“The hidden tricks of powerful persuasion”
Human behaviours are governed by superstition, repetition and cliches, which makes us easy targets for mind tricks. If you know the secrets, you could use them to your advantage. For example, we recently told you that the best way to detect a liar is to trick them into giving away too much information, rather than focus on their body language.
There are other ways to keep ahead of the curve. Here are some more surprising facts about reading human behaviours and influencing people’s decisions, plucked from the BBC Future archive and elsewhere:
- Simply tapping someone on the shoulder, and looking him or her in the eye, means they are far more open to suggestion.
Read more: “The hidden tricks of powerful persuasion”
- Pupil dilation is linked to the degree of uncertainty during decision-making: if somebody is less sure about their decision, they feel heightened arousal, which causes the pupils to dilate.
Read more: “How the eyes betray your thoughts”
- A trick used by pickpockets on drunken targets is to start gently rocking from side to side as they talk to them. The drunk person thinks that they are rocking and so will try to compensate, but will be unbalanced and fall over. As they’re helped up by their assailant, they have their possessions taken.
Read more: “How pickpockets trick your mind”
- People with higher levels of testosterone tend to be wider-faced with bigger cheekbones, and they are also more likely to have more assertive, and sometimes aggressive, personalities.
Read more: “What the face betrays about you”
- Associating the colour red with dominance and aggression is hard-wired into our brains. For example, boxers assigned red kits were about 5% more likely to win their bout than the blues.
Read more: “How the colour red warps our mind”
- In Rock, Paper, Scissors, men are most likely to throw the more “macho” choice of a rock – while scissors are least popular with both men and women. For these reasons, you are safest choosing paper – you’ll either win or draw. Another cunning trick is to say your choice out loud; your opponent will think you are bluffing and therefore choose a less wise option.
Read more: “How to win at almost anything”
- Salesmen have mastered the art of controlling our thoughts. A classic trick used in showrooms is to overprice one product among a series of other very similar products. For example, if four similar espresso machine were on a shelf next to each other, but three were priced at $200 and one at $400, the overpriced one makes the other three look good value for money. The reality is, this shows how little we know about how much an espresso machine should cost.
Read more: “The subtle science of selling”
- Laughter is a “social emotion” that brings us together and helps us to bond, whether or not something is actually funny. When you laugh with people, you show them that you like them, you agree with them, or that you are in same group as them. Studies have found that it also makes them more candid about their secrets later on. So if you want to suck up to someone and get them to tell you what they’re thinking, laughing at their bad jokes is a sure fire way of doing it.
Read more: “Why do we laugh inappropriately?”
- The perceived attractiveness of a woman’s voice varies during their menstrual cycle. Their voice reaches peak attractiveness as the chances of conception increases. This shows how our underlying biology reveals itself in subtle behavioural differences.
Browse the data: “Women's voice attractiveness varies across the menstrual cycle”