Lesser Known Persuasion Tricks (and armband redux)

A marketing blog goes down an excellent list of persuasion / social engineering tactics you don’t hear about too often. Read these inside out: if you spot one being used, what does that tell you about the person using them and what their interests are? Can you spot one used intentionally, versus one that comes up as a natural artifact of communication?

In a nutshell:
– Be confident, talk fast
– Swearing can help influence an audience
– Get people to agree with you first
– Balanced arguments are more persuasive
– People believe you more if they sit in the evidence
– Upsell a product that costs 60% of the original product
– Frame it in the positive
– The more choice you offer, the less people will take you up on it – Repetition is persuasive
– Men are more responsive to email, women face-to-face
– Limiting the quantity people can buy makes them buy more
– Story beats data
– Marketing to men? Use photos of women. To women? They don’t care – Arousal makes men stupid
– Want to convince leaders? Make them feel less powerful
– Going down a list? Subtly nod at the choice you’re trying to push – Clarity trumps tricks

Armband: Someone asked what the effects were. Roughly — More energy, happier overall mood. Not caffeine or micropower TMS-style energy, either of which can feel a little artificial and rough. The state usually associated with “being really interested and flying through work” has been me all day. A bit more attention-wandering to ‘shiny things’ than usual, more focus when it gets there.

I tried sleeping with it (since that’s my main area of interest research-wise) and the dreams were shorter and much more normal/natural in tone*. I also woke up an hour earlier than planned. This latter bit was downright extraordinary, as I’d been intending on a shorter night to begin with yet I’d gotten less sleep the night before than usual. I ended up taking it off and going back to sleep for an hour.

Something I should underscore with the armband mystery: The sample size (one day, one person) is way too small to reliably say much at all about it. There are too many variables to control for: do I have more energy or did I have different dreams because I went for a long walk yesterday and took some new vitamins?

With the placebo effect question still untouched, it’s not even clear any subjective results would be useful. (could you get the same results with a zip tie on your belt and believing it works?)

Therefore, the only way to really know is for more people to try. It’s easy enough: I used some 1.5mm enameled copper wire, but any stiff non-magnetic conductor ought to work. Two flat spirals with the same number of turns (I used 12), starting with as tight a winding you can make.

I wound them using a bench vise, using the jaws to hold the spiral flat and repeating a loosen jaws — reposition spiral — tighten jaws — wind 1/4 turn — loosen jaws cycle.

The spirals get arranged so one is left and the other right handed. Connect the outer turns via a loop that goes around the arm. Wear as an armband.


“We prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are.[…]

Researchers divided 88 participants into three groups to watch one of three slightly different speeches. The only difference between the speeches was that one contained a mild curse word at the start: “…lowering of tuition is not only a great idea, but damn it, also the most reasonable one for all parties involved.”[…]

The word ‘damn’ increased the audience’s perception of the speaker’s intensity, which increased persuasion. The audience’s perceived credibility of the speaker did not change. […]

Republicans tended to be more swayed by the ad after watching the speech by John McCain, while Democrats showed the opposite effect, finding the ad more persuasive after the Obama speech.

So when you try to sell something, make statements or represent a world view your customers can agree with first – even if they have nothing to do with what you’re selling.[…]

What he found across different types of persuasive messages and with varied audiences, was that two-sided arguments are more persuasive than their one-sided equivalents.[…]

When people felt the day was warmer than usual, they also expressed a higher belief in global warming than when they felt the day was cooler than usual.[…]

When somebody buys a shirt, you upsell should be a tie and not the whole suit.

The time-tested 60×60 rule says that your customers will buy an upsell 60 percent of the time for up to 60% of the original purchase price. Any upsell you offer must be congruent with the original purchase.[…]

An analysis added up the results of 29 different studies, which had been carried out on 6,378 people in total. The finding was that there was a slight persuasive advantage for messages that were framed positively.[…]

The more choice you offer, the less people will take you up on it[…]

Repetition of a word or visual pattern not only causes it to be remembered (which is persuasive in itself), it also leads people to accept what is being repeated as being true.[…]

Guadagno & Cialdini research (2002) showed that men seem more responsive to email because it bypasses their competitive tendencies. Women, however, may respond better in face-to-face encounters because they are more ‘relationship-minded’[…]

We believed that grocery shoppers who saw numerical signs such as “Limit 12 Per Person” would buy much more than those who saw signs such as “No Limit Per Person.”

To nail down the psychology behind this, we repeated this study in different forms, using different numbers, different promotions (like “2 for $2” versus “1 for $1”), and in different supermarkets and convenience stores. By the time we finished, we knew that almost any sign with a number promotion leads us to buy 30 to 100 percent more than we normally would.[…]

On average, students who received the fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14. Students who read the story about Rokia donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.

In a third experiment, students were told Rokia’s story but also included statistics about persistent drought, shortfalls in crop production, and millions of Africans who were going hungry. While students who had read Rokia’s story alone donated an average of $2.38, those who read the story plus the data donated an average of $1.43.[…]

For the male customers, replacing the photo of a male with a photo of female on the offer letter statistically significantly increases takeup; the effect is about as much as dropping the interest rate 4.5 percentage points… For female customers, we find no statistically significant patterns.[…]

Research shows that arousal makes men stupid, as they become bad at making decisions. It gives them tunnel vision. The effect seems to be a short-term -one that would be most effective at the point of purchase, for impulse purchases.[…]

“Powerful people have confidence in what they are thinking. Whether their thoughts are positive or negative toward an idea, that position is going to be hard to change,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

The best way to get leaders to consider new ideas is to put them in a situation where they don’t feel as powerful, the research suggests.[…]

Whenever servers suggest a beverage, have them smile and slowly nod their heads up and own as they make the suggestion. Body language is powerful, and research shows that over 60% of the time, the guest will nod right back and take your suggestion![…]

Persuasion tricks work when done subtly and skillfully. Overdo it and you lose the sale. When you’re writing sales copy or doing presentations, the best way to persuade people is to use clarity. Give people enough information to make up their mind without being cheesy or using hype.”

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