By: Â Steve Martin, CMCT
In 1979, noted psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Schauss conducted a series of studies designed to measure the mental and physical strength of one hundred and fifty young men. Arriving at the laboratory, each man was invited into a small room where one of two cardboard signs was held up in front of them. After looking directly at the card for one minute they were invited to take part in a series of physical strength tests. Sometimes they were asked to raise their arms directly in front of their bodies while downward pressure was applied. On other occasions, a dynamometer test was used to give a more accurate measurement. Regardless of the test employed, it quickly became apparent that the cardboard signs each man was asked to gaze at first had a remarkable influence over their subsequent physical performance. There were no words on these cardboard signs. Nor were there images on them either. They differed only in color.
One was blue, the other pink.
Itâs easy to dismiss the results of Schaussâ experiments as fluke. And given the weakening effect the pink card had on the menâs physical strength itâs even easier to label them a crude demonstration of a widely held stereotype. But to do so would be a mistake. In the thirty or so years since these experiments were conducted, behavioral scientists have developed increasingly sophisticated ways of studying how our environment shapes decisions and behaviors. Their results leave little room for doubt. While weâd like to think that our decisions are always the result of effortful cognition, the reality is somewhat different. Much of our behavior is driven by unconscious cues present in our environment. One of these cues is color, influencing a wide array of decisions and behaviors from how competitive or creative we are, to who we find attractive on dating sites and even if weâll say âYesâ to the offer of a second helping at next weekendâs dinner party.
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Recognizing the Chicago Bulls managing partnerâs reputation as a ruthless negotiator, in 1996 Michael Jordanâs agent made a decision to âtake the Bulls by the hornsâ and table an audacious $52 million salary request. The parties settled at $33.14 million, a record that remains the single highest annual salary in NBA history. For Jordan and his agent, making the opening offer was a strategy that clearly paid dividends.
By way of contrast when the sportswear manufacturer Lacoste adopted a similar strategy in their negotiations with tennis star Andy Roddick the result was disastrous. They tabled an opening offer which included a clause reducing the value of the contract by 75 per cent if Roddick were to fall below 15th in the world rankings. Unbeknownst to Lacoste, Roddick had already made the decision to retire if he fell in the world standings and so Roddickâs agent âreluctantly agreedâ to Lacosteâs terms in return for a larger annual guaranteed sum. In this example submitting the first offer did nothing to help the Lacoste bottom line.
In the introduction of Influence, Robert Cialdini recounts the story of a friend who, in an attempt to sell off a consignment of slow moving turquoise jewelry, left a hand-written note for one of her sales staff to mark down the stock at âx Â˝â price before leaving for an out-of-town trip. On her return, she wasn’t surprised to learn that the stock had sold out, BUT she was surprised that due to her bad penmanship, the saleswoman mistakenly reading the âx Â˝â on her note as âx 2â, and everything had sold for twice the original price. The story illustrates nicely how, in the absence of other information, the price of an item can often serve as an effective decision triggerâin this case if something is expensive then it must be good.
Such an effect doesn’t just apply to high-end keepsakes like jewelry. It can also sway our evaluations of consumables too.Â For example, studies have shown that peopleâs evaluations of wine are significantly higher if theyâre told it is expensive before tasting. Similarly, learning the quality brand name of a food before sampling often leads to improved perceptions of taste and satisfaction.Â
In each case the information, be it about the price or the brand, is presented prior to sampling the product at hand. But what happens if that same information is presented after, rather than immediately before, sampling? And what are the implications for your business when it comes to presenting information to your clients and customers?Â
Â By Steve Martin
For nearly seventy years scientists who study the persuasion process have consistently revealed a simple, yet remarkable truth; when it comes to effectively influencing others, small changes can make a big difference.
Examples abound, from the subtle adjustments made to a meeting room environment that lead to improved business outcomes to the addition of an extra option that spawns disproportionate responses to an offer. In the case of adding an extra option, it is interesting to note new research that suggests, in certain contexts, the additional option to an offer doesnât even have to be substantive.
Simply offering people the option to âdo nothingâ can have a surprising influence on how committed they subsequently become to that choice over time.
by Steve Martin
Recent research has found that around 7 in 10 Americans will consult the online reviews of other consumers before making a purchase. I have to admit to being surprised by this.Â I would have guessed it would have been more.Â
Numbers aside though, when making a decision, word-of-mouth communications are valuable for one very important reason; people presume them to be less biased than the carefully crafted communications created by marketers who clearly have a vested interest in influencing our decisions.
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âThis program will help executives make better decisions and use their influence wiselyâŚ Robert Cialdini has had a greater impact on my thinking on this topic than any other scientistâŚ The best popular book that demonstrates six or eight ways in which the quirks of your own mind will frequently prove dysfunctional to your best interests is Cialdiniâs Influence.â— CHARLES T. MUNGER, Vice Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.