365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #15-24

For this post I’ve put 10 ways to persuade and motivate altogether in one post!

15. Talk first – Research shows that people like to follow a leader and that the person who talks first when a group gets together becomes the leader.

16. Give a gift – When someone gives you a gift you feel indebted and will likely want to give something in return. If you want to increase the likelihood that someone will do something, give them a gift first, and then ask for what you want/need. Whether a website give away, free trial subscription or free eBook include an informative video – give away something of value before asking for people to sign up or make a purchase.

17. Ask for more than what you need/want – Research shows that people are more likely to say yes to your request if you ask for something larger than what you really want first. When your initial request is denied, come back with a smaller one (the one you really wanted). Not only will they be more likely to say yes, they will be more committed to following through if it is a second request.

18. Use nouns – When you use a noun it evokes group identity. People are more likely to take an action when they feel part of a group. For example, instead of having a button on your website that says “Donate Now,” phrase it as “Be A Donor.” Instead of “Join Now” use “Be A Member.”

19. Say how many other people are doing it – Research shows that we look to what other people are doing to decide what we should do. If we think a lot of people are doing something we are more likely to do it too. Especially if the situation is ambiguous or uncertain. Make reference to how many people have already taken the desired action. “Over 2,500 people have already downloaded the e-book.”

20. Model the behavior – Mirror neurons in our brain make us likely to imitate what others are doing. Show someone else taking the same action. For example, have a video that shows someone filling out the form on the website and pressing the “Sign Me Up” button.

21. Imitate others’ body gestures – In a face-to-face interaction imitate what other people are doing. If they sit back, you should sit back. If they put their hands on the table, put your hands on the table. Research shows that people that imitated the other person’s body language were rated as being more likable and were more persuasive.

22. Be passionate and excited about your idea – Emotions are contagious. If you are passionate and excited about your idea it will be conveyed through your voice and body language and others will become passionate and excited too.

23. Use strong emotions (positive or negative) – If you want something to go viral then use strong emotions. Messages or ideas that include strong emotions go viral more than messages without emotions. It doesn’t even matter if the emotion is positive or negative. Just showing strong emotions inspires people to act.

24. Synchronous behavior – If you want to bond a group have them do something together and preferably something rhythmic. When we engage in rhythmic behavior as a group (singing, drumming, dancing), the neurochemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin makes us feel a sense of bonding with those around us.

What do you think? Have you used any of these 10?

For more information check out my books, or better yet, sign up for one of our in-person or online video courses.

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #2 Use The Word “Because”

picture of people waiting in lineIn the first blog post of this new “365” series I cited new research on eye contact. But sometimes I think it’s important to go back to “foundational” (i.e. old!) research. So #2 in the series comes from research conducted in 1978.  Ellen Langer (Professor of Psychology at Harvard) published a research study about the power of the word “because”.

Langer had people request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine  on a college campus. (Remember that this is in the 1970′s — there weren’t computers and printers. People did a lot more copying back then, so there were often lines waiting to use a copy machine). The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Did the wording effect whether people let them break in line? Here are the results:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?” [60% compliance]
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”[93% compliance]
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% compliance]

Using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling (“because I have to make copies”). The researchers hypothesize that people go on “automatic” behavior or “mindlessness” as a form of a heuristic, or short-cut. And hearing the word “because” followed by a reason (no matter how lame the reason is), causes us to comply.

They also repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than five. In that case, only the  “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in compliance.

So what does this all mean?:

When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behavior.  If your request is small then follow the request with the word “because” and give any reason.

If the stakes are high, then there is a little more resistance, but still not too much. Use the word “because” and try to come up with at least a slightly more compelling reason.

What do you think? Has this worked for you?

Here’s the research citation:

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

100 Things You Should Know About People: #30 — Our "strong tie" group size is 150 people

Collage of facesEvolutionary anthropologists study social groups in animals. One question they have been trying to answer, is whether there is a limit on how many individuals different species have in their social group. Robin Dunbar studied the relationship between brain (neo-cortex) size and the number of stable relationships that a species had in their social groups. Based on his findings with animals, he extrapolated to what the number would be for humans. Called “Dunbar’s Number”, he postulated that 150 people is the social group size limit for humans. (To be more exact, he calculated the number at 148, but rounded up to 150. Also there is a fairly large error measure, so that the 95% confidence interval is from 100 to 230 – for you statistical experts out there).

A limit to stable, social relationships — The limit specifically refers to the number of people that you can maintain stable social relationships with. These are relationships where you know who the person is, and you know how each person relates to every other person in the group. Dunbar has documented the size of communities throughout different geographic areas and throughout different historical timeframes, and he is convinced that this number holds true.

Across time and cultures — Dunbar assumes that the current size of the human neocortex showed up about 250,000 years ago. So he started his research with hunter-gatherer communities.  His observations include: Neolithic farming villages averaged 150 people, as did Hutterite settlements, professional armies from the Roman days as well as modern army units.

Intense survival pressure — His claim is that 150 is the group size for communities that have a high incentive to stay together. If the group has intense survival pressure, then it stays at the 150 member mark. He also notes that these groups are usually in close physical proximity. If the survival pressure is not intense, or the group is physically dispersed, then he estimates the number would be lower.

Too high or too low? — Some critics of Dunbar’s number say that the number is too high, and others that it is too low. In the world of social media people have 750 facebook friends or 4,000 twitter followers, showing that the number of 150 is way off the mark. A Dunbar fan would respond that these are not the strong stable relationships where everyone knows everyone and people are in physical proximity. Some critics say the number of 150 is too high – that the number of people one is close to both physically and socially is much less than 150.

It’s the weak ties that are important?– In a recent blog post Jacob Morgan says that what’s really important in social media is not the strong ties that Dunbar talks about, but the weak ties – relationships that do not require that everyone knows everyone in the group, and that are not based on physical proximity. He argues that the reason that social media is so interesting is that it allows us to quickly and easily expand these “weak” ties, and that those are the ties that are most relevant in our modern world.

Substituting weak for strong — I think both Dunbar and Morgan are right. It’s critical that we pay attention to that 150 number for our “survival” community in close proximity. If we don’t feel we have that “tribe” near us it causes us to feel alienated, isolated and stressed. Perhaps one of the reasons social media is so popular, and so many of us rely on Facebook and Twitter is that we don’t have a strong tie tribe. Although the weak tie network of social media helps us to feel connected, we’ll eventually feel let down if we try to have it substitute for a strong tie Dunbar tribe.

For more information, I suggest you watch this interview of Robin Dunbar:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/video/2010/mar/12/dunbar-evolution

And read Jacob Morgan’s blog post:

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/169132

What do you think? Do you have a strong tie tribe network? Are you ultimately trying to substitute with your weak tie network? In our modern world is the weak tie network more important?

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New York City Stabbing a Hoax?

I was just doing some research on a murder that happened in Queens NY in 1964. You may have heard of it. It’s the Kitty Genovese murder. It’s the crime that led to an entire branch of social psychology research.
Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death on the street while 38 witnesses watched and did nothing to help. Social scientists became fascinated by what they called the “Bystander Effect” and a whole series of research studies began to study why it is that people will take action to help when they are by themselves, but not if they are part of a group.
I’m writing about this in a book I’m working on (Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click, PeachPit, due out in Jan of 2009). I found online the original New York Times article about the murder, but then I found online another New York Times article written 40 years later in 2004 that casts doubt on some of the data and its interpretation of the original event. 
Apparently it’s now believed that several people probably heard something and maybe saw something, but they probably couldn’t have figured out what they were hearing or seeing (based on where the crime occurred and the lighting on the street etc), and it probably wasn’t 38 people either. So the truth is that a few people heard some noises and saw someone staggering down a street.
The question I have is: If it took me about 5 minutes to find this updated information on the internet, then why does the original version of events still show up? In research articles, in slide presentations, in books, people still talk about the Kitty Genovese event without mentioning the later update. 
Is it the sheer number of references to the earlier, incorrect version? Or is it that everyone is lazy and they take the first reference they come across?