Consumer Psychology

How to use #thedress to increase marketing effectiveness [Study]

Whether you are white and gold or blue and black, a new psychological study in Cognition, the International Journal of Cognitive Science,  shows that showing you perceptual illusions similar to #thedress increases your openness to attitude-change.

In the experiment people who were shown visual tricks – not dissimilar to #thedress – showed reduced confidence in their own opinions and indicated a greater willingness to change those opinions.  Although the study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Alabama, focused on social opinions (attitudes to people not brands), the psychological mechanism should hold for brands too; when we are confronted with experiences that show perception is not reality, we become less closed-minded, less sure of our opinions and more open to change.

Given one of marketing’s key mandates is to change people’s opinions about brands, could using a visual illusion in an ad or marketing collateral increase marketing effectiveness?

Hart, W., Tullett, A. M., Shreves, W. B., & Fetterman, Z. (2015). Fueling doubt and openness: Experiencing the unconscious, constructed nature of perception induces uncertainty and openness to changeCognition137, 1-8.






Because people lack access to the many unconscious thought processes that influence perception, they often have the experience of seeing things “as they are”. Psychologists have long presumed that this “naïve realism” plays a role in driving human confidence and closed-mindedness. Yet, surprisingly, these intuitive links have not been empirically demonstrated. Presumably, if naïve realism drives confidence and closed-mindedness, then disabusing people of naïve realism should reduce confidence in one’s judgments and instill openness to change. In the present experiment, we found that participants who read about naïve realism and also experienced various perceptual illusions showed reduced confidence in their social judgments and indicated a greater willingness to change their judgments relative to participants who merely read about naïve realism and perceptual illusions, participants who received failure feedback on an earlier task, or participants left in a baseline state. Broadly, the present research provides evidence for an untested origin of human confidence and closed-mindedness and may have broad implications for decision making.

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