Persuasion Psychology:

Persuasion As Mental Shortcuts

By Sarah Jamieson

Persuasion Psychology: Persuasion as Mental Shortcuts. Because persuasion principles are so deeply ingrained as “good” in our psychology, we all use them as mental shortcuts - in an automated, unconscious way.

They allow us to make decisions faster with less time-consuming thinking, or “cognitive load” as some scientists call it. For example, McDonald’s uses the line “billions and billions served.” This is the principle of social influence – we decide what the right behavior is in a situation by looking at what other people are doing.

If McDonald’s has served billions and billions of customers, we will probably like eating there too – simple.

There’s nothing wrong with making decisions this way. Given the time pressures and information overload of modern life, these shortcuts are necessary to conserve valuable time and attention for more important tasks.

Marketers know that the automatic way we respond to these shortcuts makes persuasion principles especially powerful when we want other people to say “yes.”

For example, in the principle of reciprocation we feel obligated to repay a gift or favor – with a favor of our own. If someone invites you to his party, you’re going to invite him to one of yours. If someone sends you a birthday card, you’ll send her one on her birthday.

But did you know that if your waiter gives you a candy with your bill, you’re statistically very likely to give him a bigger tip?

Huh – say again?

It’s the same principle of reciprocation at work!

Of course, you would never consciously think, “the waiter has given me a gift, so I should reciprocate with one of my own” – but studies have shown beyond a doubt that the waiter’s “gift” of a candy does in fact influence our behavior!

In fact, it’s precisely because the principles of influence operate at an unconscious level that they are so powerful. Let’s take a closer look at Cialdini’s six persuasion principles.

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