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Being Less Susceptible to Influence

If you haven’t been paying close attention to the last few articles just know this: what I’m saying there has been approved by Brad Pitt. Why the endorsement joke!?

Pairing brands and celebrities, because people browse

As you surely have seen, product endorsements are commonplace advertising tools. Companies pay good money for them. One endorsement that I found particularly amusing was for the classic perfume Chanel no. 5. It pictured none other than a close-up of the handsome actor Brad Pitt.

I’m fairly confident that he doesn’t wear Chanel, but clearly the executives at Chanel believe that pairing a handsome man with their brand is going to boost sales. If people are skimming magazines and not paying much attention it might just work.

Paying attention to the real features, increasingly difficult

In the past years  there have been new theories and new findings on endorsements, but the basic ideas is that sound people are generally less likely to be influenced by extraneous factors if they’re motivated to pay attention to the real argument, real features the product and so on.

When targets are not motivated they are more easily influenced via tactics that have little or nothing to do with the actual argument being used by the influencing agent. And there is an explanation for that.

Late night infomercials, because viewers are tired

Have you ever considered why so many infomercials run on late-night TV? My first thought was that was the only time these companies could afford advertising, but TV sold merchandise is big industry. There are actually entire channels devoted to it now it turns out that.

One major reason to run late-night infomercials is that viewers are often tired and thus more likely to be influenced to buy the next greatest thing because of its exhaustive and hard to remember list of amazing features. The positive energy of the person selling surely helps boost influence through the peripheral route.

How people believe false claims and ads

I really need this new device? Who knows, but late at night is more likely to be persuaded as I’m too tired to get my full attention. And, what we’ve been saying about age and motivation is further supported by a 2011 review by scholars Guang-Xin Xie and David Bousch.

Their review found that certain people are more likely to believe false claims and ads consistent with dual process theory people who are either distracted or not motivated are more likely to be susceptible. The authors also find support for age as an important factor. Memory deficits in older adults increase the likelihood that a deceptive bad will be believed.

Having that knowledge can help you

All other things equal the easiest person to influence is someone who is: collectivistic, suggestible, either quite young or quite old and someone not particularly motivated to pay close attention. This is incredibly important information to have.

It can help you better understand if you or one of your loved ones is more likely to be influenced. Having that knowledge can help you thwart and influence attempt when it is against your best interest. What can you do to be less susceptible to influence particular if you discover you are prone to it?

Being less susceptible to influence

Stephen Greenspan in his book The annals of gullibility offers four suggestions:

  1. Make a point to avoid acting impulsively, to make big decisions without sleeping.
  2. Design your own situations to avoid being pressured. Don’t shop in stores with pushy salespeople. Shop online instead.
  3. Accept that you don’t know everything. You should be willing to ask lots of questions and do additional research before you believe a particular claim don’t assume that what you have been given his information is all you need to know, do additional research.
  4. Become more socially aware, pay careful attention to some of the characteristics employees of influence agents that have bad intentions.