Our brains aren’t perfect. In fact, when it comes to decision making, they are extremely outdated. This is because our brains didn’t evolve to operate in modern-day society, where they are required to make difficult decisions on a daily basis while being bombarded with outside stimuli 24/7. It evolved to make fast, automated decisions that would keep you alive on a day-to-day basis.
That’s why we’re still stuck with the following psychological “glitches” that make our brains the perfect target for outside manipulation.
1. Your Brain Is Desperate For Consistency
As anyone who has ever been in a pointless argument can tell you, people have a powerful desire to remain consistent with themselves, even beyond the point of idiocy. Once we’ve said or done something, we feel committed to it, and are compelled to keep going down that line no matter what.
This principle holds true for every area of our lives; it’s why we keep arguing even after being disproven, vote for the same political party, and stick with the same brand of toothpaste year after year.
This principle is an incredibly powerful tool for influencing others; simply by getting people to perform a small task or say yes to a question, a salesman can greatly increase his odds of making a sale.
2. You Trust Social Proof
The trial and error method is a great way to figure out if something works, but it is also very time-consuming. That’s why your brain is naturally wired to take a shortcut and trust Social Proof when it comes to making decisions. Because if others are doing something, then surely that must be the best thing for you as well!
This is why displays of social proof is so effective in marketing, even if it’s just faked social proof. It’s why night clubs keep people in line outside a club even if there’s plenty of room inside, and why we see commercials showing scores of children running for a particular brand of cereal. If others like it, it must be great!
3. You Obey Authority
Just like with social proof, our brains tend to use the shortcut of trusting Authority when it comes to making decisions. And this usually makes sense – we follow authority figures because they tend to be experts in their fields, and know what is good for us.
Unfortunately, your subconscious mind has a very hard time separating actual authority from perceived authority. It perceives actors dressed up as doctors in a commercial to be just as trustworthy as actual doctors, and is far more likely to obey anyone who simply appears authoritative.
This is especially exploited by con artists and scammers, who know that people will be much easier to fool if they put on an authoritative appearance.
4. You’re A Sucker For Scarcity
We’re all terrified of losing out on an opportunity – if we fear that we are about to lose access to something, you can be damn sure we’re going to want it that much more!
This is why stores often keep only a small amount of certain products on the shelves, and mark things as “going out of stock”. It is also why reversed psychology is so efficient; if we feel like we might lose out on an opportunity, we’ll be that much more inclined to jump on it.
5. You’re A Slave To Your Emotions
It’s no secret that our emotions play a major part in our decision making – we naturally choose the option that feels best to us, even if we have no logical reason for liking it. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at distinguishing what exactly it is we feel good about when it comes to a certain decision – it might just be that we like the color of the walls in the shop we’re in.
This brain glitch is especially easy for marketers to exploit, since our subconscious can’t separate between liking a certain product and just liking things surrounding the product. This is why advertisements often feature beloved actors and models using their brand; if we love the actor, our subconscious will associate that liking with the product itself, and decide that we must also love the deodorant he’s showcasing!
6. You’re Wired To Reciprocate Favors
Everyone feels compelled to return a favor – it’s just common decency! But this psychological principle goes much deeper than just courtesy. In fact, the rule of reciprocation is so ingrained in our minds that we have a subconscious desire to reciprocate any favor or gift we receive from another person.
And boy do sales people use this to their advantage! Free samples, compliments and “friendly discounts” are all sales tricks that play on our natural desire for reciprocation. If you feel like you’ve been done a favor, even such a minor one, your brain is desperate to reciprocate the kindness of that sales person. And what better way to do that than by making a purchase?
These psychological glitches are used every day to manipulate your decisions and behavior. But by simply being aware of them, and noticing when they occur, you will be better equipped to defend yourself against this outside influence.