Pre-suasion

Read an interesting article by Lucy Kellaway in FT on Professor Robert Cialdini’s forthcoming book, pre-suasion. Some of the things he describes defy imagination but they are real:

Another brilliant piece of pre-suasion was in a recent letter in which he addressed the ticklish matter of succession. Mr Buffett introduced the subject by saying: “I will tell you what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.” By gratuitously dragging his family into it, he ensures that every reader would take what followed as gospel.

Mr Cialdini’s favourite study was conducted on 18-month old infants who were variously shown images of a single person and pairs of people. After looking at the pictures, the infants were asked to pick up things that had been dropped on the floor. The babies who had been shown pictures of a single person were three times less likely to cooperate than those who had been shown pictures of groups. “I’m glad I was sitting down when I read that,” he says. “It proved that if we drew background attention to an idea it is more important to us.”

It is an open secret that he is helping the campaign of Ms. Clinton. The fact that the campaign team has hired him is proof itself that these things exist and work. Scott Adams of Dilbert cartoons fame calls him the ‘Godzilla’ and credits him with the idea of ‘dark’ being used as an epithet associated with Donald Trump. Scott Adams’ latest blog post on ‘Why Trump does not scare me?’. Those who want to follow the U.S. Presidential campaign using the frame of psychology and persuasion can do worse than follow his blog.

The funny thing about Lucy Kellaway’s article is the following:

People read these stuff, nod their heads and later, in a different setting, if we suggest that such tactics are adopted, their reactions are a combination of the following:

(1) They are dismissive
(2) They think they are exempt from it (how much more stupid can one get?)
(3) They think these are conspiracy theories
(4) They think that people do not deploy them.

This strange combination of ego and naivety is astounding!

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