is behind this moderating effect:
One answer might be that citizens are reminded of the high responsibility that a national conscience represents, and of the nuance of belief that such responsibility may sometimes entail.

Yet there is another possibility. As the Post reports, “The team did not study the effect of subliminal images of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas flag on Palestinian political leanings.” Perhaps Palestinians would moderate their views in light of their own flag, just as Israelis do—but perhaps not. One wonders whether some flags (such as those flown over free, democratic countries) trigger a different set of unconscious associations than do others. To find this out, we’ll have to wait for the comparative study.

I have a different theory--
Just take a look at the flags of some of Israel's neighbors:

Islamic Jihad


Palestinian Authority

Saudi Arabia

Three of them have the Islamic declaration: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger." That is not going to summon up any calm moderate thoughts. Two of the flags have pictures of a sword or swords and one has a picture of a gun. The Palestinian flag--which is nearly identical to the Jordanian flag--has no clear symbolism, but the colors do have meaning and refer to different dynasties and people (and black, among other things, is the symbol for revenge.)

Compared to all that, just take a look at the Israeli flag
A simple flag with a nice calm blue design, symmetrical with a star centered in the middle--is it surprising that it would have a moderating effect? And would you like to hazard a guess as to what effect looking at the other flags would have?

I'm just saying...

What I'd really like to know is where they get the ideas for these sort of experiments.

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