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Influencing The Arrogant: Jedi Master Persuasion


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    Are you wondering if a new influencing technique you’ve come across is any good? If you start with, “Wait a minute, I would never fall for something that simple.” But then, after honest introspection, realize it HAS worked on you before. And that too, quite often. Then you’ve found a Jedi Mind Trick of persuasion.

    Some persuasion techniques are so simple than when people are asked if they would be influenced by them, they will unequivocally say no.

    Take for example the technique of anchoring someone with an arbitrary initial number and then having this impact future choices of theirs.

    In a study, participants were first asked to write down the last two digits of their social security number. Next, they had to estimate the prices of several items such as wine, chocolate, and computer accessories. Those whose social security numbers were in the numerically higher 20% (80 to 99), estimated prices that were about 300% higher than the ones who were in the bottom 20% (01 to 20).

    In behavioral economics, this is called arbitrary coherence. An arbitrary initial number shaping and guiding future prices that people are willing to settle for.

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    When asked whether their social security numbers would have had any bearing on their choices, none of the participants felt that would be the case. We know, of course, that the data showed quite the opposite [1].

    Because so few people are aware of how persuasion really works, you will wield great power by using simple techniques like this. Most people are too proud to admit or understand that their decision-making minds are primitive. Just like everyone else, we are much more influenced by what information is conscious in our brain just prior to a decision than we’d like to admit. Even information that is seemingly unrelated.

    Imagine using this to influence how much of a raise your boss will give you on your next performance review or for negotiating your salary for your next job offer!

    People who are oblivious of this are even more prone to such methods of influence. Their arrogance allows them to become much easier prospects.

    For further reading, see Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, HarperCollins, New York, NY 2009.

    All effective influence techniques work in a similar way. They are mostly non-obvious, and work on our subconscious states. You can read more about them here.


    1. Ariely, D.; Loewenstein, G.; Prelec, D;. “Coherent Arbitrariness: Stable Demand Curves Without Stable Preferences” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2003, 118 (1), 73-106.

    If you want to improve your persuasion skills to the level of a Jedi Master, these books will help you do exactly that:

    Best books to improve your influencing and persuasion skills

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    Influence, Persuasion, Behavioral Economics, Career Advice, Dan Ariely

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