How To Create Fear and Use It To Guide People’s Choices

H. P. Lovecraft

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H. P. Lovecraft, Born Aug. 20, 1890.

There's a cognitive bias all humans have called “the Ambiguity Effect”.

Fancy science says: It describes our tendency to avoid choosing options for which missing information makes the probability of the outcome of that choice unknown.

That's a mouthful.

Basically, we fear the unknown. So if one option contains more unknown elements than others, we will feel those “unknowns” make the outcome uncertain, so therefore we will avoid that option.

This is key – unknowns = avoidance.

EVEN IF it's better.
EVEN IF it's less risk.
EVEN IF it's potentially greater reward.

So long as we “know” more about the other options, and feel more certain in the outcome, we will choose those others over the wildcard.

As persuaders, we can use that. Not by fomenting and agitating fear – but by giving an inherent fear more fuel to work with.

Here is how to do it.

First, consider ALL the options available to your potential mark, including your own preferred one.

Next, make a list for each of those other options, noting every possible element of uncertainty you can. Maker, materials, quality, pedigree, packaging, flavor, aroma, texture, quantity, delivery, support, satisfaction, etc.

The more uncertain you can make those other choices, the more desirable your option will become.

Ask questions without answers.
Introduce confusion.
Highlight ambiguity and vagueness.
Point out all the big floating question marks you possibly can.

So that way, when the persuasion target comes to weigh their options, the clearest, most well-known path is the one you want them to take.

It really is that simple. People want to choose the option that will give them a result they can best predict and rely on.

EVEN IF the possible reward is greater with another choice, the unknowns present potential risks they would rather not take.

So they decide that YOUR choice is the right choice for them. It's way less scary than facing the great unknown.

After all, there might be monsters in there. BOO!

1 thought on “How To Create Fear and Use It To Guide People’s Choices”

  1. Human nature doesn’t change. Understanding and accepting what’s real is the smart way to go. Thanks for sharing that smart way.
    Just subscribed. John Bejakovic sent me.

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