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Controversy is a prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view. Since time immemorial, controversies have had a subtle appeal about them.

Why do we stop by on the road to look at a fight? Obviously, we are not going to help them out. We stare at them for some time, give them a disgusting look and then, move on.

Why do controversies attract us?

Benford’s law of controversy states: Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of true information available. In other words, it claims that the fewer facts are known to and agreed on by the participants, the more controversy there is, and the more is known, the less controversy there is. Psychologically speaking, controversies are a result of lack of confidence.

The controversy about Salman Khan’s comment created an uproar on the social networking sites. Even if we didn’t comment on it openly; we definitely checked out the posts and talked about it but could never manage to ignore it.
Controversy does three things.

  • Firstly, it makes things more interesting to talk about. It’s pretty boring if everyone has the same opinion, so a little bit of dispute keeps the discussion stimulating. People get to voice their opinions, and the debate can encourage conversation.
  • It generates discomfort. Ever tried to talk about abortion at a crowded party? Probably not! It’s just plain uncomfortable to discuss. Particularly if you don’t know people that well, you don’t want to offend them. People care what others think of them. So, many avoid talking about highly-controversial things openly to avoid rubbing others the wrong way. It’s always a hush-hush discussion.
  • It is an attention grabber. The effect of controversy depends a lot on the type of brand being discussed. Once you create division within someone’s belief and faith, they will either seek to confirm your stance or disprove it but not ignore it. It creates buzz. You are trying to sell a product, and the whole market talks about it (who cares if it is negative? They know your product. That’s enough!). And you have done your job. People will eventually forget the controversy but not your product.

Recently, there was a debate over why pretty women should be shown eating ice-creams or squishing fruits to sell products. Men also eat ice-creams. They too drink juices. It was in the news for a couple of days. Everybody just enjoyed the controversy part but didn’t really care about what the product was.

If you can do something about a controversy, do it! Go and stop the fight on the road. Stop staring! Call the police. Maybe you cannot teach Salman Khan, learn from it, teach your kids. Don’t be a dumb spectator.

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