A change of tack: The last few posts on this topic have been quite focussed on the more duplicitous nature of  persuasion and influence but it is not all Machiavellian mumblings, sometimes influence is just  understanding how what you say and do can influence others.

An example of this more subtle but just as important area of influence is the magnetic middle! I  will talk about this strange but significant tendency in all of us. I want to particular leave a thought in your minds, but lets get into the topic.

The magnetic middle: put most simply, people have a tendency to do or act the same as the social norm or average! I hear what you say what has that really got to do with influence? Well its particularly important when you are reporting on or trying to influence social behaviours or results. Still not got it? I dont blame you, let me quote a couple of real life examples which exemplify the tendency for people to move to the magnetic middle in spite of it being clearly undesirable.

Example 1: They completed an experiment by taking electric meter readings of 500 homes and simply left a letter in each of the homes either telling them they were using less energy than average or were using more than average! They returned just two months later and re-read all the meters. what they found was that people who were told they were under the average energy consumption on increased their energy consumption and people who were assessed as over the average decreased their energy consumption! This exemplifies the magnetic middle! I can understand why the high energy consumers reduced their energy consumption but why would the people who were shining examples show less care after they were told the good news?

The answer: Is that people tend to move toward the magnetic middle! People tend to move to the behavioural average or norm even if this is seen as negative. I am not sure what I feel about this influence topic, but its good to know it exists… I am reading an article on how to counter ‘negative social proofing’ so perhaps once understand the counter technique I will post a follow up…

until the next time – Be Great – N –

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