Want to learn how to immediately improve your life? Want to learn fundamental psychology tips that can help you in your relationships? Want to know why Victoria’s Secret won’t let me try on their summer catalog? Well, keep on reading for the answer to at least two of those questions.
A study done by fucking nerds at Northwestern University sought to examine the relationship between focus and choice. Their experiment looked at how people’s preferences can change when given additional alternatives. In the first phase of their experiment, participants were given a pair of sofas to choose from. Of these two options, one had soft, comfortable cushions while the other had less comfortable, more durable cushions.
When given these two choices, most participants preferred the durable cushions over the softer ones. Then, like the M. Night Shyamalan films, the researchers added a twist. The next set of participants were given even more sofas to compare. In the second phase, there were multiple couches with durable cushions and only one couch with soft cushions. Participants then asked, “Why does any of this fucking matter?”
The results: in the first phase, participants preferred soft couches. But, in the second phase, when given one soft cushion and even more durable cushions, their preferences actually changed for the soft couches.
Researchers concluded that the added alternatives increased the “salience of one of the options in the core set.” That was an annoyingly academic statement. What I encrypted from that message was this: when adding similar choices, distinctive features stand out. In this context, it was the softer cushions. They became preferred just for the sake of it being different. With multiple options, attention for the softer cushions was increased and, in turn, so was its attractiveness. It became interesting just for the sake of being different. It became distinctive.
Now that we know that being distinctive can lead to desirability, how can we apply this in our daily life?
For one, if you want a person to be romantically interested in you, you have to become distinctive (if you prefer harems I don’t know how to help). The cliché advice you always hear is to bring an ugly friend wherever you go. If you’re reading this, chances are you are the ugly friend. We are going to have to embrace your genetic blunder in our matchmaking. Make sure to surround yourself with well-toned men or women that are both charismatic and really, really, ridiculously good-looking. If you do this right, you’ll be seen as the interesting and introspective outsider. You’ll become distinctive. You’ll become desirable.
Another way to bank on this new knowledge is in job interviews. Hiring managers have seen all the best and polished resumés you can think of. You won’t stand out by being at the top of your class or by being qualified. You have to do more. You have to be different. There are no right or wrong answers to this, but I recommend having the interviewer refer to you as Daddy. Everyone else will go in being called Sarah or Sam. Nobody goes into an interview being called Daddy. Calling yourself Daddy implies your caring nature. It implies years of experience under your belt. It lets them know you’ll be able to get the work done and be home for soccer practice. Now go out there and get that job, Daddy.
Find Your Core Message and Repeat It
In Dr. Carmen Simon’s book Impossible to Ignore, she discusses many ideas concerning memory and messaging. One in particular is the “forgetting curve.”
This “forgetting curve” hypothesizes the decline of memory over time. But it’s hard to say exactly what type of information people remember and the amount. As illustrated by the graph and as mentioned in Dr. Simon’s research, people forget a lot at first, then retain that little bit of information for a long time. For instance, you might forget all of the details in a memorable speech you heard years ago, but you’ll remember one or two key lines for the rest of your life. On a separate note, you might forget all of the details of the Avatar: The Last Airbender film, but years later you’ll still remember it’s a piece of shit.
In our day to day life, people will walk away from your presentations and take away completely different things. This happens in both the classroom and the office meeting. How do you make sure the few things people will remember are the key points that you want them to? Dr. Simon recommends novelty and repetition. For instance, if your giving a powerpoint presentation, decide on your main takeaway beforehand. Then, when designing the presentation, repeat that single key point multiple times Weave it in-and-out of the presentation. Consider adding pictures or color to make that repeated idea stand out even more. This way, you’ll make your key idea as distinctive as possible. This will increase the odds of that being what people do remember when they forget 90% of what you said.
Now, again, that was very academic. How do we make this apply to you in your daily life?
Let’s bring it back to the job interview. The hiring manager is not going to remember every detail about your career, especially when they’ve got other people to talk to. That is why you need them to leave with the impression that your a genius. So, every now and then, and only when appropriate, tell the interviewer, “I’m a fucking genius.” Do it at least three times. If you repeat this, they may just awkwardly nod or cautiously agree with you. But once you leave, they’ll forget how bizarre it was and just remember this vague notion of you being a genius. And with the proper use of vulgarity, you’ll be making use of our second point: novelty. In a professional environment, breaking these rules can help you win big, resulting in dollar signs.
The same idea can be applied for a romantic first date. Sporadically, tell your date that you’ll take great care of your future children. They definitely won’t be creeped out. What they’ll remember is you’re someone who cares about the future and has a loving nature. To keep it novel, make sure to mention this randomly. Maybe even try interrupting them whey they talk about their friends that you don’t give a shit about.
Make Messages Personal
Robert Cialdini’s book, Pre-Suasion, discusses the self and its relationship to marketing. In western culture, we are practically programmed into thinking about ourselves. Anything connected to the individual will raise in importance. Interestingly, and as mentioned in Pre-Suasion, South Korean ads perform better when relating to the family, while in America and much of western culture, ads perform better when tailored to the individual. Coca-Cola took advantage of this individuality with their soda cans. Coca-Cola printed the most popular names on the sides of their cans and, in turn, sales increased for the first time in years. All because they put names on cans…we should be ashamed of ourselves.
But the point here is simple: make your idea directly relevant to the person you’re talking to.
This is easy in job interviews. Just let them know the consequences of passing you up for a job. Tell them the company will fail without you. Tell them certain lives will be at stake (they’ll get what you mean).
In relationships, take the Coca-Cola approach. Tell your date about all the other people you’ve been with that have had their same name. The same way people love seeing their names on soda cans, dates will love knowing “You’re the fifth Laura/Dan that I’ve been with.” Then let them know they’re at least the second best looking. This gives them something to strive for.
All in all, I hope this cognitive psychology can be applied in your daily life. The context of a job interview or a date works since it is relevant to almost everyone. But flexible in applying these ideas to your personal life. I hope you learned reading it, because I totally learned so much writing it.