Over 400,000 people visited Farnam Street last month to learn how to make better decisions, create new ideas, and avoid stupid errors. With more than 98,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub. To learn more about we what do, start here.

A master of persuasion reveals his secrets

From a review of Kevin Dutton’s Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds:

Mr. Dutton’s research suggests there are five key elements, which he wraps up in the acronym SPICE.

SPICE stands for Simplicity (that is: don’t complicate matters), Perceived self-interest (someone will only be persuaded if they believe what’s on offer will benefit them), Incongruity (the tactic, which throws off the target, often takes the form of humour), Confidence, and Empathy. Most of these, of course, are incorporated in the best ads for products, services, and politicians. But they also form the basis of the come-ons of, say, used car salesmen, so Mr. Dutton positions his work as an antidote to unwanted appeals.

“I think the people who read the book will not only learn the tricks of the trade – how to persuade – but they’ll also know what to look for when such persuasion is angled at them,” he says. “With knowledge comes protection.”