[LINK] What Can Internet Ads Teach Us About Persuasion?

by JQuinton1 min read22nd Oct 20136 comments

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How "one weird trick" conquered the Internet. Some excerpt I found interesting:

Research on persuasion shows the more arguments you list in favor of something, regardless of the quality of those arguments, the more that people tend to believe it,” Norton says. “Mainstream ads sometimes use long lists of bullet points—people don’t read them, but it’s persuasive to know there are so many reasons to buy.” OK, but if more is better, then why only one trick? “People want a simple solution that has a ton of support.”

I actually see this technique used in a lot of religious apologetics. There's even a name for one of them: The Gish Gallop. Would it be fair to say that this technique is taking advantage of a naive or intuitive understanding of Bayesian updates?

What about all the weirdness? “A word like ‘weird’ is not so negative, and kind of intriguing,” says Oleg Urminsky of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “There’s this foot-in-the-door model. If you lead with a strong, unbelievable claim it may turn people off. But if you start with ‘isn’t this kind of weird?’ it lowers the stakes.” The model also explains why some ads ask you to click on your age first. “Giving your age is low-stakes but it begins the dialogue. The hard sell comes later.”

The "click on your age" first gambit seems a bit like Cached Selves.

“People tend to think something is important if it’s secret,” says Michael Norton, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. “Studies find that we give greater credence to information if we’ve been told it was once ‘classified.’ Ads like this often purport to be the work of one man, telling you something ‘they’ don’t want you to know.” The knocks on Big Pharma not only offered a tempting needle-free fantasy; they also had a whiff of secret knowledge, bolstering the ad’s credibility

Humanity's love affair with secrecy and its importance seems to go back quite a bit. The world's largest religion seems to have started out as one of many mystery religions in the Greco-Roman world at the time.

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People tend to think something is important if it’s secret,” says Michael Norton, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. “Studies find that we give greater credence to information if we’ve been told it was once ‘classified.’

I once saw "sponsored link" ad that promised a "weird old investing trick that Obama doesn't want you to know about."

Upvoted for the WTF?!ness value...

The weirdest "one weird trick" I've ever saw claimed that 83% of the male population has a penis size smaller than the average.

There's a joke about long tails in there somewhere.

That's just because they made the mistake of oversampling the town that all the Lake Wobegon residents emigrated from.

I don't think the main purpose of the Gish Gallop is to persuade anyone who's in doubt. It's a trick (one weird trick!) for winning debates. It depends on the fact that you can state a lousy argument more quickly than the other guy can refute it, so if you use all your time stating dozens of lousy arguments then your opponent won't have time to deal with them all.

When used in that context it may be effective in persuading doubters -- but it's not that the Gish Gallop itself does that, but that seeing the other debater apparently overwhelmed by a torrent of arguments they can't refute does it.

Eliezer wrote a few short stories based on the idea that if science would become a secret taught only to members of secret societies, people would respect science more.