Too Clever For Our Own Good: How The Third Person Effect Makes Us Vulnerable To Persuasion Techniques

This guest post is written by David James Bawden. David James is an up and coming Marketing Assistant at SPL International.  His ideas on content marketing and perspectives are his own and do not necessarily represent those of SPL International. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog at

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How easily do you find yourself persuaded by adverts? When lynx tells you that their new deodorant will have women flocking to you do you feel a sudden need to rush out to buy lynx? Or do you find yourself wondering who these obvious sales techniques actually work on? Insulted that the company running the advert thinks so little of your intelligence?

This reaction, thinking that adverts influence the intangible ‘other’ more than they influence yourself is known as the third person principal and it actually makes you dangerously susceptible to persuasion techniques.

Psychological studies have shown that when watching an advert proven to be highly persuasive to them, people have dismissed the effect on themselves but said they believe that the advert would be persuasive to ‘other people’.

This effect is amplified when the person sees the subject as being of little or no relevance to themselves meaning you are more likely to be influenced when forced to think about something you previously had no interest in.

Clearly there is a danger here. By dismissing an adverts power to persuade out of hand we are making ourselves more open to the message that advert is trying to get across. Instead of looking down on the none existent ‘others’ we should be more aware of how marketing messages affect us and understand exactly what power they have to influence us.

David James Bawden

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:
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