Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is an intriguing book about the biases of our intuition. That is, we assume certain things automatically without having thought through them carefully.
- Kahneman calls those assumptions heuristics (mental shortcuts that ease the mental load of making a decision).
- Certain heuristics lead to muddled thinking and errors of judgment.
- Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for proving over 150 human biases influence our thinking and behaviors.
One example of a heuristic is PRIMING. It was featured in the movie Focus, starring Will Smith. In one of the key scenes in the movie taking place during the Super Bowl, Will Smith and team from the beginning of the day set up Liyuan who is a notorious gambler. The con used PRIMING so that Liuyan would see the number 55 throughout the day, thereby subconsciously getting him to pick that number when the moment was right. It led to Liuyan being conned out of much money!
Conscious and subconscious exposure to an idea “primes” us to think about an associated idea.
- If we’ve been talking about food we’ll fill in the blank SO_P with a U.
- But if we’ve been talking about cleanliness we’ll fill in the blank SO_P with an A.
- Things outside of our conscious awareness can influence how we think.
These subtle influences also affect behavior through “the ideomotor effect.” People reading about the elderly will unconsciously walk slower. And people who are asked to walk slower will more easily recognize words related to old age. People asked to smile find jokes funnier; people asked to frown find disturbing pictures more disturbing.
It is true:
- If we behave in certain ways our thoughts and emotions will eventually catch up.
- We can not only feel our way into behavior, we can behave our way into feelings.
Potential for error?
- We are not objective rational thinkers.
- Things influence our judgment, attitude, and behavior that we are not even aware of.
How can you leverage this idea?
The next time you want others to get on board with your idea, try PRIMING your audience by “dripping information” about the idea you want them to “see.”
Onward and Upward,