Monthly Archives: October 2009

Increase Tips with Persuasion II

In the prior post, “Increase Tips with Persuasion,” I outlined a Cue-based approach for servers to increase their tips.  That post describes simple action examples of the CLARCCS Cues.  The nice feature is that the information goes beyond the common and widely used practices that focus upon various Liking and Authority (Expertise) moves many servers already know and use.  I’ll extend my thinking about persuasion and tips in this post by thinking not about a specific persuasion play, but the strategy and planning for persuasion plays.

A Persuasion Strategy is not a particular Cue or play, but rather a way to organize and plan how you do plays.  Think about three:  Teams, Scripts, and Ding Dongs.

1.  Consider a team approach to all of this.  Coordinate tactics with other servers in your immediate area and help each other.  Remember the Comparison play?  Well, when one server sees a couple having a great experience, that server tells all the other servers that there’s a great Comparison Model in the room.  Then in a coordinated fashion that server goes over to the Great Experience couple and makes a noisy observation about “Gee, you are having a great time!” or “Gee, looks like this is going great!”  Other servers in the area now have an obvious positive model and they can make the Comparison play.

A team approach obviously requires coordination and cooperation from several different people.  You also have management in on this.  Team Persuasion does not require a financial investment, but does require time for people to sit down with each other and think about this.  Better organizations do this as a matter of course.  Before servers hit the floor, everyone gets together for a few minutes and goes over the latest dishes, prices, policy changes, etc.  We’re just giving you a new agenda item for these planning meetings.

I’d recommend that everyone read and discuss the CLARRCS Cues, then talk about specific examples they’ve seen of the Cues happening in the bar or restaurant.  Once everyone understands the Cue and how it works, then start developing Team plans.  It could start with the “Greet and Seat” function where folks doing this set up persuasion plays with key phrases or observations of customer characteristics.  This gets shared with the service function that takes orders, serves, and bills.  And, it concludes with the “Bye, Y’All” function.  Think about it.  The opportunities are boundless.

A team approach obviously requires coordination and cooperation from several different people.  You also have management in on this.  Team Persuasion does not require a financial investment, but does require time for people to sit down with each other and think about this.  Better organizations do this as a matter of course.  Before servers hit the floor, everyone gets together for a few minutes and goes over the latest dishes, prices, policy changes, etc.  We’re just giving you a new agenda item for these planning meetings.

Here’s an example torn from the pages of a practical persuasion project done in 1995.  A young woman taking my persuasion course saw the value of using CLARRCS Cues in her part time job.  She’d organized the West Virginia Bikini Team, composed of four fit, shapely, and attractive women who worked the High Street party bars in Morgantown.

Susan’s team contracted with various beer distributors and worked bars with her team promoting new products.  As part of a class assignment, she added a health and safety behavior to the team’s for-profit function.  Her team received training in alcohol management and during their regular work, they used persuasion Cues to get drunk customers to take a taxi home rather than try and drive.  Here’s a pamphlet they handed out as customers arrived on the scene and before they’d started drinking.

WV Bikini Team 1995WV Bikini Team 1995

And some people wonder why WVU is always one of the top party schools in those notorious surveys.  We work at it.

If you’ve got good eyes and a high resolution screen you can make out the hook line Susan and her team used to organize things:

Party to Survive!  Don’t Drink and Drive!

Susan wrote a paper on this and described the various Cues the team employed, plus all the coordination the team used to keep each other informed about each other’s knowledge and action.  If one woman spotted a customer who appeared to be past the legal limit, she might hand the customer off to another team member who would use one Cue.  If that didn’t work, another team member would glide by a bit later.  She detailed how they assessed the persuasion campaign and provided anecdotal evidence.  She also included a lot of photographs and posters of the Team in action and frankly, my mind’s a haze after that, and I don’t recall the exact statistics, but I was impressed!

The crucial lessons from this example are two:  1) plan it and 2) communicate while doing it.  The Bikini Team got on the same page with CLARRCS Cues, knew what they were, how they operated, and, more importantly, how the Team wanted to employ them.  Then, during the event, the Team engaged in a lot of on-task communication sharing with each other key information that helped everyone run persuasion plays.

Whether you wear a bikini or a suit when you serve, get the point.  Team work makes Cues more effective.

2.  Think about making simple Tip Scripts.  A script is a written sequence of dialog and action that describes a persuasion scene.  You make make detailed scripts with Sighs, Gasps, and Worried Looks with instructions for movements, props, and lighting effects.  You can make a simple Script with just a brief line describe each CLARRCS Cue.  The crucial thing here is that you write it down first.

Scripts make you think about your work and how you can make persuasion a routine part of it, just like your greeting, recitation of specials, and any other standardized palaver.  You can practice your Script before you execute it.  If you’ve written it down, you can erase, underline, or modify it after you’ve tried it out.

But write it down.  Begin with . . .

. . . a customer enters my station . . .

And go from there.

3.  Something I have not found in the research lit (but I’ve read ideas in popular press) is what play to make at the crucial moment:  When the customer is paying the bill.  That’s when your tip is on the line and we know that the closer you play the Cue to the desired behavior the more impact the Cue has.  And given that we’re dealing with Low WATT processors, we are talking about just a few minutes here.  You need to develop a killer Cue near the end of the meal, but just moments before the check arrives.

A smart strategy here would be to use a preplanned set of Cues during service and associate each with a Ding Dong.  The Ding Dong is, of course, classical conditioning where a previously neutral signal is able to elicit a response as in that most famous of instances, Pavlov’s dog, whom Professor Pavlov conditioned to salivate when a bell rang.  As a server you could do several of the previous Cues and each time you enact them successfully, you offer a catch phrase like, “This is good for you!” or “Happy to be here” or “That makes it right!” or some other phrase that is friendly, simple, and functionally meaningless.  Then when you provide the bill, you offer the same catch phrase.

Assuming you have delivered good service that produced a positive attitude in your customers with each Cue, that catch phrase acts as an accumulator that adds up each instance into one memory – the server’s doing a good job.  Then when you present the bill and run the Ding Dong, you should trigger that positive accumulation across all the Cues.

Let’s hit the Outro with this long post.

1.  CLARCCS Cues provides a wider base of operations for servers.  Learn the Cues.

2.  While any one Cue may be effective, your persuasion plays become more powerful when you combine them in a strategy.  Whether you use Teams, Scripts, or a Ding Dong Close, you can plan ahead to reap largers tips.

3.  Sit down and write this out.  Think about it.  Talk with another server.  Plot. Plan.  Strategize.  Remember the Rule:

Persuasion is strategic or it is not.

Persuasion, the President, and Burying the Dead

How do we understand the persuasive impact of the situation upon the key figure in this photo?

Obama Salutes the Fallen

The President is participating in the ceremony that honors war dead returning home.  Is this a facile photo op? (Everything a President says or does is always considered first through the lens of calculation.)  Did he instead willingly put himself into this painful situation?  (Even Presidents choose for themselves.)  Consider the attribution and dissonance explanations here.

Attribution first. When Mr. Obama asks himself, “Why did I attend this ceremony?” does he provide an external or an internal attribution?

Does he feel the press of externalities (everyone expects this; if I underplay it, it will play bigger; it’s duty, just part of the job description; my family expects me to do this)?  If yes, then he’s making an external attribution or assigning the causality for his action to outside forces (the “situation”).

Does he feel the press of internalities (I want to honor these citizens; I love my country; I owe everyone the symbolic meaning of my attendance)?  If yes, then he’s making an internal attribution or assigning the causality for his action to inside forces (the “person”).

Certainly there is a mix, but for something this intense, personal, and painful, one category of attribution probably dominates.  And he may have entered the situation with one attribution, but left it with another.  But, this situation must have had psychological meaning and impact for Mr. Obama and he must have made his attributional decision.

Then, let’s mix in the painful emotional consequences of this situation.  One tends to think that most people and probably the President would find this situation emotionally intense, conflicted, and difficult.  Moving around, through, and with several flag draped coffins in the presence of other uniformed, solemn, and serious men and women in the dead of night on a large, open, and windy airfield is not a joyful occasion.

Under the psychological terminology of dissonance, this is an “aversive consequence.”  It hurts.  It hurts worse than a blow or a wound.  It strikes at your fundamental beliefs – the meaning of life, the meaning of death, questions about afterlife.

Now, how do we understand this?

If Mr. Obama walked away from this event with strong external attributions, it’s likely that the event activated and strengthened his existing beliefs and values.  The ceremony triggered deep elaboration over basic beliefs, reinforcing those beliefs and connecting them to the symbols and meaning of the moment.

If Mr. Obama, however, walked away with strong internal attributions, he put himself on the dissonance path, taking personal responsibility for a painful consequence.  If so, then his beliefs will change in the direction of the meaning of the event.  He walked with warriors and marched in their ceremony.  The meaning of the moment moves Mr. Obama’s deepest beliefs in that direction.

I cannot know the President’s mind.  I can only observe action and situation and think with the concepts of persuasion.  How Mr. Obama responds to this moment only he knows and since he’s human like the rest of us, even then, he probably understands some, but not all of his reaction.  It could visibly play out in his decisions and actions in the Long War.

Persuasion is the psychology of everyday life.  We persuade others, others persuade us, and sometimes we persuade ourselves.

Persuasion certainly provides an interesting way to think about ourselves and others.

Self Affirmation Reaffirmed

In a prior post I noted the persuasive value and effect of self affirmation.  Today we can extend our knowledge of this play.  Consider first as good a description of a concept as you’re going to read.

”Self-affirmation theory begins with the premise that people are motivated to maintain the perceived worth and integrity of the self and examines how people respond to information and events that threaten a valued self-image.”

Now, stand on the log of “motivated to maintain perceived worth and integrity of the self” and let persuasion gravity pull you to the ground.  A persuasion play almost always threatens the receivers “perceived worth” and “integrity of the self.”  A play makes at least a request and sometimes a demand for change and implies the receiver has been thinking, feeling, or acting “incorrectly” and needs to change to remedy the flaw.  Any concept that helps persuasion confront the inherent threat to worth and integrity contained in a play is a Good Thing.

We know that self affirming moves act as WATTage dimmer switches that accomplishes two goals:  First, receivers go High WATT and second, they are much more amenable to hearing that request for change.  Today’s research finding extends our knowledge past this very helpful news.

David K. Sherman, Geoffrey L. Cohen, Leif D. Nelson, A. David Nussbaum, Debra P. Bunyan, and Julio Garcia conducted several studies with self affirmation that tested two important extensions to the idea.  First, they used priming (that below conscious awareness message) to produce self affirmation effects.  Second, they manipulated receiver awareness of self affirmation and found that such awareness diminshes the effectiveness of the play.

Let’s consider each point.

First, priming is always a useful way to understand how something works.  If you can prime something (have people do a word scramble or sentence completion task that activates self affirmation; present subliminal self affirmations) and get the usual effect, then you know that the process involves the preconscious or unconscious mind.  You do not not have to know that you are actually doing the thing – in this case self affirming – to get the effect of it.  Prior research had manipulated self affirmation out in the open and all the participants knew what they were doing while they were doing it.  Now we know that “what you don’t see is what you get.”  Self affirmation can operate subliminally.

Second, the results of “awareness” are one of those constant findings with many persuasion concepts.  When people see the trick, understand the manipulation, watch that man behind the curtain, the effect is reduced.  Thus, if people realize that you are trying to make them feel better about themselves, the persuasive impact will moderate.  Now, in the prior studies, participants knew that they were thinking positive thoughts about the self, but they do not realize that this was aimed at changing them.  These awareness tests from Sherman et al. precisely did aim at making sure the participants knew everything that was going on.

Now, let’s color outside the lines and go way beyond the data.

The greater the change you want from the receiver, the greater the self affirmation you should first run.  You might actually get traction on intensely strong attitudes, beliefs, values, intentions, etc. if you first provide intensely strong self affirmation.  Consider cognitions about abortion, school prayer, or gay rights.  Typically with people who hold strong beliefs on these topics, all you have to do is say a word like “abortion” or “prayer” and there’s no hope of persuasion only a long shouting match.  The results from self affirmation suggest that if you first got your target to engage in words and actions that affirm the self (talk about heroic or deeply unselfish acts you’ve done in the past; talk about how you stood up at personal risk to defend someone under attack), you might actually be able to engage relatively Objective High WATT processing and proceed to strong Arguments on the Central Route.

The art of self affirmation lies in the source’s skill at eliciting the affirmation from the receiver.  These research studies provide great examples of manipulation, but occur in a lab where you can easily ask people to do these things or have them do things with the aid of computers loaded with the appropriate software.  “Here, complete this values scale.”  Or “Here, write an essay about an important value.”  You’ve got to know how to ask the right questions of your receivers to pull from them a natural and unsuspecting statement of affirmation.  You have to build a comfortable relationship as quickly as you can so that you can naturally ask your receiver to discuss key values they hold.

Consider the Rules for doing self affirmation as a WATTage dimmer switch.

All persuasion is local.  You need to understand the particular context with this receiver right now.  Use that local knowledge to setup and execute the play.

Persuasion is strategic or it is not.  The self affirmation play is an indirect move, a setup that proceeds the actually tool that will create the change.  Instead of just launching into the Arguments, you have to first maneuver the receiver into a state of mind that permits discussion about key values and beliefs.  Only after that setup can you move to the direct and obvious presentation of Arguments.

Let’s get to the Outro.

1.  Self affirmation can operate as a skillful WATTage dimmer switch that reduces defensive responding.

2.  It can operate through priming or subliminal means.

3.  If receivers see the “trick” then it will not work.

4.  This is a great series of studies by Sherman et al. and if you’re interested in doing excellent persuasion research I highly recommend the paper to you.

Perils of Risk Communication III

I warned you about it.

“WASHINGTON — The moment a novel strain of swine flu emerged in Mexico last spring, President Obama instructed his top advisers that his administration would not be caught flat-footed in the event of a deadly pandemic. Now, despite months of planning and preparation, a vaccine shortage is threatening to undermine public confidence in government, creating a very public test of Mr. Obama’s competence.”

As you probably know, the Obama administration publicly announced several weeks ago that 120 million doses of the vaccine would be easily and widely available making the vaccine convenient.  The Administration then engaged in a deliberate and comprehensive persuasion campaign to get people in favor of getting the vaccines.  The problem arises because about 20 million doses are now available when the Administration confidently declared 120 million would be.  That’s an effect size difference that requires no statistician to compute.

The article further details the extensive White House planning for this vaccine campaign seeing it as an opportunity to demonstrate how Obama could run things better than that much derided, despised, and discredited former occupant.  Obama made the topic a regular part of his security briefings, convened panels of experts to advise him, made serious study of past epidemics and vaccines, and in general demonstrated an excellent grad school approach to the problem.

Yet through it all, and as I’ve noted, the Obama campaign managed to inflame and scare large segments of the population while at the same time over promising deliverables.  Add to the mix the confident, professional, and tone deaf risk communication skills of Secretary Sebelius and you’ve got a problem.  The Times notes,

“But the administration, and in particular Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have come in for strong criticism from those who say they created a false sense of expectations with overly optimistic predictions about the availability of the vaccine.”

There are at least two major issues in this case.  First, consider the over optimistic control beliefs by Obama and his Administration.  Second, reconsider the poor risk communication performance by key sources, especially Sebelius.

Smart people believe they can study problems and develop smart solutions that will work.  That’s what they learn in grad school whether as lawyers, engineers, physicians, or scientists.  Obama seems particularly well trained in that regard.  Unfortunately, the functioning of 300 million citizens in America is not as well understood as they teach you in grad school.  Further, a detailed, comprehensive, and highly predictable description of epidemics and vaccines also eludes us.  Yet, if you’re trained in the grad school model, there is no limit to your knowledge and research.

Except when you hit the wall like Obama just did.

(I hope he’s coming to realize the same limits with Afghanistan planning.  There is no smart, correct solution.  You just bang at the problem as well as you can and try to survive the beating you’re going to get while doing it.  Perhaps he’ll learn he needs to rally support for the effort and not to promise surefire goals and aims statements.)

And, the second concern with less than stellar risk communication:  Obama is held to be Persuasion Central, another Great Communicator, and now this communication mishap.  Sebelius is a politician and a governor.  She is not a risk communicator.  Mr. Obama is a politician and a Senator now President.  He, too, is not a risk communicator.  This requires a special skill set and Obama needs to learn that soon.

Or else everyone will find this funny and accurate.

Obama Joker Vaccine

Remember the Rules!

More is the enemy of less.

Power corrupts persuasion.

All bad persuasion is sincere.

If you can’t succeed, don’t try.

It’s about the other guy, stupid.

All people always resist significant change.

Persuaders can either be famous or effective, but not both.

Obama and the Long March to the Long War

Top 10 ListThe New York Times is reporting that Mr. Obama will accept the primary focus of the McChrystal report and send more troops to Afghanistan.  Of course, this is just a news report and not from the horse’s mouth, not that Mr. Obama is a horse, but, just a metaphor, folks.  I find this most interesting from the NYT:

“WASHINGTON — President Obama’s advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability.”

While I’ve predicted that Mr. Obama will follow essentially the same strategy from Mr. Bush (the facts on the ground, folks), and that he will employ a variety of persuasion theories and concepts to move his base, I never figured that Dave Letterman was part of it.

The Top 10 Population Centers?

It’s possible that a Top 10 message structure might actually produce persuasion effects as either a dimmer switch for WATTage or as a simple Cue.  If Top 10 is a dimmer switch then Argument quality matters.  I’m not sure if the ten largest communities in Afghanistan need more American troops.  My understanding is that the conflict is more rural than urban, so the 10 largest population centers do not contain the strong Arguments.  Thus, it appears that this approach, while consistent with the McChrystal report, is being used as a persuasion Cue.  Hey, if it hits the Top 10 it must be good.

Look to see how anti-war and the political left respond to this.

Increase Tips with Persuasion Cues

Tip under CupI’ve read through the research literature on factors that affect tipping for service workers, particularly in the food and beverage industry.  It confirms one simple and obvious conclusion:  Persuasion skill affects tips.  What we know generally about persuasion can be applied specifically to tipping.  Thus, there is no New New Thing, no Special Sauce, no Magic Words that only apply to tipping.  Or stated as my Rule:  There are no Laws (of Tipping) and if there were, why would I tell you?

If you want to pursue the literature, start with Professor Michael Lynn at Cornell.  If you have access to PsycNet, you can easily search on his name and a key word like, “tipping.”  What you’ll find are several well done studies, many in actual work settings at bars and restaurants where service personnel agree to participate in the study, receive specific training on something thought to be useful, then the waitress or bartender follows a specific script for using the action, and everyone reports their tips to the researchers.  The research definitely qualifies as science.

The good news here is that the information you read in this blog or my Persuasion Guide or other good science based work (like Robert Cialdini’s book, “Influence”) can be directly applied to your work situation.  The bad news is that you’ll have to figure out exactly how to make that information work in your specific case.  (Remember the Rule:  All Persuasion Is Local – it depends upon the immediate situation you face right then and there.)

To help you on your way, I’d like to develop CLARCCS Cues in specific ways that could apply in a variety of food and beverage service situations.  I’ll detail out some dialog and moves to illustrate how to make the Cue work.  You’ll need to add details for your situation.  Let’s begin with a quick overview of persuasion Cues and how they work.

Realize that Cues operate as a persuasion play with Low WATT processors moving on the Peripheral Route.  Most often customers are Low WATT because they are distracted on so many other things going on besides your service.  Many are there at your place because they do not want to think hard about things and just want to have a good experience.  Most of the time in your interaction with customers(not if they are alone – that’s another case) you see clear signs of the Low WATT distraction.  People repeat themselves, ask about something that you’ve already said, they contradict themselves and each other.  That’s what happens when you overload the cognitive capacity of folks who are also trying to have a good time.

When people are Low WATT, they are much sensitive to Cues, persuasion plays that do not require deep thought, but rather lead to quick choices.  Cues are persuasion plays that operate through our social training, culture, experience, and expectation.  Whenever you are with people, these Cues can work.

Most of the research on Cues falls into one of six types which I call CLARCCS.  They come from the aforementioned Cialdini work and are:

Comparison – If other people are doing it, you should, too.

Liking – If you like the source, do what they suggest.

Authority – If the source is an expert, do what they advise.

Reciprocity – If the source does something for you, you must do something nicer in return.

Commitment/Consistency – If you take a stand, you must stay consistent with it.

Scarcity – If it is rare, it is good.

Let’s take each in order with examples and fine points.

1.  Comparison – If others are doing it, you should, too.

Observe your customers then match them with other similar customers nearby.  If it is an attached couple (married or dating), look around for other attached couples in view.  If it is a family with small children, look around for others.  When you see something good happening with that other table, you get the attention of your customer, indicate that other table with a wave or a nod and say something like “Must be a good night for couples!” or “Families having fun at dinner!”

The goal is to get your customer to observe other, similar people who are having a good experience, then make a positive comparison.  You don’t have to make this a case of formal logic as in,

Premise:     This other customer is having a good dining experience.
Premise:     You are like that other customer.
Conclusion:  Therefore, you must be having a good dining experience.

Just point out the other similar person, note the positive quality, and move on.

Another way:  You can hear the conversation at your customer’s table and when they start talking about other establishments, tune in.  If you hear them remark on a positive feature from a prior experience, see if you can make a positive comparison to what’s going on right now.  Did they like the napkins or the music or lighting or something the server did?  If you can match it, make the comparison in a friendly way.  On the other hand, if you hear a negative experience, try and contrast against it.  “We tried that a long time and as you noticed, it doesn’t work.  That’s why I don’t do it.”

2 and 3.  Liking and Authority Cues dominate the tipping literature and probably your own personal experience.  For example, Liking plays include:  Introduce yourself, appropriately touch the customer, smile, if you’re female put a smiley face on the bill, and squat or sit beside the customer to take the order.  Authority plays include:  making private recommendations about specials or dishes or values or providing “inside” information.  Most servers either know these things or learn them quickly.  I’ve got nothing new to suggest here other than reinforcement.  If you aren’t using Liking and Authority as a server, you are a completely out of school, not even close.  Of course, you need to adjust your friendliness, competence, and trustworthiness to the place where you work (probably don’t need a smiley face if you’re working an upscale Bon Appetite! venue), but if you think it’s all slinging plates, think about a career change.

4.  Reciprocity – When the source gives you something, you must give more in return.

The important element of this Cue is not simply knowing this norm of conduct applies.  From childhood we experience the rule of returning after receiving.  The trick here is noting that for many people, when they get something, they often feel compelled to give more in return, not to simply match one for one.

The standard play of providing a candy with the bill is a good illustration of this.  The candy is “free” in the sense that it was not on the menu, the customer didn’t order it, and you are providing it.  Thus, in the face of this gift, many customers tip more to close the Reciprocity play.  It’s a good play and do it.  But what else?

Listen to your customers and look for opportunities.  Here’s a personal illustration.

My wife and I were once quietly celebrating our anniversary at a nice upscale restaurant in Mexico while on vacation.  We hadn’t mentioned the event when we made the reservation.  Our waiter, an older man of great experience and charm, served us our predinner drinks and as he walked away and was out of earshot, my wife and I clinked our wine glasses and quietly toasted our anniversary.  We were very low key, but not low key enough.  Our smart server had somehow observed our toast.  Later at a very appropriate time, he brought out the strolling house band (guitars and voices) and wrapped Melanie in a traditional wedding serape, placed a huge ornate sombrero on my head, then affixed a multitiered candelabra on the table as the band sang, “Oh how we danced on the night we were wed.”  Melanie and I were weeping with emotion at this surprise.  Normally I despise these kind of public surprises and hate being the center of attention, but this slayed me.  And, you can imagine the tip.  Our server gave us this “free” treat, but I still had to reciprocate and I gladly did.

5.  Commitment/Consistency – When you take a stand, you must stay consist with it.

As you greet your customers ask them why they are there – fun? food? get out of the house?  Make them commit to a position about what they want.  You can even push this commitment with your own direct statements.  “You look like you are hungry and want some good food.”  They nod their heads and smile in agreement.  “Well, then I’m going to get it for you!”  Then throughout the meal, make reinforcing statements like, “You seem to like that dish, is it tasty?”  Or, “You said you were hungry (or “wanted fun” or “get out of the house”) and it looks like you’re getting what you want!” Then when you get to the end of the meal, you need to close the loop, but returning to their original commitment (good food, fun, relaxation, etc.) and say, “It looks like you got what you wanted and I hope I helped you along the way.”

6.  Scarcity – When it is rare, it is good.

At first thought, scarcity sounds like a bottle of water in the desert, but others events create scarcity.  People under a time deadline.  People who are stressed.  People who are overly excited.  All of these moments create the opportunity for scarcity of time, relaxation, or satisfaction.  You have to think of scarcity in a Big Way.

“I think we’re out of that menu item, but let me check” then dart away, come back huffing and say, “I got the last one for you!”

A couple is anticipating a concert after the meal and they’re on a tight schedule.  Every time you serve them make a comment about how you’re saving them time.  “I got the chef to put this at the front of the list.”

Let’s get to the Outro.

Persuasion principles are general and apply with all faces, places, times, and rhymes.  The trick is figuring out how to apply those principles to your unique situation, like tipping.  I’ve given you six well established Cues that operate with Low WATT processors on the Peripheral Route.  And, I provided action examples to get you going.  You now need to think exactly about how you can use them.  You might want to write them down in a script and actually practice them with a coworker so you get the feel for it.

Hey, persuasion isn’t easy and if it was, you’d already be doing it.  Spend a little time and effort on this and you can actually make more money.

Here’s another post on the strategy of Cues for servers.

Beatles Music as Persuasion Play

Beatles HelpGot another great prosocial persuasion play for you.  Get your boombox, load it up with Magic Music, then ask for help.  And, you’ll get it.  Here’s how.

Tobias Greitemeyer randomly assigned participants in four experiments to listen to either neutral songs (Octopus’s Garden by the Beatles; Vertigo by U2) or prosocial songs (Help! by the Beatles; Feed the World by U2), as part of a “marketing study.”  After that study was “completed,” Greitemeyer changed the scene so that participants thought they were free and doing what they wanted.  Then Greitemeyer did the real test.  Consider these situations.

1.  A woman walks into the room and accidently knocks over a container of pencils, spilling 20 on the floor by the participant.  She mutters under her breath and waits 5 seconds to see if the participant will help.

2. A confederate for the study asks the participant to volunteer for another experiment by signing up and choosing how long they could volunteer.

3. A confederate asks the participants if they’d be willing to volunteer for charitable actions, then gives a list of actions to select.

4. The participant plays a money game that allows you to leave your winnings for the next player.  It’s only pennies.

Interestingly, in each of the four experiments Greitemeyer found that people who had listened to “helpful” music compared to “neutral” music were always more likely to help on the following “unrelated” task.

1. 5.6 pencils versus 1.2 pencils for a windowpane of 20/80.

2. 68% volunteers versus 28% for a windowpane of 30/70.

3. 4.3 willing score versus 3.3 for a windowpane of 25/75.

4. 7 coins left versus 5.3 for a windowpane of 30/70.

Consider what we’ve got here.  Expose people to prosocial music with lyrics that describe people helping other people – not happy music with a great beat; it’s the lyrics.  Then in the immediate situation make a request or a play for assistance, help pick up a mess, volunteer, make a small contribution.  And, you will get large effect size responses.

Greitemeyer did not run a Full Monte ELM study here with a manipulation of WATTage and a condition with Argument quality, so to interpret this we have to make some inferences.

This looks like an obvious Peripheral Route play with a Low WATT processor following Cues to immediate, simple action.  It is entirely consistent with the CLARCCS Cue of Liking (When you like the source, do what they ask).  The music generates positive affect with a particular orientation of helpfulness and that Cue drives action.  And the comparison with the neutral music group tells us that the helping situation was not overwhelming.  The effect sizes alone are so large that clearly the neutral condition people were never falling over themselves to be nice.

It is also important to note that Greitemeyer made sure that the participants heard the music.  He didn’t play it merely as background, but rather made the participants listen to it as part of the marketing cover story, for example.  If you were to set up a booth with a loop of prosocial songs as busy people walked by, the effect would likely be much smaller.

This is a nice study that makes a good contribution the the prosocial research literature and also provides an excellent and practical Cue.

Angry Persuasion and the ELM

“YAngry Womanou did what?  I can’t believe you did that!  Again!  You did that again.  I told once, I told you twice, a thousand times, don’t DO THAT!  I’m so angry I’m gonna eat my own head and then I’m gonna eat yours.  This is unbelievable!  And, then this lame explanation.  You didn’t think it applied here?  What?  It didn’t apply here?  So, an umpire tells you it’s a rule you can’t hit the batter in the head with a ball and you hit me in the head with a ball and you think the rule doesn’t apply?!? Aaaaooowwwrgh!!!

Angry people are so engulfed with emotion, they cannot think straight and either respond in a wild Cue-driven fashion, or else in a wild Biased Processing fashion.  But, no Objective Processing from angry people.


You need to consider this research from Wesley Moons and Diane Mackie.  They did what appears to be the first real dual process experiments on angry people.  Instead of relying upon the common sense from my first paragraph and earlier anger and persuasion research that did not do a Full Monte ELM analysis, Moons and Mackie just got busy in the lab and did what your supposed to do.  And their results surprised me.  To do the Full Monte ELM, you need three things, WATTage, Arguments, and Cues.

First, you have to make people (university students) angry.  Here are two ways these researchers employed:  1) a peer gives harsh criticism of your life experience and goals, or 2) recall a prior event where you got really angry and now write a detailed account of it.  These manipulations turn the dimmer switch of WATTage from a neutral emotional state (didn’t get the angry treatment) to the angry emotional state (did get the anger treatment).  Both approaches have a long citation path in the research lit as manipulations that reliably make people seriously mad.

Second, we need both strong and weak Arguments and it would be nice if we used different topics to push generalizability.  So the researchers developed and pretested strong and weak Arguments on the topic of Financial Responsibility and also employed a common, familiar, and widely used topic of Comprehensive Exams.  The researchers thus had and delivered proven Arguments on different topics.

Third, prior research indicates that angry people are Cue-driven, but these earlier studies did not include the Argument comparison.  We’re handling that Argument problem, but we need to connect back to that earlier research and see if we can produce Cue effects along with (any) Argument processing effects.  Moons and Mackie handled this with an expertise Cue.

You see the ELM template here right?  We’ve got the Elaboration Moderator of emotion (and I call an Elaboration Moderator the “dimmer switch”) which affects Elaboration Likelihood (which I call WATTage).  We’ve got Argument quality with both strong and weak versions on different topics.  And, we’ve got Cues.  You cannot understand what’s going on if you don’t have at least WATTage and Arguments or WATTage and Cues and it’s even nicer when you’ve got all three.

And, of course, you do this in a lab where you can get seriously scientific with randomization, control, comparison, and counting.  This is good stuff.  When Moons and Mackie made people mad in the lab (or not), then had them consider Arguments (strong or weak), and then sometimes added a Cue to the mix, what happened?

Angry people ran screaming down the Central Route as they followed Argument quality to change while the emotionally Neutral folks ambled along the Peripheral Route, missing the difference between a strong Arg and a weak Arg.  And, the effect sizes were at least medium (36/64) for these attitude differences.  In all three experiments, situationally angry participants clearly responded to Argument quality with strong Arguments producing considerably more change than weak Arguments.  And, Moon and Mackie replicated the Cue effect (using expertise) found in prior research.  The key, as they demonstrated, was running a Full Monte ELM experiment and not just a study that varied emotion but kept Argument and Cue constant.

Of course, we’ve got the Usual Criticism here:  hey, the science of the college sophomore play acting in a computer lab.  Okay, the internal validity is pretty good (really?), but the external validity, I mean who does this generalize too beyond spoiled wealthy frat boys and sorority girls, and ecological validity, like sure, this is a Real World Test of Anger!  The reply is easy:  The literature, baby, read the literature.

When you read widely in persuasion you see how the weaknesses and limitations of one study are mitigated in another study.  You understand that one study, even a great one like this, never Proves the Point, but as a thread in the fabric of the great quilt of knowledge, it connects, binds, and holds this piece with that piece and that one over there, and then you’ve got a Research Literature, a Body of Knowledge that makes sense (even if I’m mixing more metaphors than a bartender mixes drinks in a hip bar).

Let’s get to the Outro.

First, this research establishes that anger can easily function as a dimmer switch that engages High WATT processing and propels people down the Central Route.  This is news in the persuasion literature and for common sense.

Second, this research is a great demonstration of the importance of the Full Monte with dual process studies.  If you want to understand persuasion, you need to always have at least two categories of WATTage and at least two categories of Argument quality (or two categories of Cues).  If you vary only one element of the WAC without including the others, your results will be ambiguous, incomplete, and potentially misleading.

Third, as always, I’m not reporting all of the details.  Moons and Mackie also ran manipulation checks and path models that buttress the conclusions you can draw from their work.  Lots of data, statistics, tables, and graphs that only a propeller head like me enjoys – like that triple WAC interaction in Experiment 3.  Wow!  And they played it smart by having a large sample of over 200 people participant in this to increase the power.  Just great work.

Fourth, realize that in all three experiments, the anger and the persuasion topic were not closely related.  In the real world this research is akin to a situation where you get ready to walk in the boss’s office to present a new idea and you hear your boss hollering into the telephone.  Common sense would suggest that you should find a way to reschedule that presentation, but this research advises that if your boss’s anger is not relevant to you or your idea (she’s mad at her husband, for example, and not your last job evaluation), you should march into the office – if you have strong Arguments.

As a related, but tricky persuasion play, you might bring up topics with a persuasion targets that you know will make the targets angry, then deliver your strong Arguments.  But, you’d better have the strong Arguments, right?

My hat’s off to Moons and Mackie.  This was fun to read and think about.

Web Workers of the World Unite! Down with Fascist facebook and Totalitarian twitter!

facebookThe Web 2.0 is a promise of a new more interactive web that connects people in emotionally and relationally useful and satisfying ways.  Instead, Web 2.0 as the pay off has become a magnet for deceptive marketers offering persuasion plays of For Me? free tools to workers.

Sure, when you sign up for facebook or twitter or whatever 2.0 social web platform, you expect those Googly Adsense things, but for that great free tool that connects you to your community, it’s a small price to pay.

But Googly ads aren’t the price you pay.

Web 2.0 Marketers aim at creating huge consumer panels that provide on-going, dynamic, and rich datasets of your beliefs, values, emotions, and relationships all tied with consumer and political behaviors.

twitter and facebook never say this in so many words in that long legal glop you click off when you join and indeed that’s part of the persuasion play.  They hide the Main Point from you through your whole experience with them.

In essence Web 2.0 is a hidden tax on you.  You will pay more for goods and services because marketers working with facebook data on you will be able to target you more precisely and generate more profit from you.  You will pay more for goods and services that come through this marketing because they will hit you with persuasion plays that are most effective with you compared to what they used to be able to do.

If you think about it, all these fabulous 2.0 services are offering is freedom from a few clicks from you.  If “everyone” tweets , then all you have to do is go to one site, making your life a few clicks easier.

That’s it.  You save a few seconds of time and a few ergs of work.  And, for your savings you put your life into the hands of marketers who will concentrate on you in a way you cannot concentrate on them.

People always holler about Big Brother and point at the government.  Sure, that’s a real risk and it always bears watching.  But, so do smiling VC Web 2.0 smoothies who are selling you nothing but digital snake oil.

You’ve been warned.

At the same time, I offer my persuasion congratulations to these guys.  There is not a sincere bone in their bodies.

Perils of Risk Communication II

Start with the news.

“The federal government originally promised 120 million doses of swine flu vaccine by now. Only 13 million have come through.”

Now recall HHS Secretary Sebelius leading the charge on swine flu vaccinations.

In the military this is called a “say-do” gap which means promising what you don’t deliver.  And if you have a say-do gap, your credibility is compromised.

Anyone with any experience in public health knows the production chain for “routine” vaccines is tricky.  Promising 120 million doses on a deadline date for a new vaccine is somewhat past tricky.  This isn’t good.

Remember the Rules.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.