7 Secrets of Persuasion – James C. Crimmin
7 Secrets of Persuasion is a book written by James C. Crimmins and published in 2016. It provides an exploration of the science behind the art of persuasion and how people can use this knowledge to their advantage.
The book covers a range of topics, including persuasion techniques, the power of emotions, and the neuroscience behind decision-making.
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It also provides practical advice on how to apply these insights to create persuasive messages that can influence people’s decisions.
Getting to Know the Lizard
In order to succeed at persuasion, we have to deal with the lizard inside, the automatic mental system. It is a part of the human brain that responds to instinctive, impulsive behavior, and is largely driven by emotions.
We have to apply the seven secrets of persuasion:
- Speak the language of the lizard. The nonconscious mind has its own particular method of communication, a language with its own grammar and style.
- Aim at the act, not the attitude. Changing what people do is easier than changing how they feel.
- Don’t change desires, fulfill them. Persuasion works by showing people how to get what they want.
- Never ask, unearth. People don’t know why they do what they do, but you can find out anyway.
- Focus on feeling. Facts won’t alter an emotional choice.
- Create experience with expectation. What people expect to experience transforms what they actually experience.
- Add a little art. Art makes the nonconscious mind your ally.
Speak the Language of the Lizard: Basic Grammar
In persuasion, we enhance the associations of the behavior we are trying to encourage in a way that makes that behavior more attractive to our target.
- Voting can become more appealing through association with other valued concepts like patriotism, power, independence, or fairness.
- Recycling can become more strongly associated with saving the earth or it can become more strongly associated with government efficiency.
These associations can be built at the societal level or at a more personal level within the neighborhood or the family.
Marketers and politicians know the power of association doesn’t depend on facts, just rhetoric. People infer association from observed juxtapositions.
Link to associate: Facts are optional!
Whether you are promoting a brand, soliciting donations for a cause, or just trying to get your kids to act differently, explicitly choose the qualities or the sort of people you would like to link to your recommended option.
Associations will inevitably occur. You might as well pick the ones you want. Once chosen, repeatedly pair the option with those qualities or with that sort of people. Current factual accuracy is not the issue. You are creating a link, not documenting a link.
Speak the Language of the Lizard: Style
Timothy Wilson is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the influence of our unconscious mind on how we think, choose, and act.
Wilson describes the situation like this: “We often experience a thought followed by an action, and assume it was the thought that caused that action. In fact, a third variable, a nonconscious intention, might have produced both the conscious thought and the action.”
The lizard is in charge and we need to use the language the lizard understands—availability, association, action, emotion, and the preferences of others. In most decisions, reason plays a minor role.
When a decision is not made rationally, reasons are unlikely to change it.
Aim at the Act, Not the Attitude
The easiest way to get people to act as you would like is to change the circumstances, making that act seem more natural, normal, and inevitable.
And as you focus on an act, make that act appealing to the lizard.
- The lizard pays attention to how readily the act comes to mind.
- The lizard is concerned with the associations that are called forth by the act.
- The lizard notices how the people who perform that act behave and infers the qualities of the group the lizard would, in effect, join if it also performed that act.
- The lizard will be strongly affected by the emotion that the act evokes. Even mild affection can make a big difference.
- And the lizard is sensitive to the popularity of the act.
In focusing on the act, building its mental availability and associations, and drawing attention to related behaviors, emotions, and the preferences of others, you are redefining the act and giving it meaning.
An act with meaning might be thought of as an act with direction. It is an act that is going somewhere.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid-shaped model that categorizes human needs into five levels.
- The base of the pyramid is made up of basic needs such as food, water, and shelter.
- The next level consists of needs such as safety, love, and belonging.
- The third level is made up of the need for self-esteem and respect from others.
- The fourth level is the need for self-actualization, which is the realization of one’s true potential.
- At the top is the need for self-transcendence, which is the ability to rise above one’s ego and connect with something greater.
Focus on Feeling
When we focus on feeling, we also have more control. The target might translate an attribute into a feeling other than the one we want to offer as a reward. Choosing a product with the attribute of “low fat” can translate into feeling healthy, feeling sexy, or feeling like a good parent.
When we craft our persuasion, we can pick the feeling that is the most powerful reward to associate with that choice. When we do the translation from attribute into feeling, we gain precision.
Ease in finding a job or a higher salary are attributes that might serve as rewards if we are trying to get our teen to stay in school. Our pitch will be more persuasive if we ladder those attributes up to a feeling.
When we focus on feeling, we not only translate a rational reward into an emotional reward, we also translate a delayed and uncertain reward into one that is more immediate and certain. This is critical because, as we saw, actions that are good for us often have delayed and uncertain rewards.
Create Experience With Expectation
Our mind combines input from our senses with our ideas about the world and past knowledge to create our perceptions. The physical characteristics of the stimulus contribute to perception through what psychologists call bottom-up mental processing. Expectations and prior knowledge contribute to perception through what psychologists call top-down mental processing. What we experience about the outside world is a result of both.
Perception is an unconscious process carried out by the lizard inside, our automatic mental system. Expectation guides perception.
The lizard responds to art
All persuasion can use a little of the art of conversation—making a tacit guarantee that the message is one the audience will want to receive and literally communicating only what the audience cannot provide on their own, establishing a degree of complicity and a level of emotional closeness.