Throughout history various smart minds have figured out the secrets to increasing perceived value so that items could be sold for more money.
In 1637 Baltasar Gracián y Morales wrote the following in his book of maxims under the heading Know How to Get Your Price For Things:
“A product’s intrinsic value is not sufficient ; for all do not go deep into the qualities of a product. Most go with the crowd, and go because they see others go.”
In 1924 George Burton Hotchkiss wrote the following in Advertising Copy:
One of the strongest forms of suggestion is by action. The human being is naturally imitative. In any large city a man who stands on the street corner and gazes into the air will soon attract a large crowd around him doing likewise.”
Since then social psychologists have found it necessary to “prove” what skilled marketers, salesmen and copywriters already knew.
For example, in 1969 Stanley Milgram and two other social psychologists conducted an experiment on 42nd Street in New York where they had various numbers of participants (insiders that were part of the research project) staring at a sixth floor window. The researchers recorded how many passerby stopped to look up. Here are the results: If one person was looking up at the sixth floor then 45% of the people who passed looked up. If 15 people were looking up at the sixth floor then a massive 85% of the people passing by looked up.
As Mr. Hotchkiss said in 1924 once a single person stands and gazes into the air, a second will soon follow and then a third, fourth, etc. – until there is a large crowd of people stopping and staring in the air.
Other social psychologists like Robert Cialdini have popularized the research projects involving our natural imitative nature and labeled it “social proof.”
But I think Hotchkiss’s label – “imitative suggestion” is more accurate than the modern Cialdini label.
“Imitative suggestion” better describes what is really going on. When we encounter a situation where we have insufficient information our other-than-conscious mind searches for information cues. One of those information cues is what other people are doing. If many people are doing the same thing then our mind figures that there is a good probability that they are doing the right thing.
So when we have incomplete information and need to make a decision (even about something as simple as looking up to the sky) – we go into a trance – a hypnotic trance and information cues then become non-verbal suggestions (“suggestion by action”) that create effects in a similar way that verbal suggestions create effects in a formal hypnotic session.
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