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
2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments
A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the …
1 July 2015
[Book] Drawing Energy
Drawing Energy: Exploring perceptions of the invisible Authors: Flora Bowden, Dan Lockton, Rama Gheerawo and Clare Brass. Editor: Rama Gheerawo. Royal College of Art, London, 2015 Free download - Free printed copy Abstract Drawing Energy describes a drawing-based research project …
22 June 2015
[Book] Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler W. W. Norton & Company May 2015, 432 pages Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans—predictable, …
19 June 2015
Nesta report and case studies on people-centred smart cities
For smart cities to reach their full potential, they need to focus on the citizens living in them, not just technology, write researchers Tom Saunders and Peter Baeck of Nesta, the UK innovation charity Traditionally, smart …
6 June 2015
Europe’s White Working Class Communities: A Report on Six EU Cities
Europe’s White Working Class Communities, a research series published by the Open Society Foundations, documents the experiences of “white” communities in six cities across Europe. Each report focuses on a specific district or neighborhood within a …
17 May 2015
Policy paper: Making Good our Future
Making Good our Future: Exploring the New Boundaries of Open & Social Innovation in Manufacturing Policy Paper prepared for the European Commission May 2015, 49 pages As part of the Social Innovation Europe initiative, the European Commission has …
13 May 2015
Social Media + Society, an open-access journal
Social Media + Society is an online, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal deeply committed to advancing the understanding of social media and its impact on societies past, present and future. With a leading editorial team, the …
13 May 2015
We’re more than mere consumers, and business should remember that
Companies collect an ever-growing amount of information on customers, but forgetting the individuals behind big data is detrimental, not least to business, writes author and speaker John C. Havens. Today’s customers, empowered by mobile technologies and …

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.

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

See all articles