Musing #4 – Take the SIN out of Singapore?

I write with regard to the article published in The Straits Times by Andrew Choo Ming Sing on 6th October 2014.

I shall quote a part of his article here to sum up his arguments.

SEEING the word “SIN” emblazoned across the chests of our beaming Asian Games athletes (“Finally, a golden day for Singapore”; last Wednesday) evoked a feeling that was somewhat bittersweet.

“SIN” is the International Olympic Committee code for Singapore and is used to represent our country in sporting events. “SIN” is also the International Air Traffic Association code for Changi Airport, the gateway to our country.

Sports and travel are two of the most visible platforms through which we project ourselves to the world. “SIN” is the word projected when we make a name for ourselves on these platforms.

Sin cities of the world are well known, for better or for worse.

Whenever Singapore is elevated into focus, the image must be one that is in keeping with our cultural and social mores.

Singapore is not a sin city. But, with the use of the code “SIN”, the eye will make the association, even if the heart and mind know otherwise.

Is it in our national interest for “SIN” to be associated with Singapore?

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/take-the-sin-out-singapore-20141006#xtor=CS1-10
There has been much discussion on the article and equally much dissing of the author as many find that the author is making a mountain out of a molehill.

‘Audi Khalid’, a TOP COMMENTER on http://www.straitstimes.com and a Project Coordinator, commented on the article,

Sometimes, what we see is a reflection of ourselves. Most over-sensitive thing I’ve read today.

Another TOP COMMENTER, ‘Yip Kwang Low’ said this,

The person’s mind must be muddled for the person to associate Singapore as sin city.

However, I must state that I agree with the author.

One cardinal reason from a psychological standpoint compels me to agree with him. PRIMING, is one of the most widely used ways (especially in advertisements, retail and company settings) in which seemingly insignificant objects, things, smell and really, just ANYTHING shapes our subconscious, no, unconscious mind and therefore causes us to behave and/or think in a certain biased way without us being aware at all!

Let me elaborate more on the idea. In 2005, Hank Aarts, a researcher at the Utrecht University, Netherlands conducted an experiment on priming using only smell. Subjects were first split into two rooms, one room had a faint detergent smell while the other room had no particular smell. He then had subjects to fill random questionnaires and they were rewarded at the end of the questionnaire with a cookie. At the end of the study, subjects in the room with the detergent smell were three times more likely to clean up their own mess. The faint detergent smell therefore had already ‘primed’ the unconsciousness of the subjects without them even knowing, and therefore they behaved in a way they might not have, should they have not been primed.

Using the same logic, the word SIN could therefore prime foreign visitors, or even Singaporeans too, to behave in more ‘sinful’ ways. Sounds far-fetched, huh? You might have heard of the numerous scientific arguments that the greater the exposure of children to violent games and TV shows, the more likely they are to be physically violent. This has been attributed to priming as well. (see study by Brad J. Bushman from the Iowa State University in the US, titled Priming Effects of Media Violence on the Accessibility of Aggressive Constructs in Memory). The argument is still quite a stretch, you argue. A sin does not necessarily have to be one that is so evil, disgusting and downright despicable. It could also be the day-to-day negative actions that you do, without you realising that it is not the action you would have taken, should you have not been ‘primed’. Lets say, throwing a tissue on the streets.

The truth is we can never find out how ‘primed’ are you to the objects and ideas that constantly bombard your conscious, and unconscious mind, unless you are put into a controlled environment and intentionally primed to make you think otherwise.

Even if it is a 1% increase in sins, big or small, changing the letters that represent us, appears to be the right direction in which we should move in.

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