Highlighting negatives only works in persuasion when you also show real positives as well. Very few people will believe that anyone is 100% evil, thus the source suffers from lack of source credibility and the weight of emotional evidence is placed on the victim/attackee. (The same could be true of your competitor in business or any aspect of life.)
Two things could have changed the outcome of the election at least from that point in time.
First, had no one seen the movie, nothing would have happened and Kerry would very likely have had the edge (probably a strong edge) for the Presidency in November. But, the movie was a big surprise because so many people did see it and thus the boomerang effect did indeed occur.
Second, had the movie provided balanced information, noting things the President was doing well, then there would have been a substantially better chance to restore source credibility to the film and thus a more powerful argument.
However, new research just released by Matthew Crawford (one of my heroes in the field of influence) and several of his colleagues, indicates that even the balanced point of view I suggested, might not have been enough to save the election for Kerry.
The newest study just completed about what people say about others reveals some pretty amazing information. There is now substantial and statistically significant evidence that what a person says about someone in an accusatory fashion tends to not stick to the victim or the accused but indeed returns to be stuck on the sender of the information.
Gossip kills the transmitter, the sender of the message. (Wasn’t this also in the Book of Proverbs?)
The new study will likely change the way sharp advertisers and marketers deal with their competition and wise people to reduce the amount they gossip.
I take you into a professional review of the article here.
It appears to go against common sense — not to mention classic psychological theory — but researchers writing in the April edition of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology say they have identified a common, but apparently mindless, psychological phenomenon that plays a previously unrecognized role in the way people form impressions of other people. Specifically, they’ve found that when someone attributes positive or negative traits to someone else, the listener will often attribute those same traits to the speaker. “In other words,” the authors write, “politicians who allege corruption by their opponents may themselves be perceived as dishonest, critics who praise artists may themselves be perceived as talented, and gossips who describe others’ infidelities may themselves be viewed as immoral.”
In a recent communication, the authors suggest that this phenomenon could play a role in the public’s reaction to participants in the recent White House scandal. “For example,” they note, “when Kenneth Starr accuses Bill Clinton of perjury, Starr himself may be seen as more deceitful. Similarly, when Linda Tripp claims that Monica Lewinsky had sex with the President, Tripp herself may be seen as more promiscuous. The gist of our research is that when you gossip, you become associated with the characteristics you describe, ultimately leading those characteristics to be ‘transferred’ to you.”
The researchers conducted a series of four studies on the phenomenon they call spontaneous trait transference. Three of the four studies involved participants looking at photographs accompanied by brief statements. In the first study, the statements were ostensibly about someone the person in the photograph knew. In the second, the statements were either about the person in the photograph or about someone else. In the third study, participants were clearly told that the photographs and the statements had nothing to do with each other; they had been paired at random. In the final study, participants watched videotapes of actors answering off-screen questions about themselves or about someone they knew.
Some of the statements accompanying the photographs (or made on the videotape) were designed to elicit a positive or negative trait. For example “cruel” was implied by the statement “He hates animals. Today he was walking to the store and he saw this puppy. So he kicked it out of his way.” But consistently through the studies, participants attributed the elicited trait to the speakers, even though these speakers described someone other than themselves. This occurred even when participants were specifically told that there was no connection between the speakers and the statements, suggesting, the authors say, that this phenomenon is irrational and largely outside of conscious awareness.
Article: “Spontaneous Trait Transference: Communicators Take on the Qualities They Describe in Others” by John J. Skowronski, Ph.D., The Ohio State University at Newark; Donal E. Carlston, Ph.D., and Lynda Mae, M.A., Purdue University and Matthew T. Crawford, Indiana University Bloomington in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 74, No. 4.
Where Can You Find More Information Like This?
Science of Influence: The Master’s Home Study Course CD Set Volumes 1-12
by Kevin Hogan
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