Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Apple ABC Revisited

From the Steve Jobs biography.

Jobs disclosed to Isaacson his ideas for reinventing television. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

Hey, I spotted that raccoon nearly two years ago.  As I noted in April 2010.

Jobs is pointing Apple towards ABC, the Apple Broadcasting Company.  He’s positioning Apple as a network of media devices that link consumers, content providers, and marketers in a high speed, anywhere, and all the time community.  Millions of receivers own an iGizmo which is like owning a radio in 1930 or a TV in 1970.  Jobs is creating an integrated media beast composed of a huge and hungry audience from the killer demographic of 18-45 years old.  As long as he controls this beast, folks wanting to do business will fall all over themselves.

Persuasion reads the tea leaves!

Getting Older as Persuasion Play!

Winston Churchill observed that anyone who is not a liberal when younger has no heart, but anyone who is not a conservative when older has no head.  (Cool line, but do you know Winston Churchill, my pretties?)  We see the proof of the Prime Minister’s belief in today’s story in the LA Times.  They inspect the political data from surveys and report:

The ideological reorientation of early boomers that began in the 1980s has continued. Two of the country’s best long-running surveys show how those born between 1943 and 1958, the so-called near-olds at the front of the baby boom, have changed. In the 1972 American National Election Study survey, 30% of today’s near-olds called themselves liberals. In 2008, 12% did. The proportion calling themselves conservative rose from 21% to 46%. In 1972, 51% of eligible voters in the early baby boom cohort called themselves Democrats and 29% Republicans. In 2008, 45% said they were Democrats and 48% said they were Republicans. The National Opinion Research Center’s data also show a substantial increase (18 points) between 1974 and 2010 in conservative identification for the near-old cohort and a smaller movement in the GOP’s direction. Those born between 1927 and 1942 changed far less in both surveys.

Thus, over our long flight as we travel on time’s arrow we move from Left to Right as the experience of age changes our attitudes.  Thus we have a Biological Persuasion Play!

P.S. Is there any evidence that mere time, even in short time frames, makes people more conservative?  How about priming people with concepts of ageing, maturity, experience, etc.?  Would make sense.  Fast Left, Slow Right.

 

 

Persuasion Appearances Are Deceiving

What’s the statute of limitations on potential NCAA violations? Just look at this picture from the WVU Media Day in 1988.

Hey, that’s the tailback from a team that will go 11-0 and play for the National Championship against Notre Dame. Don’t I look like one of those sleazy sports agents or party boy entourage hangers or, even worse, Dr. Feelgood? Yet, I was only a highly respected and poorly paid doc student who just liked football. I’d met Eugene Napoleon two years earlier in my Comm80 large lecture course where Eug served as a Sports Beat reporter. I had most of WVU scholarship athletes in that class at one time or another from 1986 to 1999. The class got so famous that WVU Presidents would come in for a Star Turn during Rock Break; the conspiracy runs that deep, wide, and high. And, we can’t forget the Playboy Girls of the Big East! Sorry, no pictures, but they were all hotter than Michelle Pfeiffer, and believe me, while I’m no Jack Kennedy, I knew Michelle Pfeiffer.

Next year, Eugene’s son will join the Mountaineers football team as a scholarship athlete. Maybe QB. The son’s smarter than the father. He must have watched the game tape of Eugie hitting the hole. “Gonna be like this all day, baby.” Markus Paul, Syracuse, to Eugene Napoleon, WVU, 1988.

Persuasion Theory Applications of Beethoven

Ripped from the Headlines.

Oregon Cops Hope Classical Music Deters Loiterers

What?

The whole project was brought to Portland by police Lt. John Scruggs, a stats-happy former neighborhood sergeant who heard of the program working in other cities and thought it was worth a try.  “Here’s the thing,” he said. “It’s crime prevention through environmental design.  If you put rose bushes in front of your bedroom window, the burglar is less likely to break in through that window because they don’t want to get cut up.”

You can call it “environmental design” if you like, but in persuasion terms it is a straightforward application of Reinforcement Theory.  Classical music is an aversive consequence for many people, particularly in the age and aspirational demographic the police officer worries most about.  A little touch of Ludwig seems to do the trick.

Always remember that Reinforcement operates on function not content.  Whether a particular stimulus is a reward or a punishment tells you more about the Other Guy than the music.

Priming Your Way to Good Mental Health

The September issue (September 2011, v.6, no.5) of Perspectives on Psychological Science contains a series of essays on new models of delivery for fundamental mental health services.  While we’ve got a pretty good science for clinical psychology, getting it out to the Other Guys is expensive and difficult.  The essays all address large scale public delivery of effective clinical treatments.  That means anything other than the proven method of face-to-face interaction with a therapist in controlled settings with either individual or group meetings.  One proposed large scale delivery intervention on priming raises a couple of interesting persuasion points.

Shalev and Bargh suggest that priming could be a cheap, easy, and effective clinical modality that could apply in a wide variety of specific cases.  They outline a series of priming examples that have been proven in the lab to produce positive emotional and cognitive changes in people that are at least as effective as many individualized clinical treatments.  In terms of faster, cheaper, better, Shalev and Bargh make the case for public mental health priming.

While Shalev and Bargh don’t cite this, the subliminal work from Lloyd Silverman provides compelling evidence of the clinical effectiveness for priming.  You can read more about it in the Primer chapter on Subliminals, but very briefly, Silverman conducted well controlled studies with seriously ill people using “Mommy and I are one” as a key subliminal message.  It worked.  As a 1990 meta analysis from Hardaway in Psychological Bulletin reported, the average effect for this treatment is a Smallish Windowpane, about a 40/60 effect.  So even past Shalev and Bargh, there’s some good evidence that priming does work.

But.

Consider two persuasion problems.

First, think about Box and Play.  The Priming Play is proven to work in the Box called Experimental Lab Settings.  I don’t know of any large scale field testing of priming in natural settings.  We’ve looked at this with the Queen of Tomorrow and subliminal applications in marketing, sales, and, cue the creepy music, Big Brother politics.  While we are getting closer to priming in public, the technical demands of delivering effective subliminals or primes defeat practical application.  You’ve got to control the visual or auditory field of the Other Guy who is moving through life.  That’s extremely hard to do.  So, the jump from the Box called the Lab to the Box called Life is a major persuasion problem.

And, even the previously noted Silverman work with “Mommy and I are one” interventions took place under controlled conditions and not as part of a field study.  And often times, the participants in the intervention were specifically misled about the subliminal training and given a cover story to explain the computer apparatus and the procedures with it.  People knew they were in a “study,” but they were clueless about the specific priming intervention aimed at their mental health in most cases.

To summarize the first persuasion point, the good evidence in support of priming for mental health is restricted to a particular and unique Box and Play.  We don’t know whether it generalizes to other Boxes without that obvious experimenter/therapist presence and control.

The second problem is awareness.  Even past the impact that informed consent would have on this application, all the research I’ve seen on priming and subliminals indicates that if you have conscious awareness that the Prime is out there then the impact of that Prime is strongly reduced.  Thus, in the standard kind of public mental health intervention, you’d have to tell people about priming and subliminals (informed consent), but then you’d have to make sure you deliver the intervention without their awareness that you are doing it.

Think of this through the movie, The Truman Show.  A baby named Truman is raised in an environment that looks like normal life to Truman, but is actually a Hollywood sound stage.  Truman’s life is just a reality TV show.  As long as Truman doesn’t realize he’s in this controlled environment, he thinks he’s the Captain of His Ship, the Master of His Fate when he living in a When-Do-Get machine controlled by the TV director.

The Priming Box and Play proposed here for public mental health in essence puts Other Guys in The Truman Show.  They sign off with informed consent for the un- or sub-conscious primes that will deliver better mental health.  So, they know they are in the movie.  Will the priming still work under these conditions of awareness?  Just think of the attributional impact of this and how it could mess with your head.

You’re feeling lousy and your psychologist suggests that priming could help you.  You sign up, informed consent and all, then wait.  Some days you feel better than usual.  How do you attribute it?  Is it the priming or something else?  How will you know not only that you feel better, but that you feel better because of those unconscious primes because you cannot ever know when the prime is On?  Yet, if anyone would propose doing this to you without your knowledge, we’d have serious legal and ethical issues.

To summarize the second persuasion problem, awareness of priming tends to reduce the effectiveness of the priming.  In experiments we can design cover stories that deflect awareness, then do a debriefing.  In a large scale field application – priming on the Web – people would have to initiate the intervention on their own accord, which means they would have some kind of awareness with all those attendant effectiveness and attributional problems.

If ever there was a case for More Research, this is it.  Can you deliver clinical priming through a website and still get the effects from the Lab Box?  And, how do you handle the informed consent, awareness, and attributional problems inherent in this situation?

Finally and just to raise the creepy specter of Big Brother again, imagine that therapeutic priming on the web can be done efficiently and effectively.  Assume that More Research answers my two persuasion problems and we’ve got Dr. Feelgood online all the time.  That means we’ve found a socially acceptable way to change the way Other Guys think, feel, and act in practical, clinically significant, not just statistically significant, ways . . . without the Other Guys knowing this happened or how.

The history of the 20th century documents that many smart and well meaning people thought that government should be used to shape the New Man, the New Soviet, the New Fascist, the New Nazi all in the service of a better world, the perfection of humanity as the inevitable product of evolution’s assumed march to excellence, the Fittest of the Fit.  If we’ve got Feelgood Online why not bring it into government to solve intractable social problems like ignorance, poverty, disease, and crime?  The rest is just the persuasion gravity of falling off the log.

Persuasion affords such imaginings.  Perhaps we can.  Persuasion theory and research points the way.

Perhaps we should?  Persuasion says nothing about that.

The Lowball Box

This WSJ article nicely details the Persuasion Box you need to work the Persuasion Play called the Lowball. The Lowball is just what it sounds like: A bad pitch out of the strike zone that a batter nonetheless chases. In economic terms this metaphor translates into a potential buyer making a low offer that a seller willingly takes. The trick to the Lowball is less about the actual Pitch (how low and away) and more about finding the right Box for throwing it.

The WSJ article shows how to throw the Lowball in real estate deals. It identifies 6 elements for the right Box.

1. Understand the market
2. Pick the right real-estate agent
3. Back up your price
4. Know what you’re willing to pay
5. Make a clean, easy offer
6. Be smart about a cash deal

Without understanding the details from these headline descriptors you can see the key elements in the Box (also understood as the Local). Market conditions define the range of prices available for comparison. The right agent is someone who understands persuasion. Backing up your price means providing reasonable arguments for the Lowball. Your limit means knowing when to walk away. A clean and easy offer is obvious and that cash deal thing means don’t think an all cash offer is sufficient for a good Lowball.

Now, if you’re thinking, you realize the Lowball Box and Play requires both a buyer and a seller and all of these elements operate with both parties. The article aims at talking to buyers, but if you’re a seller in a bad real estate market, realize this information helps you, too. See that many buyers think they’ve got you over a barrel and will try the Lowball. If you understand how they will be coming at you with those 6 Box elements, you know how to turn it around in your favor during a negotiation. Consider this.

A Lowball offer appears to favor the buyer, but that offer can also work as the unintended First Step in a Two Step Persuasion Cue called Sequential Requests. That buyer is making a move towards buying which is also known as making a Choice and sometimes as making a Commitment. Sure, it’s a Lowball, but if you’re a smart seller with persuasion skill, you’ve now got a buyer on the hook. Of course that buyer wants the Lowball, but if you persuade properly you can move the buyer into a position more favorable to you. Maybe the buyer included an All Cash Deal in the offer (element 6 in the article) thinking it would be decisive. You accept the Lowball All Cash offer and title to the car the buyer drove up in or offer to include your car in the deal (at a higher price, of course).

People tend to think of persuasion as a one way transaction, as something they are doing to the Other Guy. Realize that Other Guys are your persuasion receiver, but at the same time They may also see Themselves as a persuasion source with you as their target. If you can’t see beyond your own persuasion effort, you make yourself even more vulnerable to the plays the Other Guys spring on you. Remember the Rules.

Persuasion Is Strategic Or It Is Not.

If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.

Science in Doom or Monkey Wins Nobel!

Shall I be plain, I want my science pure!

At least when Blogging wherein I will defend Science as the one and true faith against all pretenders, contenders, and doubters.  But what I can do with this?

People who play computer games solved a difficult science problem (pdf) using something pretty much like a Doom multiplayer game!  Sure, I simplify, but not overly.  If this breakthrough leads to a major discovery, will the winning shooter squad share the Nobel?  Quel dommage!

Jeepers if slackers are solving . . .

. . . real-world modeling problems with more complex deviations from native structures, leading to the solution of a long-standing protein crystal structure problem.

. . . imagine what they can do with persuasion . . . tipping points . . . Nudge . . . Health Beliefs Model . . . Message Framing . . . Graphing Towards Truth?

P.S. Isn’t the Infinite Monkey Theorem just another variation on Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence? Whether creating Protein Fold Solutions or Shakespeare or Souls, it’s only Forever Random.

 

on the Yellow Brick Road of Truth with Graphical Statistics

What do you do with this?

It’s long been my pet opinion that the ability to quickly produce and disseminate simple graphs is one of the huge gains of the digital media era. And now from Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler comes some empirical research to confirm my pre-existing biases.

Matthew Yglesias, public intellectual writing at the Atlantic, then extensively quotes the easy to read text from a poly sci paper that does indeed demonstrate how people follow graphic presentations of data to conclusions.  Yglesias trumpets.

In other words, if someone’s wrong about something, it’s easier to persuade them to change their mind with a graphical presentation than a textual one.

The paper uses perceptions of US casualities in Iraq following the Surge, Global Warming, and Obama Jobs Creation as the key issues for three quasi-experimental studies that manipulate either text or graphic presentation of data (along with an affirmation manipulation). Yglesia believes there is a 2+2=4 kind of truth to be found on these political issues which is both sweet and sincere. And, if you are wrong on War, Environment, or Jobs, Ygelsias knows how to straighten you out. Graphs!

Persuasion mavens and regular readers of the Persuasion Blog spot the raccoon here.  Yeah, pretty pictures for persuading Low WATTers kicking Cues down the Peripheral Route.  And, Yglesias believes that this is a triumph for the digital media age!?!  As I’ve documented numerous times here, pictures ain’t no place for thoughtful consideration of well constructed arguments.  The Digital Age is the great magic trick that fools even magna cum laude graduates of Harvard into accepting the weaker for the stronger.

Might wait to see if this conference paper survives peer review for publication.  Might actually read the paper (pdf) and realize the results are weak, inconsistent, and contradictory to theory and the literature.  Might just peruse the paper’s graphs (although Never Make Decisions Based On Graphical Data! with appropriate head nods to Dr. Tufte.).  Might, sigh, read the probit results tables.

But if we close our eyes and click our ruby slippers, we’ll find ourselves slouching back to Cambridge and the Truth.

Function not Content with Beauty (and All Persuasion)

Note from Steve: I based this post on a peer review research study that is retracted as fraudulent (July 2012). You can read more about the investigation into Diederik Stapel for details.

The general form of the post is still reasonable since it describes basic ELM theory. I used the study to illustrate theory principles and the bad research broke no new ground. It simply extended what we already knew from past work. ELM or any other dual process theory is not disproven as a result of this fraud. In fact it appears that Stapel was able to perpetrate his unethical behavior because his work generally confirmed well established theory and literature and merely moved it into domains that were not tested.

I am also reluctant to delete the post because that strikes me as a confusing action that looks both self-serving and totalitarian like the infamous examples from Stalin’s Soviet Union where old photos would be gathered up and old comrades now disgraced in show trials would be erased. Stapel’s work fooled me enough to use it as an example. And, the fundamental point of the post is still valid even if I was dumb enough to fall for a fake example.

Thus, the main point of this post is valid: the “same” persuasion variable, in this case a Hot Blonde like Marilyn Monroe, can have multiple functions in persuasion, once a Cue, then an Argument, and then a WATTage switch. You know a persuasion variable not for its appearance, but for its function.

Which explains in part how Stapel was able to run a fraud for awhile. People saw the appearance and missed the function.

Now, back to the Opera!

You can separate the mavens from the muggles on the difference between function and content.  Muggles expect persuasion cookbooks, Magic Words, and any ritual, incantation, or wink ‘n nod they can find which means they look at the content of persuasion or how persuasion appears.  Mavens, by contrast, know it’s all in the function, the how and not the what, the doing and not the deed, the verb, not the noun.  Function for mavens, content for muggles.  My favorite illustration of function is with Marilyn Monroe.  Consider these three photos.  First, MM and a ‘Vette.

Second, MM and shampoo.

Last, MM and Joltin’ Joe.

All and always that beautiful woman, but each and every one different.  Same content, but different function.  You’d think the Original Blonde Bombshell would always and only be that Beautiful Cue, just a Ding-Dong to sell any persuasion product, proposition, or proposal, but you’d be wrong.

And, this great series of lab experiments from the Journal of Consumer Research proves it.  Janne van Doorn and Diederik Stapel take the functional nature of Beauty and run it through the wringer to demonstrate that the same content can produce radically different persuasion outcomes depending upon function.  I will not detail the four experiments but simply describe.

In each study van Doorn and Stapel present a print ad with a Beauty and Something Else.  And that Something Else shapes the Beauty to sell as an Argument or a Cue or a Prime (they don’t employ Beauty as an Elaboration Moderator or WATTage switch).  If you want to see a great illustration of proving the function versus content persuasion revelation, check out this paper.

Janne van Doorn & Diederik Stapel.  When and how beauty sells:  Priming, conditioning, and persuasion processes.  Journal of Consumer Research.  Published electronically, June 6, 2011. 

DOI: 10.1086/660700.

Note from Steve: I based this post on a peer review research study that is retracted as fraudulent (July 2012). You can read more about the investigation into Diederik Stapel for details.

The general form of the post is still reasonable since it describes basic ELM theory. I used the study to illustrate theory principles and the bad research broke no new ground. It simply extended what we already knew from past work. ELM or any other dual process theory is not disproven as a result of this fraud. In fact it appears that Stapel was able to perpetrate his unethical behavior because his work generally confirmed well established theory and literature and merely moved it into domains that were not tested.

I am also reluctant to delete the post because that strikes me as a confusing action that looks both self-serving and totalitarian like the infamous examples from Stalin’s Soviet Union where old photos would be gathered up and old comrades now disgraced in show trials would be erased. Stapel’s work fooled me enough to use it as an example. And, the fundamental point of the post is still valid even if I was dumb enough to fall for a fake example.

Thus, the main point of this post is valid: the “same” persuasion variable, in this case a Hot Blonde like Marilyn Monroe, can have multiple functions in persuasion, once a Cue, then an Argument, and then a WATTage switch. You know a persuasion variable not for its appearance, but for its function.

Which explains in part how Stapel was able to run a fraud for awhile. People saw the appearance and missed the function.

Succeeding By Failing

Consider this persuasion science.

“Great by Choice” is a sequel to Jim Collins’s best-selling “Good to Great” (2001), which identified seven characteristics that enabled companies to become truly great over an extended period of time. Never mind that one of the 11 featured companies is now bankrupt (Circuit City) and another is in government receivership (Fannie Mae). Mr. Collins has a knack for analysis that business readers find compelling.

What? Two of eleven good-to-great companies are bankrupt in less than ten years? That’s great? And how good can your science be when it declares 11 marvels that then quickly reduces to 9? And, if you’ve read the Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig, you know the problem is worse than that. Rosenzweig employed the Collins science both before and after the time period Collins studied to find good-to-great companies and found different companies making the list at different time periods. In other words, these great companies appear to be great for just a moment in time. A better title would be Not To Hot To Not Again. So much for the business science of Jim Collins.

Yet, the newest Collins book is greeted with acclamation. How can you be wrong with your science, and provably so, yet remain acclaimed?

Persuasion.

All Bad Science Is Persuasive.

If You Can’t Count It, You Can Change It.

You Can’t Persuade A Falling Apple.