By Larry Rondeau
Being in the right circumstances can make a big difference when asking your boss for a salary increase or presenting a case to a client. Extensive research, since Pavlov’s dogs, reveals how a person’s positive or negative experience with one thing can rub off on anything associated with it. Thus, weathermen get blamed for storms that ruin vacations and companies get blamed for mistakes made by the common carriers who deliver their goods.
The Power of Association
Marketers and advertisers have long recognized the power of association to shape opinions. Communications psychology expert Robert Cialdini, PhD outlined a classic marketing study that compared men’s impressions of a new car based on two versions of a print ad. One ad showed a gorgeous model with the automobile, the other just displayed the vehicle. In contrast to males who saw the ad without the model, men who viewed it with the beautiful woman rated the car as:
- More appealing
- More expensive-looking
- Better designed
When surveyed after the study, these men refused to believe that the woman’s presence had anything to do with their assessment. But the results showed otherwise.
Another controlled research study found that young adults seated in a room with a MasterCard insignia on display were willing to spend an average of 29% more to order items from a catalog than those who perused it in a room with no credit card logo. A comparable study showed that twenty-somethings were 260% more likely to contribute to a charity when in the presence of the MasterCard logo. But credit cards were not accepted in either case. Merely seeing their symbols encouraged people to spend more cash.
Tasty food has a power all its own
Research used by colleges from Oxford University to the University of Utah shows that tasty food stimulates the brain’s pleasure center. We truly enjoy a good meal. Those good feelings can radiate to anyone or anything in close proximity. Since beauty produces a similar effect on the brain, we can easily understand why men rated the new car more favorably when its advertising included a beautiful model. Of course, most of us don’t have such a creature available to accompany us when meeting with a client or our boss. But we all have restaurants nearby. These can prove to be important assets in presenting our case.
Distinguished Columbia University psychologist Dr. Gregory Razran showed just how powerful good food can be in swaying opinions. According to influence expert Robert Cialdini, PhD, in 1940 Razran published a study in which he asked people to indicate whether they approved or disapproved of certain political slogans. Then all were invited to a luncheon. At the luncheon the same statements were presented and rated by experiment subjects. Razran found that some statements had increased their approval rating – those presented when people were eating.
This explains why, in the political arena, everyone from lobbyists to Presidents like to present their case to legislators over a meal. Their arguments sound more logical and reasonable to congressman when the pleasure centers of their brains are stimulated by good food. So, if you have something to present to your boss or a client, why not gain the same advantage? And if the wait staff is good-looking, your case will be even more appealing.