The Ethics Of Persuasion — A Conversation with Nathalie Nahai

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For this HumanTech podcast episode, Nathalie Nahai from the UK joins us for a conversation about whether and when it is ethical to use persuasion techniques in our apps and our websites to get people to take certain actions.

Listen to the podcast and also check out Nathalie’s book: Webs Of Influence.

HumanTech is a podcast that explores the intersection of humans, brain science, and technology. Your hosts Guthrie and Dr. Susan Weinschenk explore how behavioral and brain science affects our technologies and how technologies affect our brains.

You can subscribe to the HumanTech podcast through iTunes, Stitcher, or where ever you listen to podcasts.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #14 – Think Social

Two people talking and using Intel Billboard softwarePeople are social animals. It’s in our biology. We just can’t help it. So if you want to persuade and motivate people to take action, put whatever you want them to do in a social context. Do you want people to use your product? Then make sure they know how many other people are using it. Do you want people to use your product more? Then get them to tell others about the product. By talking about it to their social network they are reinforcing to themselves how important it is to them (if you’ve talked about something to your network then you are more likely to be committed to it moving forward). If you want people to use your product more, then make it easy to use it with other people around; make it easy to use it together with someone else — make it an app that two people use, or that one person uses but wants to share what happened. Make it easy to share.

In some recent research for a client an online customer I was interviewing talked about going online to the customer’s site with her daughter and having mother/daughter bonding time while shopping online together. How many online shopping sites make it easy to shop together? What about a shopping experience and a shopping cart that allows and encourages two or more people to shop at the same time? On different devices? Even if they are in the same room.

How many times have you and a friend been online at the same site at the same time while in the same room and talking about what you are doing?

Intel’s experimenting with  Billboard. It puts a 2nd screen on the outside of your laptop that you can use to show pictures, or even show your texts with other people around you. What if you could mirror what you are doing online if you so chose, so that the person sitting across from you could see what you were doing without you having to move your chair or having them turn their laptop to let you see?

How can you use the power of social interaction to persuade and motivate?

 

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #13–Talk to the unconscious

picture of an iceberg“We want them to type in their email and click on the “Join” button”, was the response from my client as I asked him what was the one action he wanted people to take on his landing page. Good. That was clear. But now the question was what else should be on the landing page to persuade people to click.

Like most of my clients the landing page was filled with lots of reasons why the visitor should click and join, but almost all of those reasons were “logical”, and most were about price. The people coming to the landing page didn’t have a relationship with this company yet — it was unlikely they would click and join based on a few weak logical arguments.

I started asking questions:

“What are your potential customers afraid of?”

“What makes them mad or frustrated?”

“Do they feel taken advantage of?”

“How could they feel like they were a hero?”

Silence. My client was ready to tell me all the features and benefits that his service would provide, but he didn’t really know about the emotional state of his potential customers.

That’s not uncommon. In my experience, many teams bringing new products and services to market know only the barest of information about their customers and potential customers, and rarely have done actual audience research on the unconscious needs, emotions, and feelings of their target audience.

Which means that their landing pages, marketing campaigns and advertising are hit and miss at best.

Research in psychology over the past several years shows us clearly that most mental processing occurs unconsciously. Most of the decisions we make are fueled by our unconscious. It is only after we’ve decided to act that we figure out a conscious, logical reason for why we did what we did. We use that conscious logical reason to explain our decisions and actions to ourselves and others, so it’s important to provide those logical reasons. But if you really want to persuade and motivate someone to take action you have to talk to the unconscious. The unconscious understands things like:

  • fear
  • loss
  • sex
  • food
  • love
  • belonging
  • being a hero
  • danger
  • challenge
  • mastery

The unconscious pays attention to words if they are short and evoke feelings. But it pays much more attention to pictures, music, and moving images (i.e. video).

If you want to persuade and motivate people to take action you need to know what they are afraid of, afraid of losing, how they feel they can “save” the day, and/or what will make them feel loved or part of the group. Then you need to use some of those ideas in your words, headlines, and have pictures, video, and music that matches. If you want to persuade and motivate people you have to talk to the unconscious.

What do you think? Do you know the unconscious factors and messages that persuade and motivate your target audience?

If you would like to learn more about the research on unconscious mental processing, I recommend:

Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy Wilson

or my book, How To Get People To Do Stuff

and consider attending my  seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #12 – Give them a warm beverage

drawing of a coffee cup with steam

You have an important meeting with a client first thing tomorrow morning. The main contact, Jeremy, is unhappy with some of the deliverables on the last project. He has been a little cold and distant with you on the phone and through email recently. This is the first time he is coming in to the office in a while, and you want to try and break the ice.

According to Joshua Ackerman you should take a somewhat literal interpretation of the idea of breaking the ice. You should try to warm him up by offering him a warm coffee or tea. Use a cup or mug where he can feel the heat through his hands, and, ideally, see if you can get him to hold the beverage while you talk to him.

According to Ackerman’s research this will not only thaw out his hands, but will also make him warm up towards you. When people hold a warm cup then they feel that the person or people they are interacting with have a warmer personality. It’s called “haptic sensations” or “embodied cognition”.

Conversely, DON’T offer Jeremy a cold can of soda or ice water. That will make him judge you as having a cold personality.

Here’s the research:

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science 328(5986): 1712–15. doi: 10.1126/science.1189993.

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

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #4 Give People Autonomy

screenshot from Fluenz language softwareIn the previous blog post in this series I wrote that one of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery – and that breaking things into small pieces and showing progress through the pieces encourages the desire for mastery.

Another tip for stimulating the desire for mastery is to give people autonomy.  When people feel that they have some control over what they are doing and how they do it then their desire for mastery increases. They will then be motivated to continue and keep learning.

If people feel that they don’t have any control or autonomy then they lose the desire to learn and do more – they lose the desire to master whatever task you are asking them to do.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you have created a language learning app. The desire for mastery will be automatically in play if the person wants to learn a language. However, if you want people to continue using the app, and use it frequently and often, then you need to do more than just present lessons in the app. One way to further stimulate the desire for mastery, is to give them some control over how they use the app. You can provide different types of exercises and interactions, such as listening, writing, or speaking the language, and let them choose which exercises and activities they need or want, and in what order to do them. If they feel they have control over how quickly they go through the lessons, which ones they repeat,  which activities to engage in, and in what order, then they will be more motivated to keep learning.

What do you think? Have you used tried giving autonomy to keep people motivated?

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

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #3 Small Steps

screenshot of 5k appOne of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery. People are naturally curious and this curiosity helps people master their environment. People want to learn, improve, and master skills and knowledge.

One of the things you can do to stimulate this sense of mastery is to break things into small steps. Why is that important? Because it makes it easy for people to see their progress, and seeing progress makes people want to keep going.

If you’ve ever used one of the exercising applications, for example “Couch to 5k” or the “10k runner” you will know what I mean. These are apps that you use on your smartphone. They map out an exercise period. You turn on the app as you start your exercise session and the app tells you what to do along the way. At the beginning a voice says for you to walk for 5 minutes to warm up. After that the voice tells you to start running. Two minutes later the voice prompts you to slow down and walk. During the exercise session your screen shows your progress. (See the picture at the top of this blog post). You can see how much time you have been exercising, how much time you have left in the session, and how much time is left in the particular part of this session (for example, you have 30 seconds left to run before it’s time to walk again).

You also get feedback on where you are in the entire 9 week program, for example, you are on Day 2 in the 3rd week. By breaking the entire 9 weeks, and each particular session into small steps, the app can always be showing progress, and that constant feedback on progress towards the goal is very motivating.

You can apply this principle to anything that you want people to do and/or keep doing. Other examples are having people learn a language, or master the steps to be a barista at a coffee shop. Or keeping your audience’s attention and engagement while you are teaching a seminar.

What do you think? Have you used this technique of breaking things into small pieces and showing progress to keep people motivated?

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

New Series: 365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate

If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while you probably know that a few years ago I did a series called “100 Things You Need To About People”. It was a popular series that finished in April of 2011. Since then I’ve been writing individual blog posts, and wondering if I could/should come up with another series.

Well, I’m jumping in again, starting today. I’ve decided to do a new series called “365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate”. I’d like to do a blog a day for a year, but don’t hold me to that! I don’t know if I can really get a blog out every single day!

You can check out the first post of the series here.

Hope you enjoy the new series!

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #1 Direct Eye Contact Is Not Always Best

Photo of Presidents Clinton and Ford looking at each other

We’ve all been told how important it is to make eye contact when interacting with other people. Direct eye contact makes you seem trustworthy, confident, and interested in the topic you are discussing, right? All those things are true BUT new research shows that direct eye contact can lessen the effectiveness of your message in one critical situation:

Frances Chen researched people listening and watching videos of other people talking about controversial social and/or political topics. Participants watched videos with speakers discussing topics with a strong viewpoint that was opposite to what the participants believed. Some participants were asked to watch the speaker’s eyes, and others were asked to watch the speaker’s mouth. Participants who watched the speaker’s eyes were LESS likely to change their opinion on the topic than the participants who watched the speaker’s mouth.

Why would this be true? Chen’s hypothesis is that direct eye contact can be seen as threatening.

Implications?:

  • If you are talking to people who agree with you, and trying to get them fired up to take action, then use direct eye contact.
  • But If you are talking to people who don’t agree with you, then you may want to minimize the amount of direct eye contact you have.
  • If you are making a video and you believe that people will agree with you, then look right into the camera lense.
  • If you are making a video and you think people don’t agree with you, then look off to the side instead of into the camera.

What do you think? Have you experienced this difference between eye contact and whether you agree with the person speaking?

Here’s the research citation:

Chen, F.S., Minson, J.A., Schöne, M., & Heinrichs, M. (in press). In the eye of the beholder: Eye contact increases resistance to persuasion. Psychological Science.

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

Design For Engagement Live Video event

Join me on June 5th at 12 noon EDT for a FREE live video event via Livestream.

Design for Engagement Live Website Critiques

Wed Jun 5, 2013 12:00pm  — 1:00pm EDT

Come join me in a free live online video event. I’ll be taking website suggestions from the audience and then discussing–on the spot–how to improve the persuasion and engagement of the various websites. While I’m reviewing and discussing each website, you’ll be participating through chat that all participants can see and respond to. We’ll review as many websites as we can get to 20 minutes and then we’ll have lots of time for Q&A. Email your suggestions to me (susan@theteamw) for websites you’d like to see reviewed ahead of time or put them in the comments here, and don’t miss this fun and educational opportunity.

To join the free Livestream event all you have to do is go to the Livestream event page on June 5th, at 12 noon Eastern US time. That’s it! No registration is necessary.

In the meantime, go to the event page now and you can click a link to put the event in your calendar, or follow the event for updates.

I hope you will join me, and don’t forget to submit ideas for the websites that will get the engagement critique, either here in the comments or email me at susan@theteamw.com