Saturday, September 19, 2009

We are manipulated by 'priming' and suggestion

There are now thousands of experiments demonstrating just how open to influence human beings are. We are manipulated by examples of 'priming' and suggestion, such as those above. We fall prey to 'anchoring' and 'availability' (being more influenced by fresh or easily remembered information than by relevant facts). We are strongly swayed by the blandishments of authority, of social pressure (conformity, fashion) and by instincts of reciprocity (giving, trusting and liking). We are too quick to accept shoddy explanations without further investigation, so long as they make superficial sense.
Our perceptions also make a mockery of much of our decision-making. Our judgements about others are routinely confounded by emotional projection and transference. We give value in the hand disproportionately more weight than value we might have in the future; we feel losses disproportionately more than gains; we consistently overestimate our own abilities (including our ability to make good judgements); we are often strangers to our own selves, unable to predict what we will feel like when we are angry, hungry, drunk and so on.
Led by the superficial
We are also acutely sensitive to small changes in conditions, but very quick to adjust to these changes (leaving us without an 'objective' benchmark for decision-making), and we routinely make decisions based on superficial comparisons rather than objective facts. [...]
The more we learn about human beings' predictable irrationalities, the greater the premium that society - consumers included - will place on those institutions, services, frame-works and methodologies that help us adjust, avoid and counter-balance their negative effects. Far from delivering marketers the elusive secret of effective influence and persuasion, ongoing discoveries in human psychology will actually expose advantage-taking, value-destroying marketing ploys to word-of-mouth revenge and punishment, and underline ancient (boring) marketing wisdom. Alan Mitchell is a respected author and a founder of Ctrl-Shift and Mydex. - visit Alan's blog at


  1. you want to join globalove think tank?

  2. [Believing is not a two-stage process involving first understanding then believing. Instead understanding is believing, a fraction of a second after reading it, you believe it until some other critical faculty kicks in to change your mind. We really do want to believe, just like Agent Mulder...
    Or maybe by going along with this argument I'm being gullible and the harsh truth is that it's a basic human failing that we are all too quick to take things at face value and too slow to engage our critical faculties. I'll leave you to ponder that one. Science, Culture and Integral Yoga by koantum on Wed 30 Sep 2009 05:21 AM PDT Permanent Link PSYBLOG]