How Is Psychology Used to Manipulate and Influence Us in Our Daily Lives?

06/25/2015 11:59 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016

How is psychology used to manipulate and influence people in their daily lives?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Neil Eisenberg, Graduated Psychology Degree UCLA

Marketing supplies a product or service that resolves the customer's problem/dilemma whether real, imagined or generated by the advertiser. If you consider this with regards to the points below, you may never watch another commercial without feeling deceived, misled and abused.

1. Humor: You can always tell how bad a product is by the amount of humor the marketing company used to sell it. Generally speaking, the more humor in advertising, the worse the  product or service is for you. Look at companies like Hershey's, Frito Lay and Bud Light.

2. Sexuality: When we view someone attractive, our body responds by discharging hormones. Our mind subsequently links this pleasurable feeling with the product or service being sold. Now you can understand why Carl's Junior shows so much "skin" when selling their hamburgers.

3. Anthropomorphism: There really is a psychological term for those smiling cats and dogs. Giving human characteristics to animals and inanimate objects gains your trust and confidence. The next time you down a Heineken, look very closely at the smiling "e" on the bottle. This is highly suggestive of a favorable brand perception.

4. Insecurity: If marketers can make us feel insufficient, we will try and find a way to fill the self-doubt. This is a notorious practice of the cosmetics industry. The only difference between you and the model is a few minutes with Photoshop, and their newest cosmetic miracle.

5. Reverse Psychology: This technique is largely tied to a buyer's resistance. It involves influencing you to do what they want by pretending not to want it. Patagonia applied this concept to their print advertising by telling you, "don't buy this jacket", which of course worked in reverse as the public purchased the product in droves.

6. Rebates: Fifty percent of all rebates over $50 are never redeemed, and those under $10 are redeemed less than 10%, so why do we fall for this practice with the likes of Sears, Bausch & Lomb and Maytag? Did you know that unfilled rebates go back to the manufacturer and the clearinghouse that transacts the rebate?

7. Social Proof: The ever-popular consumer review sites are evidence of how much we value (reported) positive feedback. Companies know and understand this, which is why they use "likes" and "upvotes" to advertise their products and services. Unfortunately, when is the last time you actually read the reviews?

8. Fear: In all its forms and uses is a formidable advertising tactic. Better use Listerine if you have bad breath. Use clinically proven Clinique Dark Spot Correcting Lotion to eliminate those horrible "age spots". Safeguard your children by using Broadview protection services. And the ever so annoying, "all the other kids have one" advertising directed at your children.

9. Pseudoscience: The cosmetic industry makes ridiculous claims that they can repair "DNA damage" speed "cell rejuvenation" and "turn back the clock". When the cosmetic industry partners with doctors, where can you and I turn to protect us from this psychobabble?

10. Misleading Visuals: A so-called "infomercial" shows just how different an advertisement can really be from reality. From fast food, body image, vacation hotels and products directly marketed to children. Either by using potatoes in place of ice cream, spraying food with high gloss lacquer or using Photoshop to make the model perfect. Misleading visuals may be the worst of all advertising practices by virtue of the psychological damage it does to our children.

The author acknowledges there are many other psychological manipulations that marketers use, other than the ten I have listed: colors, invented feelings, endless adorable kid pictures, nostalgia, feelings of arousal, urgency and many others.

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