June 11, 2024 | Eul Basa

Psychological Mind Tricks That Really Work On People


Understanding human behavior

Applying psychology principles can help you achieve your goals in personal relationships, work, and other aspects of your life. The following "mind tricks" are backed by research studies and can gain you a healthy advantage in various situations—but they should only be used ethically and wisely.

Mind Cover

Ask for a small favor, then a big one

The foot-in-the-door technique involves asking someone to do a small task before a bigger one, based on something called the self-perception theory. By doing a favor, individuals are more likely to do you a favor in return.

girl asking for a favorMix and Match Studio, Shutterstock

Ask for a big favor, then a small one

The door-in-the-face technique starts with a big request and then asks for a smaller one. The difference between the two requests makes the second one seem more reasonable and appealing, increasing the likelihood that a person will comply. This technique is sometimes seen as manipulative and unethical, but it can also depend on context.

manipulative malefxquadro, Freepik

Give something to receive something

Reciprocity is a key concept in social psychology where people tend to reciprocate actions received from others. If both parties get something out of the interaction, it's favorable. From an evolutionary standpoint, cooperation in early human communities helped individuals avoid conflict, pass down genes, and survive their bloodlines.

a man gives a woman a giftKaan Yetkin Toprak, Shutterstock

Imply scarcity or rareness

The scarcity principle acts on people's tendency to value rare items. Black Friday is a good example of this—stores will offer discounts for a "limited time only," increasing their appeal and enticing shoppers to spend their money.

black fridayCardMapr.nl, Unsplash

Be as emulatable as possible

The social proof principle is when individuals imitate others' behavior to determine how to act in uncertain social situations. It can lead to herd behavior as individuals rely on others to form their decisions. It's a form of conformity in that individuals seek guidance from others to know the appropriate behavior in times of uncertainty.

Son imitating fatherJacob Lund, Shutterstock

Put your best traits forward

The halo effect is a cognitive bias where a positive or negative trait influences how people perceive other unrelated qualities. Psychologist Edward L. Thorndike identified this in his research and he found that individuals tend to judge a person's entire personality based on one trait. So, if you want a good reputation, put your best traits forward.

Successful peopleAugust de Richelieu, Pexels

First and last impressions are lasting ones

The primacy effect is the tendency to recall information from the start of a list, while the recency effect is the tendency to remember details from the end of a list. Understanding these effects are crucial for effective communication, such as in interviews or public speaking, where being remembered can be used to your advantage.

Woman in Brown Blazer seated beside Table at job interview.Edmond Dantès, Pexels

Make sequential comparisons

The contrast principle in human perception affects how we see differences between two objects shown sequentially. If the second object is very different from the first, we tend to perceive it as even more dissimilar. For example, presenting the pricier option first can make the other choices seem cheaper, leading people to spend more.

businessman in suit spending moneyDean Drobot, Shutterstock

Position yourself as an authority

The authority principle uses recognized authority figures to influence behavior, beliefs, or choices. People are more likely to follow requests from those they see as authoritative, like supervisors or experts. This can be a problem, however, as someone can pose as an authority to persuade others (i.e. in sales, politics, and organizations).

authoritative woman speaking to othersfizkes, Shutterstock

Get on people's good sides

The likability principle involves using positive feelings to obtain compliance from others. Individuals are more likely to follow requests from those they like or have a connection with. People can exploit this principle by appearing to be charming or flattering to establish rapport and ultimately influence others.

charming womanVIRGIMALDONADO, Pexels

Necessitate consistency

The consistency principle can be used to influence individuals by exploiting their desire for coherence. People tend to harmonize their past actions and current behaviors, making them vulnerable to gradual demands from others. Those who use this principle effectively impart  a sense of obligation on others to uphold past commitments.

Millennial employees gathered in boardroom for trainingfizkes, Shutterstock

Establish commitment

The commitment principle acts on a person's desire to keep his or her word. By gaining small agreements and increasing demands over time, you can create a kind of social pressure that makes it difficult for individuals to back out. This type of social tactic is often found in sales when developing a loyal consumer base.

Removing Loyalty Card From PurseAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Take advantage of FOMO

FOMO preys on human desires for connection and recognition, leading individuals to feel anxious about missing out on experiences. People often use FOMO to create a sense of urgency around opportunities to boost their value, which can then affect other people's decision-making.

opportunities to growMiniStocker, Shutterstock

A hack for productivity

The Zeigarnik effect involves the human tendency to remember unfinished tasks more easily, creating a tension that motivates completion. By interrupting one's activities, one may be able to increase compliance or engagement in various contexts.

Woman with sticky notes on herUnknown Author, Freepik

Increase frequency and exposure

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, known as frequency illusion, exploits people's tendency to notice and remember recently encountered details. This cognitive bias makes people prone to manipulation through strategic spotlighting of specific ideas, products, or messages.

Jeans in Spotlight in BoutiqueUnknown Author, PxHere

Set high expectations

The Pygmalion effect is the idea that higher expectations lead to better performance, while lower expectations result in decreased performance. It stems from the story of Pygmalion and has been studied by psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, who found that teachers' expectations can impact students' success.

Senior female teacher wearing blue sweater is looking at front and smiling.nappy, Pexels

The power of placebo

The placebo effect occurs when the mind is tricked into believing a fake treatment is effective, sometimes even producing similar effects to real medical interventions. Placebos, such as sugar pills or saline solutions, have no actual medical benefits but can make individuals feel better by mimicking genuine treatments.

Placebo bottleUnknown Author, Freepik

Present information strategically

The framing effect impacts decision-making by highlighting certain features, making something appear more attractive than it is and ultimately determining choices. Decisions based on framing can be skewed towards less favorable options despite the clear superiority of others presented in a less positive light.

premium product3rdtimeluckystudio, Shutterstock

Start a trend

The bandwagon effect is when individuals follow behaviors, styles, or attitudes simply because others are doing the same. This leads to a bias where public opinion changes due to popular actions and beliefs. This phenomenon results in an increase in the adoption of trends, driven by the desire to 'fit in' with one's peers.

These Ignorant Doctors Are The WorstFreepik, wayhomestudio

Include an inferior option

The decoy effect occurs in marketing when consumers change their preference between two options after a third option is introduced that is not as appealing. In effect, the presence of the more appealing option increases preference for it. 

Man chooses dairy productsSergey Ryzhov, Shutterstock

Be as relatable as possible

The Barnum-Forer effect is when people believe accurate personality descriptions that are actually vague and apply to many. It explains the acceptance of paranormal beliefs like astrology and personality tests. By making people feel understood and validated, you can build people's trust in you and thus influence their decision-making.

astrology horoscopeUnknown Author, Pxfuel

Fake news until it becomes real

The illusory truth effect is the tendency to believe false information is true when it's repeatedly presented. This was first observed in a 1977 study at Villanova University and Temple University. People judge truth based on familiarity with existing knowledge. So, the more you repeat a statement, the more accurate it seems.

Fake news on computerUnknown Author, Freepik

Pay close attention to others' emotions

Misattribution of arousal in psychology occurs when individuals mistakenly attribute the cause of their arousal. For example, feelings of fear can be misinterpreted as romantic attraction. People can use this to their advantage by stimulating scenarios to position themselves as the center of focus, leading to a misunderstanding of arousal as attraction (though there are obvious ethical implications to this).

Crying girlRDNE Stock project , Pexels

Fake it 'til you make it

The Dunning-Kruger effect, explained by David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999, involves individuals with subpar skills wrongly perceiving themselves as highly competent in a specific area. In some cases, this delusion may impart a sense of overconfidence that others fall for, putting that individual in a position of influence.

Business man in black suitstockking, Freepik

Elicit bystander apathy

The bystander effect preys on people's hesitation to help others in emergencies when surrounded by others. This leads to a decreased willingness to intervene. People may exploit this effect to create situations where individuals feel less obligated to help, promoting bystander apathy. This can be observed in bullying, harassment, and emergencies.

Revenge On A BullyShutterstock


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