Laws, rules, principles, and experiments that communicators should know

As much as I would love communication, it is not (or it is not yet) a science to me.

It is more a professional activity, that leans on social sciences like psychology. It is also worth exploring economics, philosophy, political science.
It is often difficult to justify one or another communication solution, for this reason in discussions, it is sometimes useful to use principles, effects or theories already discovered by the social sciences.

Why do we need communication?

If you were asked this question, tell a story, how in 2001, economists George A. Akerlof, A. Michael Spence, and Joseph E. Stiglitz received a Nobel Prize for research into how markets are dealing with the problem of information asymmetry and signalling. And quote A. M. Spence: “A high-quality product salesman must take noticeable measures that are too expensive for low-quality product salesmen.”
After all, it is not you, the communication professionals, who are trying to convince of the value you are creating by manipulating others. Those are the Nobel Prize winners that say so. These awards are not being given out for anything, and in this case, the award was given for the following thought: “Do you wish to sell for more or more? You need to invest more in advertising, brand communication”, etc.
You can also add that we are talking about the halo effect, which often misleads us: “A possible false impression, that a good-looking person has a more attractive personality, better work skills, and competence.”

Why does advertising need emotions?

Did you receive this question? Pull out another Nobel Prize card, only a year later: in 2002, two psychologists D. Kahneman and A. Tversky received a Nobel Prize in economics. Their main idea is: Homo sapiens is irrational and wishes (1) to invest as little as possible in decision making, (2) to suppress bad emotions as quickly as possible and (3) to gain good emotions as quickly as possible.
The first point is largely to blame for the emergence of stereotypes and the common solution in communication that comes with it – “so that it would be clear to everyone”. The second one concerns the so-called theory of cognitive dissonance when conflicting values meet in one’s mind or he/she is forced to commit actions that are against his/her beliefs. Communication can take advantage of this.
Generalization is also appropriate here with a fun example “all men are pigs”.
In order to enhance the impression, you can also mention the Proteus effect – as proof that people are instinctually seeking consistency. In both thoughts and deeds.
By mentioning the loss aversion principle, you can justify why you decided to scare people in the advertisement.

What are those experts and awards for?

If you hear this question, it is useful to start with Robert Cialdini and his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It has already become a classic among the communication people, but poorly known for those who work in different fields and markets.
So that you would not be struggling to look for it, here are the top six of R. Cialdini: similarity, gratitude, universality, consistency, scarcity, and authority.
Then we can snap our fingers and talk about the Milgram experiment, which, according to Wiki, shows that following the authority can lead a person to behave very brutally on his/her free will, completely disregarding their own beliefs. Communication people are also calling this the shoulder pad tyranny, when people, their groups and entire societies fail to critically evaluate the nonsenses or even fake information told by the official people. Circulated “experts” (quotes are mandatory here) and their talks only to solemnize and create the impression of reliability in false information.
If you were asked to expand on the universality mentioned by R. Cialdini, it can be said, that people do not like being the black sheep in a crowd. However, this will not sound serious and your companion will only nod his/her head. If he/she is ready to listen, and you are willing to go in more depth, it is worth telling the 61-year-old story, how in 1958, Solomon Asch conducted conformity experiments. During them, the participants made the wrong choice only because the majority voted for it. This experiment shows how people tend to adopt a conformist attitude and passivity towards social activities or dominant views, non-critical attitude, avoid expressing their opinions.

Why are they taking out on us?

A common situation is when you are feeling like you have not done anything but are blamed for things you have never heard of, you become the bad guy, the scapegoat. Politicians and various interest groups are particularly fond of doing this.
The instinctive desire is to deny and justify, so the client will be constantly encouraging to work in that direction. But do not rush, perhaps it is a mistake and an irrational waste of time and resources. Sit down with a client and tell him/her about Eric Berne, a Canadian psychiatrist who lived in the 20th century and who formulated transactional analysis in the sixties, and formed the so-called Karpman drama triangle.
What will you get out of it? It will be an opportunity to show the client not only your knowledge but also analyse the problem together, understand, who is the victim and why the client is turned into the persecutor. And naturally, completely different solutions arise, because in this triangle the excuses of the persecutor as a communicative solution simply do not work. One of the classical solutions, for the persecutor to leave this triangle, is to find a new, bigger victim – he has to prove that the current victim is a fraud or is a different, bigger, more realistic or more convenient victim to the rescuer. One such example is my civic experiment a few weeks ago: who is the real victim of the open half-empty schools: teachers, community or children? Perhaps the victim is not the community, it is the children? And the community is the real persecutor? I leave it for you to decide whether it was a good experiment.
To conclude on discussions and conflicts – a more cheerful law, formulated in the 1990s and named after Mike Goldwin. Its main idea – the longer the online discussion lasts, the more likely it is that a comparison with the Nazis or Hitler will appear. In Lithuania, this law probably has its own version and instead of Nazis and Hitler, Russia, the Kremlin, or communist thinking will be mentioned.

Do not overdo it

Of course, you can read this article just for fun, but you can also apply it all to your work. It is important to have moderation, because academic knowledge in daily activities is as useful, as we can adapt it. Erudition and simply throwing big words at someone will not be enough.
The same situation exists with the clients – some are curious, interested and want to delve deeper, they need academic evidence, and for others, just hearing the word “science” makes their blood boil. So do not get caught up in the trap of information asymmetry: we often live in illusions, believing that others know just as much as we do.

Be the first to get the news!

We constantly monitor news and trends in the world of communication and then pack everything into our newsletter. Want to stay up to date? Just sign up with your email and INK will take care of the rest.

    You’re done – the INK Newsletter can finally make its way into your mailbox. Thank you! Good deeds come back in good letters.

    This website uses cookies. By clicking “Accept“, you agree to our Privacy Policy.