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Weapons of Influence

Automatic stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving, and in other cases it is simply necessary.

Much of animal behavior is programmed and can be triggered by certain stimuli in the environment around us. For example, a male robin will attack anything with red-breasted feathers, and a mother turkey will care for any animal that makes a “cheep-cheep” sound. Humans are no exception to this rule—we are more likely to comply with requests when given a reason to do so or purchase an item when it is more expensive.

This sort of programmed, stereotyped behavior is essential to functioning in the world. With so many stimuli around us, we need these shortcuts that enable us to automatically respond to specific scenarios. Otherwise, our brains would simply burst trying to process all the information we are given.

Another principle which dictates our behavior is known as the contrast principle, which posits that the perceived difference between two items will be greatly exaggerated if they are presented one after another. For example, there is increasing evidence suggesting that many people are unsatisfied with their partner’s looks due to the prevalence of unrealistically attractive models in the media.

Actions to take

Principles to follow