Whether we like it or not, everyone is open to a certain amount of influence that determines the choice we make. Some of us might be aware when this is happening, but the vast majority of us are oblivious to how easy it is to sway our decisions.
The human brain is a powerful organ, and its size accounts for the massive difference between other animals that inhabit the Earth and us. Our brain processes thousands of stimuli every day, and to avoid overloading it constantly looks for shortcuts.
While finding shortcuts that help us make decisions has its advantages, like saving us time and energy. It also has its pitfalls. Not taking time out to properly process the stimuli we receive in their entirety means we’re more likely to pick up on subtle cues, which can sometimes lead us astray. Little choices like where to eat, what brand of chips to buy, or even which book to read might have negligible effects. But we also tend to rely on the same pathways and patterns for more significant decisions—impactful choices like whom to hire, where to live, and so on.
While there are many ways to persuade someone to do something, we’ll be looking at two unique ones today:
1. You believe the “experts.”
Salespeople, advertising companies, and even scammers know about your brain’s desire to use shortcuts and take advantage of them. Even when we think we know better, under pressure, specific cues can affect our decision making. One of these is known as the expert fallacy.
You see, our brains are wired to trust the people we think are better than us, the experts. For example, we trust health products recommended by our doctors and other healthcare professionals. As children, mummy, and daddy were always right; because early on they prove they know better than us. The reality is, our default setting is to trust. Especially since we don’t always have the luxury of time or the resources to second guess information we received.
Going back a couple of thousand years in the history of Homo sapiens, that might have been downright deadly. Your chances of survival significantly increased by following the herd -and listening to the experts.
The decision to put our trust in people we’ve never even met takes place in seconds. That’s right. Our brains can decide with just one look at a person’s face whether or not we should rely on what they tell us.
2. You don’t listen to everything
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, that’s much easier said than done because of another shortcut our brain uses to make quick decisions. It’s called the primacy effect and involves our first impression of something or someone.
The primacy effect is so strong, and it can still affect our decision making in the presence of contrary information. It’s why sometimes we need a minute to come to terms with new information that doesn’t often align with what we thought previously. How often do you trail off after singing the first few lyrics of a song? It’s because our brains are unwilling to consume any more information than it deems necessary.
Many articles on resume writing often advise applicants to put the essential information first; after all, no HR personnel has time to read the entire application form for a thousand candidates. Outlining your positive traits before your negative characteristics could be the key to acing your next interview.
We can’t do without shortcuts in making our decisions. It’s vital in helping us save time and energy. But it’s also crucial to be aware of the external factors that can persuade our choices, and if necessary, pause and think before proceeding.
Cover picture source: Storyset Illustrations