Disruption Persuasion

One persuasion idea everyone should know is the free to choose technique.

This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose.

But that isn’t the only simple persuasion technique carrying a large impact. Another, involving a little more effort, is the disrupt-then-reframe (DTR) technique.

Davis and Knowles (1999) first brought to light the DTR technique demonstrating that it was “influential in getting household residents to purchase cards supporting a local charity.”

The authors created a new influence technique involving a small disruption (stating the price of a package of note cards in pennies rather than dollars) and a direct reframing (saying, “It’s a bargain”).

In the control the authors told people it was $3 for 8 cards. Sales were made at 40% of the households in the control case. The the authors introduced a DTR case. First telling people it was 300 pennies for 8 cards, followed after with a direct reframing: “It’s a bargain.” Sales in the DTR case were made at 80% of households.

That’s a huge impact for such a small change. So, how and why does this work? For that we turn to the PSY Blog:

DTR works by first disrupting routine thought processes. The pitch is deliberately made hard to think about. In this case people’s attention is distracted while they try to process this cryptic ‘300 pennies’ and why anyone would mention the price in pennies rather than dollars.

Hot on the heels of the disrupt, in comes the reframe: in this case the words: “It’s a bargain!” While people are distracted by the price in pennies (for a second or two anyway), they are more likely to just accept the suggestion that the cards are a bargain.

The disruption only works for a second; the reframe has to come immediately, before people’s critical faculties come back online.

The next time a salesman says something confusing, you’ll want to pay attention to whether they are trying to disrupt your thinking. Something as simple as “only owner one” followed by “this is a great bargin” might not be a slip of tongue after all.

(h/t psy)