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Persuading Intellectuals

This is interesting: I always thought thinkers were less likely to be swayed by persuasion techniques than others. However, it appears ‘thinkers’ are just persuaded differently: they like adverts that make intelligent arguments. Another thing that came out of the research, and this has been consistently found, is that people believe others will be swayed far more than they are themselves. Combine these two things and you can start to see how ‘thinkers’ end up doing stupid things.

This research could have a huge impact on the ads you’re shown. If you’re a thinker you might get technical specs listed out. If you’re a doer you might get shiny pictures showing other people using the product. The point is that advertisers can (and likely will) customize ads that you see.

Karen Douglas and colleagues at Kent University have bucked this trend with a paper which they say shows people have an intuitive understanding of how a person’s thinking style affects their vulnerability to persuasion, known formally as ‘the elaboration likelihood model’. This is the idea, supported by research findings, that people who have a greater inclination for thinking things through tend to be less swayed by adverts that use superficial tricks like beautiful models and slick graphics, but are more persuaded by adverts that make an intelligent argument. The jargon for the character trait in question is ‘need for cognition’.

…Our findings suggest that people do have some kind of awareness of how persuasion works and can use their knowledge to attempt to persuade people. It’s just the beginning really – while people seem to have an intuitive understanding of how thinking style relates to persuadibility, it could plausibly extend to other aspects of persuasion and persuasive techniques such as social norms and the foot-in-the-door technique.’

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