There’s a video making the social media rounds. Originally posted July 8th, 2015 to the YouTube channel of Mark Dice, the video, which has been viewed nearly 500,000 times on YouTube and become widely shared on Facebook (as well as being shared on sites like InfoWars), shows average Americans turning down a $150-value bar of silver for a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Here’s the video:
Are Americans really that stupid? That’s the point the creator is trying to make, and from the comments I’ve read on YouTube and Facebook, he’s done a good job of getting his message across. But how representative is this video, really, of the incompetence of the average American?
It doesn’t take much scrutiny to see all the ways in which this video is framed to cast the average American in the worst possible light. First of all, it’s edited; right off the bat, we don’t know how many people actually chose the silver bar (or if Dice would have let them walk off with the bar when they did choose it), or how many people engaged him about his motives, or how many people elected not to choose, etc. We only see the ones he wants us to see: those who chose chocolate over silver.
The whole situation is also devised to exploit quick-decision-making habits. These are people being caught off-guard on the street by a stranger with a camera on a hot day while they’re headed to somewhere else (perhaps in a hurry) and being asked to make a choice. In the moment, the situation seems suspect; more than once in the video there’s skepticism expressed about whether or not the giveaway is legit. And while it’s true that the average American likely doesn’t know the real value of an ounce of silver, that doesn’t mean they think silver is worthless; they just don’t know, and so when caught off-guard by a stranger and put on the spot they make the safe, short-term choice.
I also think it’s a fair point to note what one of the women said in the video: “I don’t have any way to do anything with the silver.” Most people don’t really know what to do with a bar of precious metal. It’s another unknown in the decision-making process, even if the person knows (or suspects) that the silver is more valuable. On the other hand, everyone knows what to do with a chocolate bar.
In addition to the set-up, Dice also engages in some subtle psychological suggestion to get the result he’s looking for. He’ll sometimes describe the “chilled” Hershey bar that’s “just out of the fridge” on a “hot day”; meanwhile, the silver never gets positive descriptors, though he does call it “tarnished” more than once. In the moment, off-guard, these people are open to influence, and he’s exploiting that with his choice of words.
I’ll be the first one to agree that the average human can be gullible, easily influenced, and prone to poor judgement; heck, why do you think I write for Skeptoid? But videos like this are not legitimate representations of the decision making process of the average American. They’re an easy way to exploit human nature for a few laughs and a lot of social media shares.