How To Give People The Freedom To Refuse Requests — And Why That Matters (M)

Find out how a simple script can give others the ability to refuse without feeling pressured.

Find out how a simple script can give others the ability to refuse without feeling pressured.

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A Simple Trick To Write More Persuasively (M)

This simple change makes the reader feel close to the author and better able to visualise the message’s meaning.

This simple change makes the reader feel close to the author and better able to visualise the message's meaning.

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The Simple Way To Change Minds That Everyone Should Know

Psychologists call it ‘the illusion of truth’ and politicians and advertisers know all about it.

Psychologists call it ‘the illusion of truth’ and politicians and advertisers know all about it.

Simple repetition is one of the best methods of persuasion, many studies have found.

People are more likely to believe a statement is true if they hear it twice than if they hear it once — regardless of whether it is true or not.

Psychologists call it ‘the illusion of truth‘ and politicians and advertisers know all about it.

Dr Lisa K. Fazio, the study’s first author, said:

“When we rely on our initial gut feelings to determine truth, we often use unreliable cues such as repetition.

It’s important to instead slow down and think about how we know a statement is true or false.

This is especially important on social media where news feeds have been designed to encourage quick reads and quick responses.”

Now a study looks at the age at which this illusion emerges.

The study included both 5- and 10-year olds, along with some adults, who all listened to both true and false statements, some of which were repeated.

Here are some of the statements given only to children:

  • “Tomatoes grow above ground” (True)
  • “Potatoes grow above ground” (False)

Dr Fazio explained:

“We were specifically interested in whether young children would use repetition as a cue for truth.

Five-year-olds are old enough to understand the concept of truth, but they are not very good at reflecting on their own thinking.

Ten-year-olds are much more skilled than 5-year-olds at reflecting on their thinking, but not as good as adults.

As a result, if learning to use repetition as a cue for truth requires this reflection, you would not expect to see an illusory-truth effect in 5-year-olds or maybe even the 10-year-olds.”

The results showed that both age-groups of children, along with adults, displayed the illusory truth effect.

In other words, children and adults think statements are more true if they are repeated.

Prior knowledge did not protect any age-groups from the illusory truth effect.

Dr Fazio said:

“Our results suggest that children learn the connection between repetition and truth at a young age.

In general, statements that you hear multiple times are more likely to be true than something you are hearing for the first time.

Even by the age of 5, children are using that knowledge to use repetition as a cue when making truth judgments.

This is useful most of the time, but it can cause problems when the repeated statements are false.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Fazio et al., 2020).

The Unexpected Way To Change People’s Minds

The natural reaction when arguing with someone is to contradict them — try this more radical approach.

The natural reaction when arguing with someone is to contradict them — try this more radical approach.

Extreme agreeing could be the answer to getting people to change their minds, psychological research suggests.

The natural reaction when arguing with someone is to contradict them.

However, showing people a very extreme version of their own deeply held opinions can make them think again.

It seems that the absurdity of extreme agreeing helps to foster a rethink.

I agree with you

The study recruited 150 Israelis who were shown a video about the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The video did not argue, though, that continuing the conflict was against deeply held values.

Instead, the video suggested that because the Israelis are a deeply moral people, the conflict should continue because it is totally consistent with their morals.

The group that were shown this video were compared with another group shown a neutral video.

Professor Eran Halperin, of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, who led the study, said:

“…the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society.

You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.

For an outsider, it can sound like a joke, but for them, you are playing with their most fundamental belief.”

The study’s results showed that Israelis slowly changed their mind about the conflict as they were repeatedly exposed to the video.

They showed a 30 percent greater willingness to rethink than those shown the neutral video.

Professor Halperin concluded:

“We truly believe that in most intractable conflicts, the real problems are not the real issues.

[In fact it is] psychological barriers that prevent societies from identifying opportunities for peace.”

Being underhand, the method is fraught with dangers, though.

Here are a couple:

  • That the experiment backfires and people really believe the paradoxical messages they are receiving.
  • People will not repeatedly expose themselves to information that is so antithetical to their strongly held beliefs.

On the other hand, many acts of everyday persuasion are not on subjects as inflammatory as the Israeli-Palestinian question.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Harmeiri et al., 2014).

The 3 Most Persuasive Ways Of Talking

All three techniques make the speaker seem more confident, without undermining their sincerity.

All three techniques make the speaker seem more confident, without undermining their sincerity.

Speaking louder is linked to more persuasive communication, research finds.

Varying the volume and pausing also help to persuade the listener.

The study shows that tone of voice, beyond what is actually said, is important in influencing other people.

All three techniques — speaking louder, varying voice pitch and pausing — make the speaker seem more confident, without undermining their sincerity.

The conclusions come from four experiments in which people made hypothetical pitches.

The results showed that the most persuasive speakers were those that appeared to have genuine opinions and were most confident.

The study’s authors write:

“…speakers’ confident vocal demeanor persuades others by serving as a signal that they more strongly endorse the stance they take in their message.”

Critically, it did not matter that people could tell there was an influence attempt in progress.

It is normal for people to react against what is being said to them.

For example, they start to mentally disagree with points being made.

However, they do not appear to react against paralinguistic persuasion attempts.

Paralinguistic refers to voice pitch, volume and any other aspects of language apart from the words used.

The study’s authors explain:

“Similar to prior work demonstrating that people cooperate with those they perceive to be helpful, our findings suggest that having one’s persuasive intentions detected does not necessarily undermine the pitch.

What is more critical is that persuasion attempts are executed in a manner that appears to reflect a sincere desire to help.

Paralinguistic attempts are one way to accomplish this goal.”

Dr Alex Van Zant, the study’s first author, said:

“When you’re really trying to persuade someone, it’s important that they can hear your voice.”

→ Discover more: Persuasion Techniques: The Psychology of Influence

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Van Zant & Berger, 2019).

How To Make People Change Their Own Minds

Self-persuasion: let people talk themselves around to your point of view.

Self-persuasion: let people talk themselves around to your point of view.

Changing people’s minds is hard.

We resist having our attitudes adjusted by others, especially when the message isn’t directly relevant to us and we aren’t paying that much attention.

But what if you could get people to change their own minds?

People will listen to themselves and will automatically generate arguments that have personal relevance for them.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Actually people are being encouraged to persuade themselves all the time.

Here are a few examples:

  1. When a parent wants to change a child’s behaviour they might ask them why it is wrong, rather than just telling them it is wrong.
  2. When we’re encouraged to take part in role-playing exercises, we might espouse attitudes and values we don’t believe in.
  3. When we want to change our behaviour, say, to healthier eating, we might try to convince ourselves we don’t like the forbidden foods as much as we do.

So, there are all kinds of situations in which we are arguing with ourselves, whether it’s because we’ve initiated it ourselves, or because we’ve been subtly encouraged to do so by someone else.


But does it work? Does self-persuasion make any real difference?

Janis and King (1954) tested this by having some participants give a talk while two others listened.

Then they swapped around and one of the passive listeners gave a talk to the other two on a different topic.

What emerged was that, on average, people were more convinced by the talk when they gave it themselves than when they merely heard it passively.

This suggests that we really are persuaded more strongly when we make the argument ourselves, even if it isn’t in line with our own viewpoint.

The same trick works with attitudes to smoking.

People are more put off smoking when they deliver an anti-smoking message than when they passively receive it (research described in Brinol et al., 2012).

We see the same effect for self-confidence.

When people are told to present themselves in a self-confident way to others, they actually feel more self-confident themselves.

The explanation seems to be that we are very good at convincing ourselves because we know just what sorts of arguments will sway us.

So if you want someone to persuade themselves, you can try asking them to put aside their own attitude for a moment and try getting them to generate their own arguments for the point you want to make.

Whatever the cover story, as long as the person is encouraged to generate their own arguments, it has a chance of changing their mind.


Stories Work Brilliantly To Change People’s Minds — But There’s A Catch

The best persuasion technique depends on whether the facts are weak or strong.

The best persuasion technique depends on whether the facts are weak or strong.

Stories are the best way to be persuasive when the facts are weak, a study finds.

This is because stories are distracting and disrupt people’s ability to evaluate facts.

However, when the facts are strong, using stories actually decreases their persuasiveness.

With strong facts, it is better to let them stand on their own, rather than try to weave them into a story.

Although stories are often thought to be persuasive whatever the circumstances, this study shows it depends on the strength of the facts.

Ms Rebecca Krause, the study’s first author, said:

“Stories persuade, at least in part, by disrupting the ability to evaluate facts, rather than just biasing a person to think positively.”

For the study, 397 people were asked to read about a fictitious new brand of phone.

Half read a story about the phone that had the facts within it.

The other half just read the facts.

Sometimes the facts were strong, e.g. “The phone can withstand a fall of up to 30 feet.”

At other times the facts were weak, e.g. “The phone can withstand a fall of up to 3 feet.”

The results showed that when the phone, like the facts, was strong, it was most persuasive when presented on its own.

But when the phone was weak, like the facts, it was best hidden in a story.

Ms Krause said:

“Knowing that stories may provide the most persuasive benefit to those with the least compelling arguments could be important given concerns about ‘fake news.’

But this does not mean a story is indicative of weak facts.

Rather, when you feel especially compelled by a great story you might want to give more thought and consideration to the facts to determine how good they are.”

⇒ Read more from PsyBlog on the psychology of persuasion.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Krause & Rucker, 2019).

The Best Way To Change People’s Minds

How to use the way you talk to persuade others.

How to use the way you talk to persuade others.

Talking moderately fast, pausing frequently and not being too animated are the keys to persuasive speech, researchers find.

The study found that speaking at about 3.5 words per second was the most persuasive speech rate.

Really fast talkers make people feel there is some sort of trick, while talking slowly gives a dull impression.

At the same time, talking too fluently puts people off, the research also found.

Pausing naturally once every 10 seconds or so is best.

More pauses than that and the person sound disfluent, and so less persuasive.

The conclusions come from a study of 1,380 introductory calls made by 100 telephone interviewers.

They were trying to convince people to take part in a survey.

Dr Jose Benki, a study co-author, explained the results:

“Interviewers who spoke moderately fast, at a rate of about 3.5 words per second, were much more successful at getting people to agree than either interviewers who talked very fast or very slowly.”

Varying the pitch had little effect on persuasion, Dr Benki said:

“We assumed that interviewers who sounded animated and lively, with a lot of variation in the pitch of their voices, would be more successful.

But in fact we found only a marginal effect of variation in pitch by interviewers on success rates.

It could be that variation in pitch could be helpful for some interviewers but for others, too much pitch variation sounds artificial, like people are trying too hard.

So it backfires and puts people off.”

Men with deep voices tended to be more persuasive, but voice pitch did not affect how well female interviewers did.

The findings about pauses were fascinating.

Dr Benki explained that pausing too much was better than not pausing at all:

“When people are speaking, they naturally pause about 4 or 5 times a minute.

These pauses might be silent, or filled, but that rate seems to sound the most natural in this context.

If interviewers made no pauses at all, they had the lowest success rates getting people to agree to do the survey.

We think that’s because they sound too scripted.

People who pause too much are seen as disfluent.

But it was interesting that even the most disfluent interviewers had higher success rates than those who were perfectly fluent.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Conrad et al., 2012).

Sleeper Effect In Psychology: Why Persuasion Takes Time

Sleeper effect in psychology is that attitudes can change months after a persuasive message is delivered.

Sleeper effect in psychology is that attitudes can change months after a persuasive message is delivered.

The sleeper effect in psychology is the finding that persuasive messages increase in power over time.

In other words, the sleeper effect means that when you try to change someone’s mind, it can take a while to work.

The sleeper effect was first documented in U.S. soldiers during the Second World War.

History of the sleeper effect

In the 1940s during WWII, the US Department of War wanted to know if their propaganda films were really working.

So they carried out a series of experimental studies into how they affected soldier’s attitudes.

The complacent assumption was that the films should easily influence the average GI.

Producers and psychologists alike expected to see a huge shift in attitudes towards the war after they were viewed.

What they found was nothing of the sort and the results came as a bitter blow to propagandists everywhere.

While the films were informative and did strengthen some existing attitudes, experiments showed they were extremely unlikely to make soldiers more optimistic about the war in general (Hovland et al., 1949).

In retrospect this should have come as little surprise since the soldiers knew these were propaganda films designed to change their attitudes, so their defences were up.

What they did discover, though, was that some of the films did have an effect on soldiers after months had passed.

While attitudes didn’t change immediately, subtle shifts were picked up nine weeks later.

US soldiers who watched one film about The Battle of Britain showed little extra sympathy towards the British five days later, but, after nine weeks, they had softened.

Yale University’s Carl Hovland and colleagues called this the ‘sleeper effect’.


Since then the sleeper effect has had a rockier history than the average soap opera character.

The sleeper effect has gone up and down in the esteem of psychologists over the years as some experiments have confirmed the effect and others have found nothing.

Quite naturally many people wondered whether the sleeper effect really exists, especially as it goes against common sense.

Changes in attitudes should really be strongest just after a message is delivered.

Over time the persuasive effect should weaken as people’s attitudes return to how they were before—and this is what many other studies have shown.

Nevertheless, when researchers have weighed up all these studies, it seems likely the sleeper effect really does exist (Kumkale & Albarracin, 2004).

It’s just it only appears under two circumstances:

  1. Big initial impact: the sleeper effect only emerges if the persuasive message has a major initial impact. If it isn’t powerful enough, it won’t hunker down in our minds, biding its time before it boomerangs back.
  2. Message discounting: it should be obvious that the source of the message can’t be trusted so that we discredit it; like when the soldiers were watching the propaganda film.

What seems to be going on is this: people are convinced by the arguments until they see that the source of the message can’t be trusted.

But, people don’t tend to process the discounting cue very thoroughly.

So, over time, people forget they discounted the information and the content of the persuasive message, which was processed thoroughly, does its devilish work.

Avoid the sleeper effect

The sleeper effect isn’t the great news for advertisers (and advertising agencies) you might imagine.

The sleeper effect is strongest when the message is discounted afterwards.

When we watch adverts, we usually know beforehand that they can’t be trusted, so our minds are already on alert for the distinctive smell of half-truths.

There are all kinds of everyday situations where the sleeper effect occurs.

For example, when the travel supplement recommends a great resort, then we read at the bottom that the trip’s cost was covered by the resort.

Or, there’s an article telling us about the health benefits of milk and then we read at the bottom that the author is the head of the Milk Marketing Board.

Any time we receive a persuasive message before we find out who the source is, the sleeper effect can come into play.

Naturally, then, canny information consumers will want to know the source of a message before they read it.


How To Negotiate Salary: 12 Science-Based Tips

Negotiate salary effectively with these 12 science-backed tips straight from real-world psychological research.

Negotiate salary effectively with these 12 science-backed tips straight from real-world psychological research.

Much of the advice you read about how to negotiate salary is rubbish.

It’s not just that salaries are a touchy subject and so they’re difficult to investigate accurately, it’s also that the same old clichés get repeated over-and-over again by lazy writers.

But a few recent psychology studies do provide a scientific insight into how to negotiate salary.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Open salary negotiations

If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

It’s surprising how many people hardly negotiate salary at interview and, during employment, fail to negotiate a pay rise.

Initial very low offers may force us to negotiate salary but those who are always ready to negotiate, whatever the situation, are likely to achieve higher salaries.

One early study of graduating MBA students found that those who were prepared to negotiate salary achieved better starting salaries (Gerhart & Rynes, 1991).

It’s pretty obvious advice but it’s amazing how many people fall at the very first hurdle.

2. You should set the anchor

Oddly, articles on this subject often recommend waiting for the other side to open the bidding in salary negotiation.

This may work in auctions but according to research on how to negotiate salary, this is wrong.

The first number that gets mentioned is important because it acts as an anchor against which other numbers are judged (see: anchoring bias).

If you allow the other side to set the anchor then they will set it low and grab control and negotiate salary lower.

Studies find that, whether consciously or otherwise, this first offer sets the tone for the whole negotiation.

3. Negotiate salary: start high

When you mention a number, make sure it’s high—that is, high in the context of the industry you work in, obviously it shouldn’t be ridiculous.

One study of simulated salary negotiations has found that when the anchor figure is set high, the final negotiated amount is likely to be higher (Thorsteinson, 2011).

4. Make a joke

One potential problem with making high opening offers is that employers can take it the wrong way.

Tension can be diffused, though, by making a joke about, for example, ‘unrealistic salary expectations’.

There is evidence in the negotiation research that humour—when used appropriately—can be an effective tactic to negotiate salary.

Remember that even when framed with humour, a high opening number can still influence the ultimate decision (Thorsteinson, 2011).

5. Negotiate salary: compete

Whether you like it or not, negotiating your salary is a game, with all the usual attempts at deception and sportsmanship.

So, once the main body of the negotiations are under way, try to dominate them as you would any competitive game.

Try to persuade and assert and, if necessary, misrepresent and threaten.

Research suggests that competition is a successful negotiation strategy (Marks & Harold, 2011).

6. Collaborate to negotiate salary

When negotiating your salary, you don’t have to compete all the time, collaboration can also work.

Find out what is in the other side’s interests.

This can be a useful strategy but…

7. Win-win feels better, but nets less

In the research by Marks and Harold (2011), people who tried to find win-win solutions to negotiate salary felt better about the negotiation, but crucially made less money.

People who used win-lose approaches to negotiate salary felt worse but made more money.

This flies in the face of standard advice about looking for win-win scenarios (the problem is they can make you look weak).

So the question is: do you want to feel good or earn more?

8. Avoid compromise and accommodation

Common advice on how to negotiate salary is to be reasonable and flexible.

But what’s emerging clearly from this research is that compromise and accommodation tend not to work.

These are both strategies which place too much weight on what is best for your employer (i.e. to pay you less).

If you compromise and accommodate to negotiate salary the result will be simple: you’ll get less money.

9. Forget gender stereotypes

If you’re a woman and think this all sounds a bit masculine, then don’t.

The research suggests there’s little difference between the way men and women negotiate salary (although women do still sometimes end up with less).

In fact, women are sometimes more competitive than men in negotiations (Walters et al., 1998).

10. Be bold to negotiate salary better

A personality trait that’s central to negotiation is risk aversion: those who avoid taking risks are worse negotiators.

Of course, some of us are just inherently more risk averse than others.

The problem is that high risk aversion is associated with less use of competition as a negotiation strategy, and being competitive works.

The fact is that to negotiate salary to get the best deal you have to embrace the risk because if you’re afraid to risk, you’ll get less.

11. Self-control helps negotiate salary higher

People with stronger self-control have higher salaries, research finds.

It is one of the best psychological predictors of how much someone will earn.

The conclusions come from a study of over 2,500 people who completed tests of ‘delay discounting’.

Delay discounting is the ability to give up a small reward now to get a bigger one later.

It’s like investing money instead of spending it right away — you get more later if you can resist buying a new car now.

To better negotiate salary, then, work on your self-control.

12. Believe that you’re worth it

A common stumbling block when trying to negotiate salary is thinking you’re not worth it.

So it’s vital to convince yourself that you are worth it.

Try to find out what other people are getting paid for doing the same job.

If it’s more, then you are worth more.

If it’s not more, then think of why you specifically should earn more.

With that in mind you can go in to negotiate salary with an anchor in mind, a joke to ease the tension and the willingness to take a risk to make a substantial gain.


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