Memory Research Shows Us How to Persuade
You may have heard it said, “Buyers are liars.”
Maybe not. In fact, probably not…and if you know why…you WILL get far more clients…
Evaluate this with me:
Forty-five first year psychology students were told three stories about their grade-school experiences and asked about their memories of them. Two of the accounts were of real grade three to six events recounted to the researchers by the participant’s parents. The third event was fictitious, but also attributed to the parents. It related how, in grade one, the subject and a friend got into trouble for putting Slime (a colourful gelatinous goo-like toy made by Mattel that came in a garbage can) in their teacher’s desk.
The participants were encouraged to recall the events through a mix of guided imagery and “mental context re-instatement”–the mental equivalent of putting themselves back in their grade-school shoes. Half of the participants were also given their real grade one class photo, supplied by their parents.
Question One: Estimate the percentage of students who literally believed the Slime story to be true in the groups where there were no class photo.
a) 3% b) 9% c) 14% d) 20% e) 25%
Question Two: Estimate the percentage of students who literally believed the Slime story to be true in the groups where there was a class photo shown to the students.
a) 16% b28% c) 45% d) 58% e) 67%
The answers are that the mere suggestion of the Slime incident attributed to the parents caused 25% of the people to believe it actually happened. That is rather amazing, but consistent with what we have believed about suggestibility.
In the group where the individuals were told the same exact story but also shown the class picture from that grade, 67% of the students believed the fictional story about themselves to be absolutely true.
2/3 of all people believed the fictional story to be true. Why more than the 25% in the other groups? Because their was a class photo which apparantly helped stimulate some creative story-telling in the brain.
“The false memories were richly detailed,” says Dr. Lindsay, whose research focuses on memory and who co-authored the paper with a team from the University of Victoria and the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
Of those who claimed to remember the Slime event, most did so with just as much confidence as for the two real events.
When asked which of the events didn’t really happen, all but three of the participants said it was the Slime event. Even so, the fact that it was concocted elicited surprised reactions, including the comment, “No way! I remembered it! That is so weird!”
Dr. Lindsay attributes the remarkably high rate of false memory to several factors. These include the plausibility of the Slime scenario (including that a friend was involved), the confidence inspired by the skilled and outgoing interviewee Lisa Hagen, a former student and co-author on the paper, and the role of the photo as both a memory prod and seemingly corroborating piece of evidence.
“The findings support the general theoretical perspective that memories aren’t things that are stored somewhere in your head,” says Dr. Lindsay. “Memories are experiences that we can have that arise through an interaction between things that really have happened to us in the past and our current expectations and beliefs.”
Ramifications: Startling. The mere presence of a tangential (not even corroborating) piece of information (the class photo from 2-5 years before the Slime event was supposed to have taken place) causes the majority of the individuals to believe a complete fabrication about their own past.
This not only confirms previous research that has been done in the past, but it does it all one better. That extra little visual piece of evidence which links the person to the past (false) “experience,” makes it all very real indeed.
The same thing is true in your life about hundreds of things.
And the same is true of your clients! The mere suggestion of something that happened to you…or your client “verified” by a “supporting” piece of “evidence” can cause the immediate creation of an utterly false memory…and what shapes beliefs? You got it.
This would be similar to someone showing you a photo taken for a Christmas card in your family, and then someone tells a story about you. The mere suggestion combined with a literally irrelevant picture can change the landscape of your mind…just like that.
What does this mean for persuasion?
I think this is one of the crucial finds of the last decade, and few will see its relevance in persuasion.
I advise people I work with in any capacity to never say anything bad about the person they live with…to anyone. (In fact this is a family rule as well.) Why? The person you tell this information to has a very limited landscape of your reality. Now you create it for them and the relationship between you and the future gossiper will never be the same. Rare events become a way of life. Occassional annoyances become the norm of your life in the mind of the other person. So what?
Each time they communicate with you, they then literally change your memory about your life. Your history. Your relationships. Your experience. Your experience is no longer what it was but a sum of the conversations you’ve had with others about your life. That could be a good thing if you follow “the rule”…it could be devastating if you break it.
So, the first thing you must realize is that your client believes many things about themselves and other people which simply aren’t true…Again these could be constructive beliefs or destructive beliefs.
The power of suggestion combined with tangential “evidence” is enough to cause someone to believe something ridiculous or even bizarre…something you wouldn’t have thought possible.
The brain is completely malleable as far as memory is concerned. I’ve written about this for a few years now. But now…it is evident that it is even more changable (and much easier to instantly change) than I frankly, every speculated.
The customer tells you anything. Any story. Realize that true or false, they believe it and if it is FALSE they typically believe it with greater certainty than if it is real.
Realize that any “evidence” they show you to support their story will make it much more vivid in their mind, even if the picture/document has NOTHING to do with the memory.
You’ve had the experience many times where someone confirmed something you said about something you “remembered” and you said, “oh yes! I remember now…..” and perhaps it did happen and perhaps not. The external “cue” can make something seem to be “true” but realize that person/photo/document means nothing.
Now, back to dealing with your clients falacious memories about your company or you. Be prepared to have photos or video, supporting documents or letters that “verify” that what you are going to share is in indeed true, incredibly useful and accurate. Those supporting documents (even as simple as a photo of the building you work at…which I’m sure you have noticed as some kind of credibility builder in many people’s ads…will add to your story…if you get it out first, or to theirs if they see the photo and then attach it to their fallacious beliefs.)
The new model of presenting information demands a very well thought strategy doesn’t it? Each environmental cue will change their memory as you move through your communication. New information will be shuffled with the old and an entirely new picture will indeed emerge.
You need to make sure that picture is favorable…and it doesn’t take much does it?!
- How are you going to avoid the instantaneous negative review your potential client wants to share with you?
- Can you communicate something with an image or supporting document briefly that will unhook that memory?
I’ll show you how to do this in a couple of ways later in the CD (Science of Influence Vol. 29). But as soon as they say it and connect it with your face, your office, your product…you are sunk.
Best to take 20 seconds and fix this possibility before it is unrepairable.
Have you ever seen someone get in an argument with someone else and they use a diary or journal to prove that whatever happened really happened? If you’ve been with me for long, you know that that journal or diary is just as likely to be incorrect in facts as is the person’s memory 10 years later. Why?
People tend to write about emotional events and when this is the case, the hippocampus doesn’t store all information…in fact it stores less information but that which it does keep is volatile, easily brought to conscious and just as likely to be correct as it is incorrect. The same is true with a “memory” 10 years in the future.
The person’s FEELING will always be the first sorting factor in what a memory will become. This is why I tell people to walk through what their feelings are saying and move completely through it to accomplish your goal. Otherwise, you become fat, smoke more cigarettes and do everything else your feelings tell you to do. Scary huh?
One picture with one story, true or not, can create a complete memory with a complete set of feelings attached to it. That set of feelings can trigger an entire set of behaviors and actions.
Now, when was the last time someone shared something this amazing with you and you got it for free….I know!
Where else can you get information just like this?
“Abundance Happens on Purpose.” Kevin Hogan
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