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How Powerful is Persuasion? - Dilbert Blog

How Powerful is Persuasion?

I have been writing about Donald Trump’s powers of persuasion for months and yet many of my readers are still persuasion doubters. I get that. We like to think of ourselves as creatures of reason. 

But we are not creatures of reason. We aren’t even close. Science has known this for a long time.

For example, here’s a story about an experiment that changed men’s votes (from Clinton to Trump) just by priming the men with a gender-related question. The effect was dramatic and immediate.

You should be skeptical of any study until you see it replicated. But I’ve studied persuasion for years, and this study looks credible to me. If you have read my Persuasion Reading List – especially the book Influence – you already know that humans can be reprogrammed this easily.

The effect you see in the study is a big reason I predict Trump will win the general election in a landslide. Trump understands persuasion at this level, as he often demonstrates. His opponents do not. He’s bringing a flamethrower to a stick fight. 

I have blogged that a Trump-versus-Clinton matchup would feel like Dad against Mom. If the country feels safe, they might prefer mom for a hug and a sandwich. But if there’s a scary noise downstairs (such as ISIS), Dad starts looking like a better deal, even if he can be an asshole sometimes. We are wired to be sexist that way. Reason can only overcome some of that.

But perhaps a larger factor than the mom/dad theme – as the study suggests – will be how men and women feel about gender roles in general. If men are feeling secure about their masculinity and their roles in society, they will have no problem voting for Clinton. That describes about one-third of men, I would think.

And women who feel they are living in an oppressive patriarchy will prefer Clinton, I assume, as the best solution. In my experience, about one-third of women feel they are living in an oppressive patriarchy that needs to change and the rest prefer things the way they are.

By my subjective estimate, about two-thirds of men and two-thirds of women will have a greater emotional connection to Trump compared to Clinton by election day. That’s all you need to know.

Unless you still think policies matter. 

Here’s a little experiment to try at home. Record one of Hillary Clinton’s televised rally speeches and put it on TV with volume high (but not too high) when you expect a female friend or relative to knock on the door. Answer the door and say nothing about the television in the background. Then watch the expression on the face of your guest. Two-out-of-three times you will see a pained grimace. For many people – male and female – listening to Clinton’s speeches actually hurts.

If you can catch the grimace on video, post it in the comments.