Friday, February 24, 2017

MLM and Confirmation Bias

Today's blog post is about the concept of confirmation bias. This idea stems from the inappropriate or negligent strategy utilized to ascertain an answer to a question. Confirmation bias comes up frequently in science when people are attempting to find a desirable result in an experiment, and will sometimes grasp at straws or invent a conclusion. The same can also be applied to MLM as people attempt to prove the efficacy of MLM through faulty means.

Confirmation Bias: Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). 


According to the Wikipedia definition, here are some of the methods MLMs use that would be considered confirmation bias:

1. If someone has a question about a particular part of MLM, for instance the expected amount of income a distributor can generate, MLMs will not talk about the income disclosure agreement. Instead, an MLMer might show pictures of flashy cars, mansions, boats, and money, which is misleading at best because only a fraction of 1% ever attain that kind of wealth. They decide to ignore the statistics, which have been designed to show the actual expectation of monthly and annual income.

2. MLMs utilize wholesome values to imply it is genuine and legitimate. MLMers will suggest the business has veracity because they are devout Christians, believe in matrimony, or they may be charitable. While these can be great qualities, they have nothing to do with a business being legitimate. It is important to look to regulatory agencies, such as the FTC and the SEC for guidelines on what makes a business legitimate.

3. MLMs utilize ambiguous evidence very frequently. They suggest there are a lot of successful people and then fail to mention anyone, or if they do, they mention only a few of the top 1%. MLMers may suggest the industry is thriving or is a multi-billion dollar industry, but fail to note that it has far more members driving that total revenue over a billion than blue chip companies that are worth far more in comparison (this is another way of saying MLMs are inefficient). Finally, they may something such as, "The people that are successful are the people who put int he effort, and the people who quit didn't try hard enough". Well, that may be true for some, but for most they do try really hard and they still fail. This is again a point they tend to leave out of the conversation.

4. Attitude Polarization is very big in MLM. I have had many debates with MLMers about their businesses and how the statistics reflect a very poor performance. The responses are routinely bizarre and suggest, the statistics came from a flawed source (often they come from their own companies), the statistics don't accurately reflect the overall business (statistics are designed to take data and make inferences about the data gathered), statistics can't quantify individuals (similar to the last one), or statistics are not real evidence (meanwhile they will call upon their own statistics as long as they suit their cause). This has become a rampant problem for people that are disillusioned by thoughtspeak (Orwell). They cannot rationally look at evidence anymore and have utilized programmed cognitive dissonance to rationalize the dissenting information.

5. Belief perseverance is also very big in MLM, especially after utilizing attitude polarization. MLMers will continue to pursue MLM even after being confronted with evidence because it feels good, or they think they are learning something useful, or they just want to do it and don't care about the results. This is often connected with denial, because no rational person would want to throw money away, especially if it was hurting others in the process.

6. The irrational primacy effect often comes into play when describing the opportunity for success in MLM. Unfortunately, as MLM grows the possibility for growth shrinks in an exponentially larger percentage. When MLMers describe the successes of their predecessors they are forgetting to mention that it was a different time, a different market condition, and a different knowledge base. All of these effect the new MLMers outcome, but they still rely on the fact that a previous person was able to be successful.

7. Illusory correlation happens the most, and often includes many of the previously stated confirmation biases. One of the most common illusory correlations is the shape of MLM and the shape of Corporate America are both pyramids, therefore they are both legitimate. Not only does this not make sense on an arbitrary level, but it doesn't make sense on a deeper level either. Yet it rolls off the tongue well, and MLMers continue to fool and deceive new prospects consistently with this terrible line.

MLMs frequently utilize confirmation bias to manipulate and deceive their distributors. They provide false analogies, unrelated information, and deceptive claims. They also go out of their way to discredit any dissenting information and opinions, and they are quick to sever ties with anyone that does not share their complete worldview.

If you have a story involving abuses from your upline and would like me to share it on this blog as a guest post, then please e-mail me and I will be more than happy to post it! Your stories are not as unique as you may think, and your stories are some of the most impactful resources we have to fight MLMs. I will keep your anonymity upon request.


  1. All of this is quite accurate and magisterially detailed. But it can be encapsulated in a single sentence: Committed members of MLMs are impervious to truth, evidence, and logic, and have a real animus against any kind of coherent intellectual debate.

    In a serious conversation between two persons who are rational and non-partisan, intelligent discourse can occur. Arguments and comments will be listened to openly and candidly, questions will be asked and answered truthfully, areas of disagreement will be recognized and accepted as honest areas of difference. Neither party will get hot under the collar. A calm and rational humanism will govern the interaction.

    In short, both participants in the conversation will be sensible, level-headed, rational human beings.

    But none of this is true with a committed member of an MLM. The very nature of MLM training and propaganda is inherently hostile to THE VERY IDEA of rational and calm discourse.

    I saw this myself many years ago, when I was very young and nearly roped into the Amway charade by a cousin. At that time I was in university, majoring in English literature and philosophy. I had quite naturally spent much time in study, critical analysis, deep thought, commentary on texts, and on occasion arguments and debates.

    What shocked and appalled me about the Amway membership was their utter lack of interest in ANY KIND OF SERIOUS ARGUMENT OR EXPLORATION about any question at all. They were bloody allergic to thought! They did not want to think, to argue, to debate, to consider other possibilities... hell, the entire Western tradition of rational discourse was hateful to them! They wanted nothing but solidarity, mass thinking, and a herd-like and lock-step enthusiasm for "The Plan."

    This is the heart of MLM attitudes. MLM thinking is as profoundly anti-cultural and anti-traditional as hard-core Marxism.

    1. Anonymous --

      Thank you for your detailed response. I love the way you analyze and adapt on my material, and appreciate your consistent commentary (even if I don't show it all the time).

      I'd be interested in hearing an update about your cousin and whether or not they are still a member of Amway, where they ended up during Amway, and whether or not they have any friends/family members that have been damaged.

      I'm hoping Ms. DeVos doesn't get more influence over the already dilapidated curriculum for public schools. The emphasis on rote memory learning over critical analysis has shown to be flawed, and if she has it her way, we may not even get history or literature classes anymore.

    2. I'm glad to contribute to the discussion here. This site is unique in its attempt to analyze the psychological motives behind MLM.

      My cousin left Amway after about a year, with no profit whatsoever to show for his work. The tragedy is that, even though he dropped out of Amway, his working life from then on became a series of one pie-in-the-sky dream after another. Some of his attempts were sensible, but all of them were vitiated by his ineradicable need to "hit it big," or to "get in on the ground floor," or to "develop residual income." In short, Amway corrupted his mind in regard to earning a living. Rather than just doing something, he had to figure out some scheme or insider-track that would lead him to great wealth.

      The big problem was that he actually was not very sharp about business matters. He would invariably be cheated or ripped off or rooked by persons who were more adept at business than he was. My elderly father once tried to talk him out of entering an obviously ruinous business arrangement, but my cousin refused to listen and lost a very large investment, plus three years of fruitless labor.

      The sad fact is that my cousin could have earned a very respectable salary at one of those dreaded and hated "J.O.B.s" that Amway freaks denigrate so much. He's a hard worker, a very honest individual, and animated by fine energy. But the sick MLM dream poisoned his mind, and he has only managed to tread water, financially speaking, ever since those Amway days.

      Let me disagree strongly about Ms. De Vos. She is not the problem! The school system in the United States is completely under the control of leftist and left-liberal teachers' unions that have destroyed whatever real teaching and learning went on. They destroyed it in favor of a totally bogus methodology of fun-and-games pedagogy, sensitivity training, and politically correct indoctrination. TWO MILLION FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES REFUSE TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS ANYMORE! They homeschool their kids, at great inconvenience and expense! Do you think this would happen if the schools were in any sense viable?

      The teachers' unions have a python-like grip on education in this country, and they run the show solely for their own financial and political interest. The utterly corrupt Department of Education is their chief patron and slush-fund dispenser. These rotten unions work hand-in-glove with the Democratic Party, and force teachers to contribute to that party via unregulated union dues and "political action" deductions. The Education Establishment in America needs to gutted like a fish, and I look forward to Ms. De Vos doing just that,

    3. That is an interesting take on Ms. DeVos, and I certainly hope that you are right. I'm sure a lot of the unions will be dismantled, but I'm not so sure that the other things will happen.

      I don't think either side of the political spectrum has an interest in helping children get educated even though their reasons may be completely different. When Bush brought out the no child left behind act, we saw that Republicans were just as interested in crippling education.

      I'd be curious to see what the statistics are on which ethnicities are being home schooled. Unfortunately, as you stated, it is extremely expensive and time consuming, so the people that are homeschooling their kids, are probably not ethnic minorities in major cities.

  2. "This is the heart of MLM attitudes. MLM thinking is as profoundly anti-cultural and anti-traditional as hard-core Marxism. "

    Well said!

    Also, this post on confirmation bias is totally right, it's consistent with my experiences with MLMers(and cranks, quacks, political extremists, etc).