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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Jan-15

 


Sunday 04-January-15

Persuasive contexts (how things around you change your mind, without you noticing)

As we grow and learn about the world around us, one thing we discover soon enough is that other people want to change our minds. They may do this rationally, with reasoned argument. They may just tell us what they want us to do. They may well also be deceptive, tricking us into agreeing with lies or when they do not intend holding up their side of the bargain. And as people get more deceptive and more skilled in their persuasions, we also get more skilled at spotting these and resisting persuasive attempts.

However, there is one category where we often completely miss the persuasive power that can have a significant influence over us.

This is the environment, the things around us. For example:

  • Pink walls are likely to calm agitated people.
  • A briefcase on a table, but not a rucksack, leads people to act more competitively.
  • A wall poster with a pair of eyes increases people's use of an honesty box.
  • Pictures of companionable dolls will increase the chance that toddlers will help another pick up sticks they have dropped.
  • A picture of people holding hands will make us more likely to seek help.

In other words, we respond to cues, sometimes surprising ones. We do not even have to consciously notice things for them to have an effect on our unconscious minds and consequent actions. The last item in the above list, where an image of human contact leads to greater readiness to seek help, is a good example of how such subtleties can be used in advertising. Adverts often show people acting in certain ways. We say 'yes, yes' and ignore it. Or at least we think we do, because when next at the supermarket, we may find that pack of detergent even more attractive, especially if the advert showed somebody buying one.

Reference:
Rubin, M. (2011). Social affiliation cues prime help-seeking intentions. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 43 (2), 138-141


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