Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How Experts Persuade Best

I read a fascinating article about some new research in the field of persuasion. You might think that experts exert the most persuasion when they express their ideas with confidence. You would be wrong! In new research about how experts influence consumers by Stanford Professor Zakary Tormala and doctoral student Uma Karmarkar, we learn that experts are more influential when they acknowledge minor doubts and uncertainty as they express their view. In a press release from Stanford University, Tormala explains:

"Our key finding," Tormala said, "is that although non-experts can become more persuasive by expressing high certainty about their opinions, experts can become more persuasive when they express some degree of uncertainty. Across several studies, we found that expert sources gained interest and influence by expressing minor doubts about their own opinion."

Tormala said incongruity between the source’s expertise and level of certainty makes his or her message more intriguing. "Whether it’s a person without established expertise in a given domain expressing very high certainty, or a person with clearly established expertise in a domain expressing low certainty," Tormala said, "the inconsistency is surprising. It draws people in. And as long as the arguments in a message are reasonably strong, being drawn in leads to more persuasion."

The conclusion makes a good deal of sense. You must have a compelling argument. That is a given. Then, a bit of uncertainty draws the consumers' interest, and that interest makes the argument even more influential. Put simply, you cannot persuade the consumer if you haven't got their attention!

1 comment:

Ken Mason said...

I have observed this across cultures... Europeans seem to express with more certainty, while Americans leave some space for doubt/error. I believe a person’s own self-confidence is also an influence, those with greater self-confidence able to express themselves with some level of doubt.