Finola Howard (@FinolaHoward), a marketing professional, found my post, “Information You Know Is Wrong Still Influences You,” interesting but wanted to know, “How do you address it?” The post dealt primarily with anchoring, planting ideas in others’ heads, many times on an unconscious level. So, I’m expanding my answer to include all unwanted unconscious influences, not just anchoring.
Essentially, there are four broad defenses available to us:
- Accept we don’t have the free will and control we think we do
- Learn about them
- Adapt to them
- Avoid them
Advertising works on us primarily because we don’t think it does. Negative political ads are a great example. They work even though everyone dislikes them. Still, many will read this and say something like, “The weak minded are affected. I’m not.” Yet, this hubris about control over their own thoughts makes them among the most vulnerable.
Learning about these influences so we can identify them helps greatly. Unconscious smells are an example. Even though they don’t register consciously with us, they influence our decisions; but, once we know of them, our minds often adjust automatically.
For other influences, we need a more conscious adaptation. For instance, in sales it’s common for sales people to ratchet up our cost expectations so when we finally hear cost, it doesn’t seem so high. We can adapt by consciously setting that expectation (or researching cost) before the salesperson influences us.
Finally, with some, avoiding is best. Inflammatory rhetoric applies here. We will become more extreme, either more supportive if we agree or more against if disagree. Our decisions will become more extreme, thus increasing potential for undesirable outcomes.
Still, we fall victim mainly because we believe our conscious filters catch all, so we don’t take precautions. Unfortunately, some will use that against us.
Related post: How Intuition Influences our Thought Process