About That “Silver or Chocolate?” Video

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.

About Alison Hudson

Alison is a writer and educator living near Ann Arbor, MI. She blogs regularly about skepticism, games, and the transgender experience.
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27 Responses to About That “Silver or Chocolate?” Video

  1. Ken Sears says:

    You are, in an exquisitely tone-deaf way (if you were dancing, I’d say you just did a pirouette), missing the point even as it emerges from your mouth…or, that is, your pen. Exactly: if “most people”, as you said, don’t even KNOW that silver is valuable, if they are clueless to the fact that a ten-ounce bar of the stuff just might be worth a bit more than a Hershey bar (yes, even worth more than the immediate gratification), that itself IS…the point, i.e., the appalling ignorance of so many people. Your argument amounts to, “We can’t take these people’s ignorance seriously because, well, they don’t KNOW about it, and…besides…there are probably other people not as ignorant as they are!” Your whole rather desperate attempt at skepticism (I guess, because you’re supposed to write something “skeptical”, so…you will) only amount to so much question-begging. He showed a video about how quite a few adult Americans, clearly not so few and far between that they’re hard to find, are so clueless that they’d take a chocolate bar over a bar of silver. You are rather scraping the bottom of the barrel in the cause of your Skeptic Shtick to say, well, they’re only ignorant because they don’t know any better, and…and…they aren’t the only people in the world too! Nice try, but it really came out two-left-footed.

    • Alison Hudson says:

      You’ve clearly missed the point of my piece, if you think my only point was “We can’t take these people’s ignorance seriously because, well, they don’t KNOW about it, and…besides…there are probably other people not as ignorant as they are!” That is a terrible strawman of what I really said, drawn off of less than a paragraph of the entire argument. I could repeat all my points here, but I suspect it would be fruitless.

      • Chris says:

        There may be some validity of the critique of the critique, though it does not appear that Ken is in sales. A poor decision here is reliant upon a certain level of ignorance. If the person cannot equate silver to value, then presentation is everything. I would tend to give more validity to the video, even though we have no way of knowing the amount of silver he had to give away to make this point. I would also stress the selection process of the interviewer, though by extension this could lead to some politically incorrect points. The basics lie in the fact that no selections are made to people who appear professionally dressed (and I noticed a huge ear grommet on one). While we typically do not judge on appearance and are often far from reality when doing so, most people are capable of running a quick actuary internally that often contains a certain level of nuance that would lead to weighting the average.

        • Alison Hudson says:

          That’s a fair point about subject selection. Could he be approaching people who looked like they’d be less certain of the value of silver? Yet another reason not to take this vid too seriously.

          • Alex says:

            I understand that you hold yourself in high praise, and it’s one thing to raise points about a video, and be a skeptic, however it is another thing entirely to tell people not to take a video seriously. Given that stupidity, and ignorance run rampant in many cities across the United States it is more than a fair, and valid point that dice brings up when presenting people with the option… Chocolate, or silver; because the kinds of people who would walk up to a guy that is standing on a street corner are the kinds of loud idiots that roam our country, giving it a bad name. And those that see him standing on the corner, followed by camera crew and think “hey that dude looks a little sketchy, I should stay away” are the silent majority of people, and not the people targeted by the video, the people that the video is meant to show are those that represent the loud, dumb minority in this country.

  2. ATR says:

    Apparently Ken Sears is highly invested in believing the average American is clueless. So are many people in media, politics, and especially people trying to sell products or even beliefs.

    I appreciate the skeptical critique of this. It’s yet another example that the results of a “survey” are highly dependent not only on the actual questions asked, but how they are framed. In an age where survey questions are routinely employed in attempts to objectively quantify subjective experiences, few people question the objectivity of the survey questions themselves. From what I have seen, many surveys these days show the implicit bias of the survey writer(s).

    Thanks again for this analysis.

  3. Nobby says:

    And he’s wearing a t shirt the same colour as the chocolate bar wrapper so it seems like he’s working for them.
    I’m British but I’d have taken the chocolate. And I don’t like Hershey’s.

  4. Thoughtful Camel says:

    Another point – if I were approached by someone offering me either a bar of silver or a bar of chocolate, I would never believe that the bar of silver was real silver. I would assume that is was a setup of some kind. I know that silver is worth more – so why would I believe that someone was willing to give it to me for free? This just would seem so shady and unlikely, I would assume that it was fake or a setup. So I’d take the chocolate because I know that it’s real and I would assume that they would give it to me and it would be the bar of chocolate it looks like. So the conclusion that these people are stupid may just be that they are cautious.

    • Rachel says:

      If someone offers you a bar of silver OR a chocolate bar for free, and you assume that is a setup of some kind, then the cautious choice would be the bar of silver! Never take candy from a stranger.:)

    • SJ says:

      He’s standing right outside a coin and jewelry shop – looks like one of those shops that’ll buy your stuff on the spot – and at one point says they could take the silver in there to verify that it’s real. The woman turns him down and accepts the chocolate instead.

      For one thing, I wouldn’t accept food from someone I thought was untrustworthy, and for another, the risk/benefit analysis here seems shoddy. So what if the silver turns out to be fake? It’s free. You wasted a couple of minutes finding out that it was fake, and you may have lost out on a Hershey bar, but if it turns out to be real, you’d have enough money to buy a hundred Hershey bars.

  5. brad tittle says:

    1 kWh of electricity costs about $0.10.

    They want to make the minimum wage in Seattle be $15/hour.

    How many people understand that a $15/hour minimum wage makes that kWh of electricity have an upper bound of $150?

    A gallon of gas has about 33 kWh in it. A $15/hour minimum wage makes that gallon worth about $5k.

    • Alison Hudson says:

      Um … okay?

      • Jim says:

        Alison, I would ask brad to show his work.

        • brad tittle says:

          The work is right there for you to see.

          A person pedaling fast can maybe generate 100w continuous for 10 hours. Not many of us could manage it. 1kWh a day would be your electrical output. This just gives us a top end of 10hours * $15/hour => $150/hour.

          The gallon of gas is about 33kWh (google it). 33 kWh * $150/kWh => $4950.

          When a person decides to hire someone, they have to decide what the value is they bring to the table. A man that can operate a backhoe can extract some of that $5000/gallon. Instead of using a shovel and his back, he gets value out of the gas. He extracts part of the $5000 potentional. The joy of that value extraction is that the gender of the operator isn’t of much significance. The ability to play video games is a good thing…

          This is related to the video because of the confusion over the silver bar. Most people don’t quite grasp that the $4.50 / gallon gas was cheap. At $1.99, it is nearly free. They are equally confused by silver. There are likely many people reading this who think it is crazy to suggest that a gallon of gas has a value of $5000.

          There are parts of the world where electricity costs > $1 / kWh. It is still worth paying $1 / kWh even if you have $0.01/hour labor.

          This is why!

          • Wilfred Bane says:

            Employers don’t hire people for their ability to generate electricity.

            We also don’t hire people for their ability to grow carrots out their noses so don’t bother computing how many pounds of carrots someone can grow out their nose in an hour either.

  6. dull thud says:

    I’d think the two main factors in people’s decision making would be [1] mistrust of then ‘silver’ offered; it seems it turned out to be real, but participants had no way of knowing that. And i’d challenge any non-expert to distinguish between silver and other (worthless) metal alloys with no research-I know I couldn’t. But the main factor [2] must be distrust of the scenario: its not that folks are too dumb to realise that silver is more valuable that chocolate- it’s that they’re smart enough to realise that free chocolate is more likely to be legit than free silver. And despite what the video implied, I reckon they were onto it- I can believe that guy gave away a few Hershey bars, but I wonder how many silver ingots he gave away.

  7. John Doherty says:

    I’d have to go along with Thoughtful Carmel.
    If it looks too good to be true …

  8. Hanglyman says:

    I had something similar happen to me- someone came up to me offering to sell a valuable antique coin for $15. I immediately assumed it was a fake just because it seemed so shady and weird. If they had offered to either sell me the coin or give me a free chocolate bar, I probably would have rejected the free chocolate too. Sure, maybe it’s someone doing a harmless study, but it’s much more likely to be some kind of setup. I’m not paranoid, but if someone is genuinely trying to conduct business or to give a gift, they would know better than to do it in a shady, weird manner that immediately makes people suspicious.

  9. Josh says:

    I imagine that most of the people he accosted simply didn’t believe that it was an actual bar of silver. After all, it’s not exactly probably that a man would just hand you a genuine bar of precious metal. Unless I had nowhere to be (and thus time to try to figure it out), I know I’d have simply assumed it was some sort of gimmick and thought it I was getting a good deal by getting a free chocolate bar, which I could tell on the spot was real.

  10. alkh3myst says:

    No matter HOW somebody “frames” this question, I’m taking the silver, especially since there’s a precious metals place 30 feet away. There are only two possible answers why everybody took the chocolate, even with editing. Either: This whole thing was staged, or stage managed through editing. OR: Americans really are profoundly stupid.

    • SJ says:

      I would assume that there was some editing done, and possibly some people who had noticed the coin shop and knew its relevance to the offer were edited out of the video. However, even if it was heavily edited to show only the most profoundly stupid people, the proportion of online commenters who seem to have missed the coin shop entirely is astounding. I don’t know if it’s poor observational skills, lack of knowledge about how those coin shops operate, people commenting on a video they haven’t actually watched, or what, exactly. But it does indeed make them look pretty stupid.

  11. Suze says:

    There is no way to wiggle out of this one. The people chose the chocolate because they were stupid. A candy bar worth about .79 cents, or a silver bar that may be real. Hmmmm….it is not rocket science.

  12. Rick says:

    Regardless of the availability of a coin shop, regardless of the suspicion of a set up, regardless of the marketing scheme of wearing a chocolate covered T shirt, the only SMART thing to do is accept the POSSIBILITY of the silver bar. Even if he refused to give it in the end, what have you lost? The only other intelligent option is avoid the guy altogether.

  13. Rick says:

    Meant to say “colored”. Sorry.

  14. Nathan Brazil says:

    It could be instructive to look at some of his other videos. He has one where he offers to give away a 1 ounce gold bullion coin if the person can simply tell him its value within a wide margin of error (I have forgotten the number but it’s huge). No one gets the coin.

    In another he goes out onto a pier on the 4th of July and, after chatting them up a bit about Independence Day, asks who America won it’s independence from. He sometimes incorporates the suggestion that we won independence from Mexico. Only two visiting foreigners answered correctly.

    I wonder about Mr. Dice’s motivation for proving that some Americans are stupid, but I must say that I agree with the first comment by Ken. Unless these people were all paid actors, the point is made.

    • Seth says:

      Does it not puzzle anyone that universally everyone chooses the chocolate in the video, yet almost universally everyone writing comments chooses the silver?

      Shall we conclude that internet commenters are simply far smarter than people on streets?

  15. Seth says:

    No one wants them, but some people take those creepy flyers handed out in NYC that advertise adult entertainment. We take them because it’s the easiest, non-confrontational way out of a situation in which you do not want to be.
    We might vocally justify our taking the card, if it were not about creepy sex pictures. We *can* comfortably take a moment to justify taking the candy from a friendly, charismatic man in broad daylight, with a quip that supports us making the smart choice.
    The silver has a catch…there is *always* a catch. And the catch would definitely take longer than a person walking somewhere has time for.

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