Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MLM and Pluralistic Ignorance

Today's blog post is based on a recent article from Psychcentral called How to Avoid Groupthink on Your Team. This article figuratively screamed, "Read Me!" with that Orwellian title. The article talks about a particular issue within the herd or group mentality, called pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance is group silence due to fear of asking a question about a particular topic that was not understood. The fear of being judged by the group as the only person who did not understand is extremely powerful and is a regular problem within large meetings or lectures. Teachers often emphasize the importance of asking questions by suggesting if a particular point didn't make sense to you, then there are probably others that also didn't understand. This is one of the best ways to combat against pluralistic ignorance.

An example of pluralistic ignorance could be a boss addressing their sales staff about a new strategy for marketing their products. The boss may use certain types of jargon that are confusing or vague which makes the staff have questions, or worse, complete misunderstanding of the new strategy. The staff, out of fear of looking foolish in front of the boss and their peers, may elect not to ask questions about explaining the strategy and instead remain silent until the meeting is over. Afterward, they may ask each other for help explaining the strategy from the meeting, only to find out nobody else understood either. This is where pluralistic ignorance is generated and is an extreme problem when trying to go over new material in front of a group.

MLMs utilize pluralistic ignorance to their advantage and consistently utilize technical jargon that new recruits couldn't possibly understand. In fact, many of the mid level members of MLM don't understand what they are talking about, which makes the pluralistic ignorance more prevalent. They do not do a good job of explaining the business opportunity, which includes describing how new prospects generate revenue, how the bonus structures work, what commitments are needed to make the business work (time, money, education), or even the statistics for success. Unfortunately, the more technical they sound in their explanations, the less likely people are to question their validity.

MLMs also use bad analogies and dreams to fuel pluralistic ignorance. They invent their own answers to questions that either, don't actually answer the question or shame the questioner. They insist upon never directly addressing major points, and emphasize focusing on the results and dreams of others. An example of this is when people ask if MLM is a pyramid. A common response will be something obscure and technically difficult for a prospect to understand while also being unnecessarily long. A common bad analogy is the famous, corporate America is a pyramid explanation, which is not only erroneous but is also full of technical jargon that would confuse people and make them fearful to ask more questions.

It is extremely important to ask meaningful questions and phrase them in such a way that you will not feel concerned about others opinions. This is an important skill to develop and the article does a great job of explaining how to practice and grow in group settings. The worst disservice you can do to yourself, especially when investing your time and money, is to not fully understand what the opportunity actually entails. At the end of the day, the group isn't responsible for your inability to understand, therefore you cannot fear their impression of you.


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. "Your job is a pyramid" is something that Amway leaders used when trying to compare Amway to a legitimate corporate hierarchy. What many do not see is that my job being a pyramid in no way means Amway isn't.

    Also, my job income doesn't funnel itself up to the company CEO. Instead, actual customers of our company's products are the reason we generate revenue.

    Another strategy is to obfuscate the issues by selling the recruits dreams and hopes and then convincing them that MLM or Amway is the way to achieve those dreams. This is the actual product because those dreams and ambitions are what motivates people to attend meetings and functions, where upline leaders earn their "real" income.

    1. Joe,

      That is a great point about Amway still being a pyramid even though they suggest they are legitimate because all of corporate America is a pyramid. This sounds like an alcoholic saying they don't have a problem because everyone else drinks alcohol.

      Your point about the actual product being the meetings and functions instead of the soaps and vitamins is fantastic! I haven't been able to make that connection before, but that is exactly spot on! The "successful" MLMers aren't selling the same products their downlines are stuck with, but rather they are selling the tools and meetings to the downlines.

    2. Dr. Doe,

      It's for that reason I maintain that Amway is a bait and switch scam. They lure you into the business with dreams and hopes that Amway will be your magic carpet ride to vast wealth but in reality, the money is made by selling training to those who are hoping and dreaming to cash in on Amway.

      Think about it this way. The profit on training goods is higher than on Amway products and the profit on training is divided up with far fewer people getting a cut. Amway bonuses can be earned by all IBOs but profits from selling cds and functions only go to plaitums and higher.

      And platinums only get small cut from the cds. It is the emeralds and higher that get profits from the functions and some of the other profit centers. But diamond is where you begin to get the biggest cut of the pie.

      Somewhere on my blog I wrote an article about the payouts at the diamond level as a former pin sent me the (unofficial) compensation plan for WWDB.

    3. Joe --

      I believe the first people to introduce the LOS concept were Dexter and Birdie Yager. They understood the real "opportunity" for people outside of the Amway family (DeVos and Van Andel) was not in Amway itself, and decided to create a second scam on top of it. Not only did that second scam work (tools) work brilliantly, but it helped make the original scam (Amway) extremely strong. The introduced a new level of psychological manipulation which created a paradigm shift in customer loyalty. It is a truly frightening sight once you figure out the details.

  2. Dear Dr. Doe --

    You are quite right about the kind of pluralistic ignorance that is fostered by the shameless use of impenetrable jargon and technical language. It is the curse of modern education today.

    Jargon is a way to silence persons, and to keep the uninitiated at arm's length. You use strange and contorted language to intimidate your listeners, and to create in their minds the illusion that you are a person of superior knowledge. In actual practice, the best teachers are those who explain their subject matter carefully, clearly, and openly to their classes, in simple language, and who repeat things constantly so as to get through to every student.

    But if you are involved in an MLM, you are already halfway out of the real world, and in caught a fantasy-world of dreams and illusions. When that happens, strange jargon and mysterious phrases take on a cultic quality, and become a kind of prayer-like ritual rather than a means of understanding. This is why persons in Amway often have an otherworldly look on their faces when they spout language about "pro-suming" and "direct marketing" and all the rest of it. The words don't actually mean anything. But they are like a mantra offered up to the gods.

    1. Anonymous --

      I completely agree about the jargon. It seems to have transformed from a silencer of dissenting opinions into a masterful manipulation of facts. The jargon these MLMers use is almost like a comfy pillow that they can happily put their heads on while laying on a bed of nails.

      This is similar to the news, and how they constantly utilize jargon and a manipulation of statistics through polls or other nonsensical studies to suit their agendas. Joe Rogan does a great job of dispelling the myth that you can get any accurate news from television anymore.

      The most dangerous people on television right now are the celebrities. I'm not sure why they are getting so much credibility, but they are utilizing their platform and influence to constantly spread disinformation. A lot of them are stupid singers and actors, but some of them are actually well educated. Dr. Oz got into some really big trouble for utilizing his television platform to hawk supplements, and Bill Nye has slowly degenerated into a leftist wacko with his pro-choice and climate change rhetoric.

  3. John - I published the following brief-analysis 4 years ago under my copyright:

    Following on from work he began in 1941, in 1950, Dr. Alan Turing published a paper, 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence,' in which he discussed the existing philosophical question of whether machines can think. He then proposed a test, in the form of a blind question and answer game, where computers would be used to try to convince humans that they were not engaging with machines, but with other humans. Thus, despite its appearance, the 'Turing Test' is not a high-brow parlour-game or even a scientific experiment to determine whether machines can think, but a rudimentary, logical test of whether an artificial mind can be made to appear to have the same cognitive capacity as the human mind.

    In recent years, various people have suggested ways in which the 'Turing Test' can be reversed, but, as far as I am aware, no one has yet suggested that Dr. Turing's celebrated thoughts on artificial intelligence, can also be applied to the study of the cult/totalitarian phenomenon; for, due to their incapacity to engage with external reality, the inflexible core-adherents of totalistic* cults have often been compared to robots. However, the way that exploitative, self-perpetuating ritual belief systems bait, trap and enslave their prey, by reflecting common human instinctual desires (prosperity, health, happiness, freedom, security, etc.) as being obtainable in exchange for absolute subservience, can also be compared to a phenomenon which Dr. Turing did not live to witness - computer viruses. Had Dr. Turing been able to continue his work, he might have eventually felt the need to propose a rudimentary, logical test of whether an artificial mind can be made to appear to have the same ego-related capacity to become delusional as the human mind; for although cult adherents insist that no one is controlling them and that they are excercising free-will, nonetheless, illogically, and without exception, they all see the world in mechanical two-dimensional terms ('negative vs positive', 'us vs them' , 'good vs evil' , 'winners vs losers' , etc. ), communicate in code-like thought-stopping language and obey their de facto programmers without question (no matter what suffering this entails).