Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota and colleagues suggest that the effectiveness of such common persuasion tactics -- advertisers often tout that specific products are best-sellers or are particularly popular -- can be dramatically altered by two primal emotions, fear and romantic desire.
"Feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions," Griskevicius said in a statement.
The researchers had people watch a short clip from a frightening or a romantic film and then view ads for Las Vegas that contained commonly used persuasive appeals either rooted in conformity -- "over a million sold" -- or rooted in uniqueness -- "stand out from the crowd."
The study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found that after watching a scary film, people were especially persuaded by conformity-based appeals that presented the trip as a popular option.
In contrast, after people watched a romantic film clip, they were not only less persuaded by the same conformity-based appeal, but such appeals were counter-persuasive. People in a romantic state were much more persuaded by appeals that presented the trip as a unique, unusual or exotic choice that others might not make.
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