In today’s spotlight I would like to discuss the power of suggestion. I have often addressed the various sorts of primes that can influence our decisions, such as the presence of a hand sanitizer. This is how it might work. Provide a computerized test designed to measure conservative or liberal attitudes, wait a few minutes after the subject finishes the test, bring the subject back into the test room on the pretense that there was a computer glitch, and have them take the same test again, but this time with a jar of hand sanitizer on the desk where they sit. You will find that the presence of the hand sanitizer scales the subject’s score more toward the conservative. Why? Think about it. Hand sanitizer suggests what? Germs, disease, caution, beware, be careful, be safe, and so forth—all those values more closely held by conservatives. This sort of thing is called a prime and the suggestion power behind a prime can be quite powerful, acting on our minds in ways we fail to recognize.
The Power of Suggestion
Everyday we meet suggestions in various forms. Mom tells us to wear our coat or we’ll catch a cold. The television informs us the gomboo is coming to town and we’re going to get it, but if we buy XYZ at the local drug store, we’ll be comfortable and heal quickly. We pass a local bakery and the smell invites us in for that pastry we swore we were going to avoid. A tin sits on the counter with a sign suggesting we tip, so we tip the counter clerk or feel that we have slighted them. A credit card sign boldly displayed during a charity drive increases the amount we give. We see a movie and the coca-cola ad makes us thirsty, we even taste the coke before we rush down to buy one. Our every sense is played upon by those who understand suggestion and priming—even color has a psychological influence.
We attend church while the speaker, elevated by a platform, forces our eyes to lift upward and the cadence of the speech seems to entrain us and the statues and murals on the wall suggest a deepening of our inner most fears and feelings. Everywhere—and I mean everywhere, we are suggested this way and that.
Fiona Barton stated, “The imagination is such a powerful tool: suggestion is all you need. People fill in gaps.” Think about that. The fast car suggests what? The beautiful scantily clad women suggests what? The handsome man in a finely tailored suit suggests what? The glass of wine with dinner in a fine restaurant viewed in a film suggests what? The motor home shown by a picturesque lake suggests what? On and on go the images used to sell us everything, something I fleshed out much more thoroughly in my books, Choices and Illusions and Gotcha! The Subordination of Free Will.
What would our lives be like without all the suggestions we are immersed in? Who would we be if not trapped in some new consumption cycle? What would we discuss if not for the different suggestions that swirl about us? How would we feel if so much fear and greed failed to ignite our imaginations?
For me, I believe the only defense against being perpetually a pawn persuaded by the power of suggestion is to rise above all the suggestions and recognize them for what they are.
My thoughts anyway—what are yours?