Are You Really in Control of Your Own Thoughts?

Surely you feel confident that you are always in control of your thoughts and would not be subject to any type of brainwashing. Then you may be surprised to learn that subtle forms of persuasion can control you far easier than you realize.

Magic tricks and the mind
An ingenious experiment was devised by graduate student Jay Olson at McGill University in Quebec, Canada that revealed exactly how easily people can be manipulated by gentle persuasive techniques.

“What we’re finding more and more in psychology is that lots of the decisions we make are influenced by things we are not aware of,” explained Olson.

Olson began learning about ways of tricking the minds of others through magic tricks that he began practicing at the age of five. Now as an undergraduate in the field of psychology, he finds that the tricks he learned with magic correlate closely to what his professors and experts say about understanding the mind.

When the choice is made for you
One magic trick in particular struck a chord with Olson regarding his research. The trick involves flicking through a deck of cards in front of a chosen member of an audience who is asked to choose a card. The magician manipulates the volunteer into picking a card they have already chosen and have a copy of in their pocket. By making the chosen card linger just a bit longer than the others causes the volunteer to choose it when put on the spot.

When he put his skills to the test in a formal experiment, Olson successfully managed to direct the choice of 103 out of 105 people who participated. After the experiment, Olson spoke with volunteers and found that 92 percent of them believed they had made the choice on their own and were completely unaware they had been manipulated into their choice. Some of the participants were so certain they had made the choice that they made up explanations for why they chose that way.

Another interesting factor was that different personality types among volunteers had no bearing on how likely they were to be influenced. The different properties and appearance of the cards didn’t affect the outcome of the predetermined choice either.

Real world examples
thoughtsWhen people go out for a meal at a restaurant, they are most likely to order what is at the top or bottom of a menu depending on what first attracts their eye and attention. According to Olson, “But if someone asks you why did you choose the salmon, you’ll say you were hungry for salmon. You won’t say it was one of the first things I looked at on the menu.”

Olson says that people confabulate reasons to explain why they make choices rather than acknowledge they are being directed by subtle tricks of persuasion.

Other commonly used tricks of persuasion include playing certain types of music in the background to sway purchasing decisions; flashing certain words during broadcasts to evoke emotional responses; even certain smells such as pungent odors can cause certain reactions and form opinions that have no other basis beyond the presence of the smell.

Be on your guard for these manipulative moves
It is possible to realize when other people may be trying to influence you. Here are some commonly used manipulative moves you may spot:

  • Using a form of touch, such as touching on the arm or shoulder, can make another person more open to suggestion.
  • By talking fast and pressing for quick responses, people will often go with the choice that has been planted in their mind without realizing it.
  • Be wary of things that are planted distinctly in your field of view where they purposely draw attention and will stand out in your mind.
  • Another trick involves asking questions that lead you into validating why a certain decision should be made and in this way you convince yourself that you chose it.

-The Alternative Daily


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