Unraveling Persuasion
__February 9–April 30, 2022

Unraveling Persuasion

Persuasion is omnipresent. It envelops and permeates our daily lives, driving our decision-making, influencing our behaviors and molding our perceptions of the world around us? But how much do we really know about persuasion? Exploring the medium, the message and the mind, Unraveling Persuasion seeks to widen the lens through which we understand persuasive media and increase awareness of the theories that underpin them.

One of the most ubiquitous and explicit manifestations of persuasion is advertising. Encountering thousands of advertisements every day, persuasive messaging increasingly following us almost everywhere we go. We cannot escape it, but can we become less susceptible to its influence?

The first section of this exhibition explores advertising as a science, an art and a business. Persuasive techniques which drive our consumer habits can be explored alongside the fundamental concepts of psychology they harness. Humor, shock tactics, slick design, celebrity endorsement, allegiance to social causes—brands use them all to turn your head—but which works for you? Explore hundreds of adverts spanning time, geography and media, scrutinize your own consumer behaviors and decide for yourself whether targeted tools have had an effect on your buying habits.

Following this the exhibition explores more collective notions of persuasion, exploring how we experience and are subjected to political and social influence, propaganda and coercion. Three installations invite you to interact and participate. Trophy Camera critiques the tropes and conventions of photojournalism, challenging us to be more critical of the published images we consume and respond to. Have a go at taking a photograph using an artificial intelligence (AI) powered camera and see if you can include the vital ingredients of award-winning photojournalism? See your photograph compared with a dataset of award-winning photos from 1955 to today. If you score above 90%, your image is uploaded to the Trophy Camera website and shown in the exhibition.

What Would You Die For? is a commissioned video installation by the internationally renowned artist Bahia Shehab. Spanning 56 screens in the main exhibition space this powerful installation presents a 360-degree view of mass persuasion, refusing to turn a blind eye to the darker sides of humanity which, consciously and unconsciously, societies and media chose to exclude.  This project includes contributions from students at Northwestern Qatar as well as universities in London and Cairo.

Persuasion does not operate in a vacuum. Our backgrounds, values and belief systems also guide our thinking and influence what persuades us. Where Do You Stand? is a new film highlighting the frames of reference from which we make choices and decisions. Moderated by the Qatari comedian, Khalifa Al Haroon (Mr. Q), students from Education City respond to questions exploring the complex contextualized nature of persuasion. See if you agree by responding to the film’s questions in the exhibition.  

Persuasion shapes our lives as individuals and societies, consumers and activists, in relationships, at work and at home. Isn’t it time you started to unravel the powers of persuasion?

This exhibition is accompanied by the publication Unraveling Persuasion—Voices and Conversations, available in Arabic and English at the university Bookstore and online.