Tag Archives: Influence

Break Out Of Average Prison

The Collapse Of The Averages

If you study stock charts, there are a kajillion indicators.

Meaning there are a bunch of ways that try and predict what the stock will do next.

The two simplest are moving averages.

One a fifty day, one a two hundred day.

The fifty day is “short term” while the two hundred is “long term.”

If the fifty day crossed the two hundred day on the way down, that’s a bad sign.

It means the stock is not only going down, but it’s picking up momentum as it’s going down.

On the other hand, if the fifty day crosses the two hundred day on the way up, that’s considered a good sign.

Not only is it going up, but it’s picking up momentum as it’s going up.

If you look at any stock chart over the past couple years, and look at the two different moving averages (50 day and 200 day) it looks like a decent signal.

Buy when they cross on the way up, and sell as they cross on the way down.

This is just one of MANY such indicators.

Pick two, a short term and a long term, and when they cross it’s time to buy or sell, depending on HOW they cross.

Implied in all of these indicators is the idea of reversion to the mean.

They are ALL based on past performance.

And these calculations based on past performance will hopefully predict future performance.

But they are all based on the idea that when a price of a stock moves too far way from where it’s been, it’s going to move back.

Reversion to the mean.

It’s been said that humans are scared, lazy people.

And everything we do is designed to make life easier (cause we’re lazy) and safer (cause we’re scared).

But sometimes we can go too far.

We can make life TOO easy and TOO safe.

And we lose our natural abilities.

To think, be creative, and take action when we need to.

Only a couple hundred years ago (which is a nanosecond compared to how long we’ve been around) getting food was a chore.

You had to do a lot of work to get something to eat.

Now you can push a couple buttons on your device, all while watching TV, and have something delivered.

They only “work” you’ve got to do is get up and answer the door.

While this is pretty cool, it’s also pretty dangerous.

Being too safe for too long, and having things too easy for too long can take away our edge.

Which can make it very hard to think creatively, so you can live a life far above average.

Luckily, shifting your mind back to your naturally creative self isn’t difficult.

The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.

Get Started:

Seven Disciplines

Risk Reward Of Persuasion

How She Got Money From Her Parents

When I was a kid I loved reading Mad Magazine.

Once they got into trouble because they had a very realistic looking $3 bill.

And supposedly, some kids were using them in change machines.

There was one bit I remember reading as a kid.

It’s pretty popular, I’ve heard it in a lot of places.

It was a letter written from a student at college to her parents.

She went on for a few paragraphs about how her life had completely changed.

She’d dropped out of college.

Gotten a bunch of tattoos and piercings.

(This was back in the day when that was still pretty “out there.”)

She was living with her new boyfriend who had just gotten out of prison.

She was also pregnant.

And she was pretty sure it was his.

But then the letter ended with the following:

“Just kidding. School is fine, my GPA is still 4.0, but I need a couple hundred dollars. Could you send it?”

The idea being that the parents would be so relieved that their little angle wasn’t tatted up and pregnant by an ex-con, that they’d gladly send her the cash.

Whereas, if she started out saying, “Dear dad, can I have some money?” she wouldn’t have gotten the same result.

This clearly shows that when we frame our suggestion or recommendation, we can have a much better chance of getting it accepted.

Instead of just blurting out what we want, if we think a bit, and put it in the proper context, it will be much more likely to be accepted.

What context?

Think in terms of cost and benefits.

Everything we do has costs and benefits.

Everything we think about doing has costs and benefits.

So when we present our ideas to others, they are going to IMMEDIATELY and usually unconsciously think of our ideas terms of costs and benefits.

The idea is to make your suggestion have a much better cost-benefit ratio (many benefits per cost) compared to the alternative.

Just choose something similar to your suggestion, but make sure it is MUCH costlier (in terms of time, money, or inconvenience) and only has a little bit more benefits.

Compared to THAT, your choice will be the most logical.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do this.

And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

And this law, (Comparison and Contrast) is only ONE of the seven.

Learn Them ALL:

Seven Laws

Resonate With Her

Easy Secrets of Group Resonance

Resonance is a cool concept.

It’s also one of those words that sounds metaphysical, so a lot of people use it without really understanding it.

From a purely scientific standpoint, it refers to the natural frequency of any system.

Like a little kid on a swing.

When he swings his legs at the same “resonance frequency” as the swing, he can swing pretty high.

Singers that can break glass don’t have super powerful voices.

It’s that they can hold the perfect tone, without wavering.

And if that tone is the same vibrational frequency as the glass, then the glass will break.

Same deal when you rub your fingers around the rim of a wine goblet.

When the goblet starts to hum, it’s because the small vibrations of your finger along the top are the same frequency as the wine goblet.

Often times people talk about resonance among people.

Since there are WAY too many variables to even consider, this MUST only be a metaphor.

The resonance you share with your friends when you are all “vibing” is SORT OF like the resonance on a swing set.

But it’s only an approximation.

Thing is though, we understand that as a scientific concept, resonance can be repeated.

Wine glasses, swings, you can “resonate” with them any time you want.

But when we think of “resonating” with people, we assume it’s just one of those rare things.

It either happens or it doesn’t.

But us people, despite our goofy psychological makeup, are still made up of stuff, and although incredibly complicated, that stuff MUST follow the same laws of science that wine goblets and swings have to follow.

Which means if you understand the basic structure of human nature, and human thought, you can RESONATE with a great number of people.

Funny thing is when you are resonating with ONE person, it can be pretty difficult.

But resonating with a BUNCH of people is a lot easier.

See, we humans are PACK ANIMALS.

We naturally feel at home in a group of like minded people.

Which means in a lot of cases, it’s much easier to resonate with a GROUP of people than it is with any individual.

Learn How:

Cult Leader

True Leadership

Radiate What Everybody Craves

Once me and a buddy were feeling rebellious.

This was back in high school.

I was a bit of a non-conformist.

We were sitting in algebra class, talking about how it sucked to have to follow the “rules.”

Of course, at the time, the “rules” were do your homework, get up when the bell rings, and ONLY when the bell rings.

We decided to rebel.

To give the finger to the system.

Our way of doing that was to stand up BEFORE the bell rant.

(I know, crazy!)

We imagined the teacher yelling at us, the other kids gasping in horror.

In our high school brains, that was us making a “statement” against the “system.”

Only it didn’t quite work out that way.

We stood up, and nobody gasped, nobody was outraged, and the cops didn’t show up.

What happened was that everybody else stood up.

They figured since SOMEBODY had stood up, it was time to go.

They didn’t even notice the bell hadn’t rung.

The teacher looked up, a little baffled.

(He usually read the newspaper in the last ten minutes or so of class while we got started on our homework).

He looked at the clock (still a minute to go) and then back at all the other kids.

They seemed to know what was going on (since they were following me and my non-conformist buddy), and even though the clock wasn’t playing along, the teacher (the actual authority of the crowd) just shrugged his shoulders and went back to his paper.

The moral of the story?

We humans are HARD WIRED to follow people.

And if the RECOGNIZED authority (in this case the teacher) doesn’t do his job, they’ll follow whoever TAKES AUTHORITY from him or her.

Now, we weren’t intending to start a revolution or anything.

But this accidental experiment showed a very powerful (and largely unknown or leveraged) facet of human nature.

Humans NEED an authority figure.

We feel LOST without one.

And MOST of our authority figures (the official ones with the titles and uniforms and degrees) really SUCK at it.

Most of them don’t want authority because they actually want to LEAD PEOPLE to better lives.

Most of them are like our algebra teacher.

It’s a job that pays OK, and comes with BUILT IN authority.

The authority comes with the job (or position or degree or certificate).

NOT THE PERSON.

But we humans are hard wired to follow people with REAL AUTHORITY.

Not the authority that comes with a piece of paper or a uniform or a job description.

You may say that people today are STARVED for real authority.

Which means YOU can step up, and fill the gap.

Learn How:

Cult Leader

Magical Fire Energy

Find Your Secret Energy Source

Many of the words we use have tons of different meanings.

Take the word “economy” for example.

When Clinton successfully beat Bush back in ’92, his slogan was, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

In this context, “economy” means the entirety of all transactions.

The implications was that he understood the “economy” was in trouble, and he was going to fix it.

People took this to mean that individuals would get better jobs, better pay, etc.

When marketers use the word “economy” they often combine it with the term, “size.”

The idea being that when you buy in bulk (economy size) your price is less per gram or unit or whatever.

Because our energy use as individuals has ALWAYS been a concern, our entire evolutionary history is based on how well we “economize.”

The more efficient we are with energy usage, the more successful we’ll be as individuals.

One of my favorite lines from Star Trek is when Scotty (the engineer who took care of the engines) was talking to an engineer from another ship.

He asked the other engineer how fast their ship would go.

He gave him an answer.

Then Scotty asked him how fast the ship would REALLY go.

And the other engineer gave Scotty the same answer.

Scotty looked puzzled, and ask if the other captain knew this information.

The other engineer nodded yes, as if it were a silly question.

Scotty looked at him and said, “Aye, laddie, never tell the captain how fast the ship will REALLY go!”

The idea being that it’s always good to have some secret energy in “reserve.”

Mother Nature had the same idea.

It seems that we humans always have more energy than we realize.

For example, you might feel pretty lazy and sluggish.

Too tired to even change the channel with the remote.

But if you suddenly saw a snake slither across the floor, you’d get a burst of energy.

Paradoxically, we always have to “economize” our energy, but we always have some in our secret reserve tank.

Luckily, our world today is FAR LESS dangerous than it was when we were created.

Which means we can use FAR MORE of our existing energy, and still have plenty in the tank.

The problem is finding it.

And then changing it into a usable source.

Luckily, that’s pretty easy.

Learn How:

Sex Transmutation

Peanut Butter Burger

Why Giving Advice Sucks

One time I was supposed to meet a couple of friends in Scotland.

I had arrived a couple day earlier. It was for a three week backpacking trip.

However, I had arrived late at night, and I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay.

This was before smartphones, so I couldn’t look anything up easily.

As I was standing there, jet lagged (after flying for twelve hours and taking a train for another three), dazed and confused, an old guy came up.

“Son, you look lost,” he said. He sounded a lot like Sean Connery, but with a mouthful of marbles.

He showed me where a bunch of cheap hotels, for which I was grateful.

Most of the time, though, when some stranger comes out of nowhere to offer advice, it’s rarely taken with a hundred percent gratitude.

Especially if the advice has some kind of ulterior motive behind it.

Most people have heard that giving unasked for advice rarely works.

Why is this?

Consider the presuppositions.

Imagine you’re at the grocery store, looking at the different flavors of peanut butter. You’re going to go home and make a sandwich.

Then some goof comes out of nowhere and acts like he’s the holder of supreme peanut butter knowledge.

What does this presuppose?

It presupposes that before he even introduces himself, he looks at you and KNOWS that HE knows MORE about peanut butter than you do.

Which is kind of insulting.

AND it robs us of the pleasure of peanut butter discovery.

This is why it rarely feels good if somebody we don’t know gives us unasked for advice.

It presupposes they know more about the situation than we do.

Even when people we know give us advice, it still doesn’t feel right.

Because it has the same presupposition of “superiority.”

Unfortunately, for most of us, this ALL WE KNOW when it comes to influencing others.

Sure, we find out a little bit about what they want, but that’s usually just the tip of the iceberg.

Then we proceed to tell them (or suggest to them) why they should do what WE want based on the little information they’ve given us.

It still is kind of insulting.

We’re basically telling them that with only that LITTLE BIT of information, we know MORE about the situation than they do.

This is why any kind of sales always has both low conversation rates and high stress.

You’re GIVING ADIVCE to people hoping they’ll buy something.

Luckily, there is another way.

Not just in sales, but any time you want to influence others.

And it doesn’t rely on YOU at all.

All them. All their ideas. All you’ve got to do is turn off your brain and ask a few questions.

Click Here To Learn How

Are You Committed?

Dumpster Diving

Once there were these two crows. They were just hanging out, minding their own business, waiting for some free food. They had recently noticed that a new set of vending machines had opened up next to the entrance to a mall, and next to the vending machines was a set of trashcans. The crows had noticed that this was a potential good source of free food, as the trashcans next to the vending machines aren’t emptied nearly as often as other trashcans.

Of course, the crows had no idea of the trash-emptying schedule, they just knew that those colorful boxes sometimes were a good place to hang out and find some decent scraps of food. So when they saw a couple of these new shiny boxes, they figured they’d better hang out and get some good stuff. Usually when crows find a source of food, the first crow to get there generally has dibs. He or she can lose their place in line, should another crow come in and challenge their dominance. If the food is plentiful, like a giant cornfield, they usually don’t worry about things like that.

But when it’s a couple of vending machines in the middle of an otherwise barren (from a crows persepctive) parking lot, then it’s important to get there and establish yourself.

Of course, this strategy can backfire. Once a couple of crows thought they were being clever, and stuck out a claim next do a single vending machine next to a bowling ally, only to discover (after about a weeks worth of closely guarding their new source) that it was only a drinking vending machine, and didn’t produce anything to eat whatsoever. So there’s a fine line between waiting to see if there really is going to be some food, and showing up too late only to find somebody has already made a claim.

Commitment is an interesting thing, even from a human perspective. Everybody wants to get the best they can, but when you make a commitment to anything, a job, a person, a route to work, you are effectively cutting of all other options. If you choose too hastily, you will probably won’t make the best choice. If you take too long to decide, then you might miss out on a lot of good choices.

If you’ve ever played any kind of contact, or semi contact sport, like hockey, basketball, football, a great skill to have is to be able to fake out your opponent, getting them to commit to a particular course of action, and then change course yourself, effectively evading them. On the flip side, being able to read your pursuer, and not be taken in by their sleights a great skill to have as well.

Much has been written from a military strategy standpoint, all the way back to Sun Tzu’s “The Art Of War” detailing many strategies of how to get your enemy to commit to a particular course of action, (chosen of course by you) so you can more easily strike and destroy them.

A classic example is the Allied invasion of Normandy. Several “fake” landing craft were sent out, in order to fool the Nazis into thinking the invasion was happening someplace, else, so they would incorrectly commit their resources, effectively leaving them open to where the actual invasion was going to take place. It was a successful plot that was instrumental (not the only one by a long shot) in the defeat of the Nazis.

Committing to a decision can sometimes have unintended effects, especially when making personal choices about how we choose to live our lives. Many times, people commit to something, thinking they will get a certain result, but when the results don’t show up, people can tend to “change” their original intent, so as not to “waste” their efforts. Even when it is obvious that aren’t going to succeed in a particular endeavor (according to your original intention) many of us plod along anyways, not willing to admit that we’ve wasted all that time and effort.

In “The Peter Principle,” Laurence J. Peter asks why people continue to put effort into something that is obviously unsuccessful. Most people will give the argument “I’ve been doing this for ten years, I’m not about to quit now.” Peter asks “why continue to do something when you have ample evidence that it doesn’t work?”

Of course, this is tough to do. As pointed out by Cialdini in “Influence, Science and Practice,” commitment and consistency is a powerful motivating force in human decision-making. We tend to do things the way we’ve always done them, so long as they haven’t killed us. This tendency has been shown time and time again in various social experiments and studies. It can be extremely tough to change course after doing the same thing day in and day out year after year.

One alternative is to take a step up on the logical ladder. You can still stay committed to the underlying intent without being committed to the actions that you initially thought you would get you to that underlying intent.

Somebody may choose to change diets, if one particular diet isn’t working out, provided that they are still committed and focused on losing weight. In NLP, it’s taught that it’s usually a good idea to have less investment in any particular method, while having a solid understanding of your underlying goals. More flexibility is always preferred when deciding how you want to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. If whatever you thought was going to get you there isn’t working out, you can always change strategies midway, while keeping your focus on your original goals. That way you’ll never fall into the “I’ve been doing this for X years, I’m not about to change now,” trap.

So the crows decided that they’d wait three days, and if they didn’t see any good food being thrown in the garbage, they’d go someplace else. They had enlisted the help of a couple buddies, so there were six of them in all. They figured two of them would stand guard at any given time, to establish their claim. The other two would go to other food sources in the meantime.

What the crows discovered was a virtual food goldmine, although it was completely unexpected. The vending machines happened to be set up just around the corner from the big dumpsters that all the restaurants in the mall were supposed to throw their food out into. When the crows noticed how much food was being thrown out, their small group swelled in numbers immediately, and they never went hungry again.

Leverage Criteria For Ultimate Power

One of the most powerful ways to easily persuade somebody to your way of thinking is elicit and leverage criteria. Everyone you will ever meet is a walking talking collection of unmet wants and needs. And for most people, most of these unmet wants and needs are sufficiently vague so that you can easily leverage them to your benefit.

Be careful though, you can easily misuse this power to trick them into doing something or buying a product that is against their interests. If you do this, then woe be unto you.

So how do you elicit criteria? Simple. Once you establish rapport, and generate a sufficient level of comfort, just ask them what’s important about something. Be sure to ask respectfully, and with genuine interest. Most people are a little bit shy about talking about their deep desires and criteria, and will quickly close themselves off to you if they smell any amount of incongruity.

For example, let’s say you are on a first date with a girl. Or maybe not even a first date. Maybe you are just talking to her at a party or a bar. You look around, comment on all the single people. Say something about how hard it is to find the right person for a relationship. If she agrees, then that’s good. It’s usually good to go first, and reveal a little bit about yourself first.

So you mention something about your relationship (make sure not to say anything bad about anybody) mention some of the good things, and mention something more that you were looking for. For example, you could say that your last boyfriend or girlfriend was a good friend, and a good conversationalist, but they really didn’t like to travel. They were a great guy/gal, but they weren’t as adventurous. So you needed to move on. Being adventurous is important to you.

Then you ask the person you are talking to about what is important to them in a relationship. It’s key to make sure to agree that whatever they say is important.

Then ask what is important about that? For example, if they said they want to meet somebody with a good sense of humor, casually ask what they find important about that. They may say that they want somebody that can laugh at themselves. Somebody that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

One of the great things about this is that just by talking to somebody about what is important to them, they will subconsciously start to think of you in those terms, provided you have enough rapport. If you do this several different times, they will really start to develop deep feelings for you.

Another example.

Let’s say you are selling long distance plans. You get somebody on the line, get them talking, and ask them what long distance they are currently using. Instead of jumping right into switching them, like most people do, ask them what they like about their current plan. Ask them what is important about those things that they like. Be sure to agree with whatever they say.

Lets say they mention they like that it is part of their current bill. And you ask them what is important about that (make sure not to sound like you are going to convince them that it shouldn’t be important, agree with whatever they say). They will say something like they don’t have to worry about two separate bills. It’s easier that way. They don’t have to worry.

Then simply convince them that with your new plan, it is totally simple, and they won’t have to worry. Just let them know that it will fulfill their existing criteria, and will save them money.

This can take some time to get down, so that you can use it conversationally, but when you do you will realize how powerful this is. You will notice a significant increase in your sales and your ability to conversationally persuade and influence others.

The Power Of Influence – Tool Or Weapon?

Do You Know When Your Strings Are Being Pulled?

There are two laws of influence that can be used in a particularly powerful combination. These two laws have been identified by Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book, “Influence, Science And Practice.” If you are interested in influence at all, and would like to either become better at it, or just to understand how pretty much everybody around you is using these techniques, you should read this book.

There is a vague belief that persuasion is kind of an “art,” and that people that are good at it are like musicians or painters who are born with some natural talent. But Dr. Cialdini has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that persuasion is indeed a science, rather than an art. A science that can be learned and applied either to benefit an individual, a company, or the leader of a nation.

There are several examples of how these principles of influence have been used without much concern for ethical considerations, but they still work nevertheless.

There is one fantastic example that comes to mind, which I’d like to share with you today. This was illustrated in “Influence.”

The first principle this involves is one of “commitment and consistency.” This is the idea that people are much more willing to do something if they have already publicly stated they will something, or have done something before that is similar.

A great Internet example is “click through.” If you visit a website of somebody trying to sell you something, you’ll likely have to click through several different pages to actually get to the point where you type in your credit card number. The reasoning behind this is people are much more likely to take the next step if they’ve already taken several previous steps.

If you land on some web page, and read some advertising text, and there is a button at the bottom that says “Buy Now!” The percentage of people that click on it is fairly low. But instead, if you shorten your sales page, and on the bottom is a button that says, “Click to Read More!” You’ll get much more people clicking through. Once you get visitors to click through three or four pages, they’ll be much more likely to click on a “Buy Now” button.

Another example is in jury trials. When they finish a trial, and the jury convenes they will often conduct a “straw vote” meaning that just give their first impression, guilty or not guilty, before the jury starts to discuss the case. Here’s the interesting part.

In jury deliberations where each juror publicly states, out loud, whether they feel the defendant is guilty or not guilty, the deliberations last more than twice as long as those where they jurors submit their initial guilty or innocent vote via anonymous slips of paper.

When people state their opinions out loud, they are much less likely to later change them. But when they submit their opinions in private, on an anonymous slip of paper, they later change their minds rather easily.

Another principle is one called scarcity. I’m sure you are well aware of this. Limited supply. Sale only lasts for two days. Only the first one hundred customers.

Study after study shows that people will give something a much higher value when they think it is scarce. A group of researchers did an experiment where they had people sample a cookie. In one case, they convinced the samplers that there were plenty of cookies, and the test would be going for quite a while, etc etc.

Then they told a different group of testers that the cookies were a limited batch, and it was a recipe that was only being tried out for a short period of time, and the testers were lucky to be in on the experiment. Keep in mind the testers or samplers were never sold anything, so there was no buying pressure.

The results? The samplers who were told there were many more cookies of the same kind gave it an average rating. The testers who were told that it was a small group of cookies, and they were a select group of testers gave it an excellent rating.

But they were the same exact cookie. Simply by telling people it was scarce, it made the cookie taste better.

Now for the powerful, Christmas time combination. I have no idea if this still happens today, but this story was illustrated in “Influence,” the book I mentioned previous.

There was a toy manufacturer. They made a toy, and put all kinds of TV commercials on, directed at little kids. They used all kinds of marketing tricks, mainly scarcity. Only a limited number of dolls made. Get yours today. Everybody wants this doll for Christmas.

Only when the parents went to the store to get the doll, they were all sold out. So they had to get a substitute gift for their kid. Then, a couple months after Christmas, they somehow found a hidden warehouse filled with these dolls. Of course, the kids saw this, told their parents, and their parents were pretty much obligated to buy the toy, as they had promised to buy it at Christmas but couldn’t find it.

Here’s how it works. Kid sees toy, bugs parent. Parents promises kid to buy them that particular toy. When buying time comes, toy isn’t available. Parent buys replacement gift. Two months later, toy reappears. Kid says, “But Daddy, you promised!” Daddy now has to go and buy gift.

Simply by manipulating the supply of the toys (scarcity) to increase demand, and depending on commitment and consistency (Daddy, you promised!) the toy company was able to double it’s Christmas sales. They sold a slew of replacement gifts (jacked up in price because of daddy’s guilt for not finding the promised toy) and then again a couple months later, when the original gift magically appeared, they had an increase in sales when all their competitor were suffering from a post Christmas slump

The beauty (or evilness, depending on how you look at it) of a plan like this is that this is almost impossible to defend against. What parent is going to tell their child they can’t have what the TV has said every other kid is getting? What parent is going to break a promise to their kid?

Everywhere you look, there are advertisements developed by companies who know and apply these principles on a daily basis. It helps to understand these principles so that you can use them yourself (in an ethical, win win scenario, of course) and to defend against them when they are used against you.

The Paradox Of Choice

Which Do You Choose?

Which would you rather have, a big juicy hamburger, or a cracker with some peanut butter slapped on top? How about a nice two-week relaxing vacation on the beaches of Hawaii versus a free coupon worth on rental from your local video store? Or how about a date with Megan Fox compared to that homeless woman you saw the other day?

These may seem like obviously easy choices. But what about these:

You are standing next to the train tracks. There is a split right where you are standing. There is a train coming. As it stands, the strain is going to veer left. You have access to a switch that can make the train veer right if you flip the switch.
You notice there is a stranded bus filled with school kids on the tracks to the left. If the train continues on its course, it will hit the bus and kill the kids. But to the right, there is one fat guy working on the tracks. If you throw the switch to change tracks, the train will avoid the kids, but it will kill he fat guy.

What do you do?

If you do nothing, a busload of kids will die. If you throw the switch, you will save the kids, but you will be directly responsible for killing some fat guy.

Or how about this:

There is a boatload of kids drifting down a river, about to plunge off a waterfall. You are standing on a bridge. There is the same fat guy walking across the bridge. If you run up and push the fat guy off the bridge, he will hit the boat and diverge it from the waterfall, and save the kids.

What do you do?

Many people polled in various studies would pull the switch in the first scenario, as they see it as an act of saving the kids. But few people would actually run up and push the fat guy off the bridge.

Why?

They (those they people again) did a study where they took some students and had them stick their hands in a bucket of water, and then guess the temperature. Then they had the same students stick their same hands in the same water, but at the same time, they had them stick their other hands in another bucket of water, that was either really hot or really cold. When the other bucket was really hot, they underestimated the temperature of the test bucket. When the water was really cold, they overestimated the temperature of the test bucket.

Or how about this. It is not uncommon for real estate agents to show a potential client a really crappy house in a really crappy neighborhood that is within their stated price range. Then they show them another much better house, in a much better neighborhood that is priced slightly higher than their stated price range.

They’ve found that this works really well to convince them to increase their price limits. By showing them the first house (which is owned and maintained by the real estate company) they effectively make the second house look like a bargain.

Restaurants have also found this trick works really well when selling wine. If they have a bottle (or several bottles) they are trying to unload at, say, fifty dollars a bottle, the wine won’t sell very well if it is the most expensive bottle they have. But they’ve found by adding another bottle, priced at seventy five to a hundred dollars, they increase sales of the fifty dollar bottle significantly. It looks better in comparison.

Our brains don’t’ like to choose in a vacuum. We need to have something to compare our choices to. If the choice is only to buy a bottle of wine or not, we usually will choose not. But if it’s an expensive bottle or a cheaper bottle, we’ll choose the cheaper bottle.

This is a known psychological trick that has been used in sales for many years. We like to feel like we have a choice, like we are smart enough to evaluate those choices and make the best decision that we can. But our short hand thinking process can easily be hijacked by marketers who want to sell us something that we really don’t need.

There is one simple rule to avoid being duped. Simply know going in, before being presented with choices, what is important to you, what price you are willing to spend, and what options you want. And compare everything you see only to your list of options and your acceptable price.

Of course, if you are a marketer, and you are trying to sell something, say online, it would help dramatically to include something similar that is priced significantly higher. That way people will think the real item you have for sale is a bargain and they will be much more likely to buy it.

For example, if you run a product review page, and you are selling item “X” for fifty bucks, try and find a similar item, with only slightly better features, for two hundred bucks. Item “X” will seem like steal in comparison.

Another trick that has been proven very useful in this regard is to include only a little bit of information about the first, more expensive item, and then very detailed information about item “X.” That way, item “X” will not only seem cheaper by comparison, but your potential buyers will feel much more informed, and feel they are making a wise buying decision.

Happy marketing, and don’t push any fat guys off any bridges.