25 January 2012

The psychology of persuasion

Be the first to share

All human societies are alive with the battle for influence. Every single day each of us is subject to innumerable persuasion attempts from corporations, interest groups, political parties and other organisations. Each trying to persuade us that their product, idea or innovation is what we should buy, believe in or vote for.

In our personal lives the same struggle is played out for the supremacy of viewpoints, ideals and actions. Whether it’s friends and family, work colleagues, potential employers or strangers, each of us has to work out how to bring others around to our own point of view. We all play the influence game, to greater or lesser degrees.

Psychologists have been studying how we try to influence each other for many years. In an 18 part blog series on PsyBlog, Jeremy Dean, researcher at University College London, has been covering some highlights of this research, which are collected below.

1. 3 Universal Goals to Influence People
Effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations. Central to the art and science of persuasion is understanding three goals for which everyone is aiming.

2. The Persuasive Power of Swearing
Show your passion and people have one more emotional reason to come around to your point of view. But how can we convince others of our conviction? Light swearing at the start or end of a persuasive speech can help influence an audience.

3. Loudest Voice = Majority Opinion
Even if only one member of a group repeats their opinion, it is more likely to be seen by others as representative of the whole group.

4. Don’t Take No For An Answer
You ask someone for a favour and they say no. Where do you go from there? Dealing effectively with objections can be more powerful than other standard methods of persuasion.

5. The Influence of Fleeting Attraction
Friendship is a fantastic lever for persuasion and influence, a lever we happily push on every day. But how much does someone have to like us before we can start to influence them?

6. Caffeine Makes Us Easier to Persuade
Of all the effects caffeine has on our minds—enhanced attention, vigilance and cognition—perhaps least known is its tendency to make us more susceptible to persuasion.

7. Persuasion: The Right-Ear Advantage
If you want someone to comply with a random request for a cigarette, you should speak into their right ear.

8. Balanced Arguments Are More Persuasive
The instinct to paper over weaknesses in our argument is wrong—so long as we counter criticism.

9. The Battle Between Thoughts and Emotions in Persuasion
Nowadays people tend to use ‘I think’ and ‘I feel’ interchangeably. Does it make any difference whether what you say is couched in ‘thinking’ or ‘feeling’ terms?

10. Our Secret Attitude Changes
When you change your attitude about something, do you know why? Psychologists have argued that the inner workings of our minds are largely hidden away from us. One aspect of this is the surprising finding that people are often unaware when they have changed their attitudes.

11. Are Fast Talkers More Persuasive?
Beware the fast-talker, the person with the gift of the gab—the friendly salesman, the oily politician—running through the ‘facts’ faster than you can keep up.

12. Persuasion: The Sleeper Effect
Any time we receive a persuasive message before we find out who the source is, the sleeper effect can come into play.

13. Communicating Persuasively: Email or Face-to-Face?
Face-to-face communication is usually most persuasive but it’s not always possible to meet in person. How, then, do people react to persuasion attempts over email?

14. The Influence of Positive Framing
Do people really pay more attention to frightening messages? Actually emphasising the positive can be more persuasive than pointing out the negative.

15. The Illusion of Truth
Repetition is used everywhere: advertising, politics and the media. It seems too simplistic that just repeating a persuasive message should increase its effect, but that’s exactly what psychological research finds (again and again).

16. 9 Propaganda Techniques in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11
Back in the Summer of 2004 Michael Moore brought out ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, his personal view of how terrorist attacks in the US were used to pursue illegal wars. This article examines the psychological techniques of persuasion used in that film.

17. Persuasion: The Third-Person Effect
Attractive woman holding a bottle of beer? Hah! How stupid do they think we are? Many people say that persuasion attempts have little or no effect on them. Other people, oh sure, adverts, work on them. But not you and I, we’re too clever for that.

18. 20 Simple Steps to the Perfect Persuasive Message
Perfection is hard to achieve in any walk of life and persuasion is no different. It relies on many things going just right at the crucial moment; the perfect synchronisation of source, message and audience. But even if perfection is unlikely, we all need to know what to aim for.

Be the first to share
13 April 2017
How Silicon Valley is (ab)using behavioral science and nudging
In an extensive review of The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, the book by Michael Lewis on the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Tamsin Shaw provides a deeper criticism of the …
8 April 2017
Jeremy Myerson on how social challenges can catalyse design-led innovation in industry
In this recent talk at the RCA in London, writer and academic Jeremy Myerson explores how social challenges can catalyse design-led innovation in industry. Rather than seeing such issues as ageing populations, growing healthcare needs …
5 April 2017
[Book chapter] Behavioral economics and health
Behavioral Economics and Health Judd B. Kessler and C. Yiwei Zhang Oxford Textbook of Public Health 2014 Behavioral Economics combines the insights of Economics and Psychology to identify how individuals deviate from the standard assumptions of economic theory and …
31 March 2017
PewResearch on the future of free speech, trolls, anonymity and fake news online
To illuminate current attitudes about the potential impacts of online social interaction over the next decade, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate …
2 March 2017
Understanding life’s speed from an anthropological perspective
The latest issue of the Cultural Anthropology journal features a new contribution to the journal’s Openings and Retrospectives section: an Openings collection, "Speed," edited by Vincent Duclos, Tomás Sánchez Criado, and Vinh-Kim Nguyen. In their …
28 February 2017
How technology gets us hooked
From a young age, humans love to press buttons that light up and make a noise. The thrill of positive feedback lies at the heart of addiction to gambling, games, and social media, reports Adam …
19 January 2017
Social science must return to qualitative research to understand social and political shifts
Social science has become increasingly beholden to analysis derived from big data: large numerical sets analysed computationally, write Pamela Prickett and Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University. This, they say, "has brought us much insight …
8 January 2017
The complexity of plastic bags
As societies face increasingly complex problems, design is emerging as the tool to solve some of Asia's biggest issues. Through field trips with designers skilled in human-centered design, the team behind Ethnographers' Field Guide to …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

31 March 2017
Experientia guide to Milan Design Week 2017

It’s that time of year again – Milan’s don’t-miss event for the design community is here. If you’re looking to get inspired at Milan Design Week, then check out our top picks for the latest edition, from Experientia’s designers, strategists and partners. Milan might be best known for its busy streets, traditional cafés and world […]

12 January 2017
Experientia’s CITYOPT project awarded prestigious French award for its sustainable development design

Following the 2016 Smart Innovation Award at “FIMBACTE Trophées du Cadre de vie”, the CITYOPT project has once again been recognized, this time in the prestigious French design competition: “Observeur du Design 2017”, in the Service Design category. In June 2016, CITYOPT won the first stage of the Observeur du Design. Now the project has […]

1 December 2016
More on upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities

Last month Putting People First announced the upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities in Nice France. Meanwhile we are pleased to announce the full event agenda (see below). This event will feature professionals from leading research institutes and industry gathering to present key initiatives which combine Energy Efficiency and Service Design […]

29 October 2016
Upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities

Invitation to the International Conference on Design & Sustainable Innovation for SmartCities Nice (France) 8 December 2016 On the 8th December 2016, the CITYOPT project will host an international conference on Design and sustainable innovation for SmartCities, at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, France. An open invitation to attend is offered to people and organisations who […]

28 October 2016
Experientia’s President, Michele Visciòla, panel judge for MacArthur Foundation’s “100&Change” competition

The 100&Change is an international competition and a landmark opportunity for thinkers and designers to tackle critical challenges affecting the world. Michele Visciòla will be one of the panel of expert judges who will select which project is worthy of the $100 million grant. 100&Change is the MacArthur Foundation competition – launched this year for […]

5 September 2016
Great engine, but the fuel seems poor. Discussing insight development in corporate marketing

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) contains a lengthy essay, entitled Building an Insights Engine, on how Unilever has created the organizational capabilities to “transform data into insights about consumers’ motivations and to turn those insights into strategy.” The article was written by Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed of a […]

See all articles