What I Learned about Communication from Eminem

While considering my options for the upcoming #MEWT event, I came across this video (via James Altucher) from the film 8 Mile featuring Eminem. Irrespective of whether you’re an Eminem fan or not, he utilises some interesting techniques in order to gain the upper hand against his opponent, Papa Doc. Eminem, it turns out, is a master of leveraging cognitive bias, so as to convert the audience in his favour.

Check out the video below, then keep reading for a line by line explanation.

Line = “Everybody from the 313, put your motherf***ing hands up and follow me.”
Cognitive bias = out-group bias – he’s white, everyone else (more or less) in the room is black
Eminem’s tactic = he redirects the conversation from who’s black and who’s white, to who’s “313” (i.e. who lives in the Detroit postal area)

Line = “hands up and follow me”
Cognitive bias = social proof
Eminem’s tactic = he uses social proof (herd behaviour) to influence the crowd into following him – the audience are happy enough to wave their hands, they’re at a gig after all, and then rationalise their behaviour after the fact

Line = “hands up and follow me” (2nd time)
Cognitive bias = availability cascade
Eminem’s tactic = he leverages the brains tendency to believe things that are repeated (reinforcing social proof and setting up his next line)

Line = “look, look – this man did not have his hands up”
Cognitive bias = out-group-bias
Eminem’s tactic = he gets the audience to see Papa Doc as being different from the rest of the group

Line = “this man… ”
Cognitive bias = ambiguity effect
Eminem’s tactic = he reinforces out-group bias by positioning Papa Doc as an unknown quantity and by implication, himself as a favourable contender

Line = “one, two, three and to the four” & “one Pac, two Pac, three Pac four”
Cognitive bias = moral credential effect combined with appeal to authority
Eminem’s tactic = he associates himself with Snoop Dog and Tupac Shakur by quoting lines from their songs which the audience will recognise

Line = “you’re Pac, he’s Pac. You’re Pac, none”
Cognitive bias = out-group bias
Eminem’s tactic = he turns around his previous tactic (appeal to authority/credential bias) in order to disassociate Papa Doc from the lineage of great rappers, thereby positioning him [Papa Doc] as an outsider

After a while Eminem switches tactics, utilising the relatively well known marketing technique of covering off all potential objections – “I am white”, “I am a f***king bum”, “I do live in a trailer with my mum” etc., before going on to close the deal.

After some more out-group tactics, “you went to Cranbrook. That’s a private school.” – Eminem wraps things up, securing his eventual victory by effectively reducing the supply of himself:

Line = “F*** everybody. F*** y’all if you doubt me. I don’t wanna win. I’m an outie!”
Cognitive bias = scarcity
Eminem’s tactic = increase his value by reducing [percieved] supply

Understanding how biases can be used to steer conversation and as mechanisms for persuasion is pretty useful stuff. Sadly, on this occasion I couldn’t really find a way to map the techniques Eminem uses into a software testing presentation. Perhaps I’ll use the material some other time. It makes for an interesting enough blog post anyway.

Instead of Eminem, I’ll be talking about what testers can learn about communication from improvisation techniques at #MEWT. With some practical exercises too!

If you haven’t been along to a peer conference before, and you’re interested in learning more – you should check out the MEWT website, and get in contact with either myself, or one of the other organisers: Bill Matthews, Richard Bradshaw & Vernon Richards. We’ll be organising another one soon enough, and would be happy to hear from folk interested in sharing their experiences with a select (scarcity!) group of peers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out via a comment or on the socials if anything resonates.


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