So, just why did Dr Liam Fox apologise if his friend Adam Werrity has done nothing wrong by meeting him in the Ministry of Defence, or accompanying him on overseas trips? Why indeed? Already, you are probably suspicious. I have asked the question in such a way that your mind is “framed”. You are already associating negativity with Dr Liam Fox, before you have had a chance to consider things. The result is that you think about those things in that spotlight of negativity, ultimately biasing your thoughts.
Imagine instead if I had just said: “What did Dr Liam Fox apologise about?” It amounts to the same thing, but this time it is a direct question, with no potential for a “framing effect“.
Sales people use framing questions all the time. “What colour would you like it in?” It frames your mind into having decided to buy, now all you have to do is choose the colour. Whereas if the sales person takes things logically with “Would you like to buy one?”, then there’s a chance they’ll never get to the “what colour would you like” question.
So, look at the question which is the title of this blog post..! It assumes there is complete nonsense in much Internet marketing and frames your mind into already believing that there is indeed such nonsense around. Hence all you do is start considering that nonsense. In other words, just by choosing the right kind of question you can get your audience to start thinking in the direction you want them to – of course they may analyse the question and say “hey, that assumes there is nonsense about”.
However, new research shows we can frame people’s thinking even using hypothetical questions – but we mustn’t say they are hypothetical. According to the study from the University of Alberta, USA, if we ask a hypothetical question AND say it is hypothetical we do not bias the thinking people engage in. But if we ask a hypothetical question without revealing it is hypothetical we could indeed change someone’s mind.
For example, if you were to say “hypothetically, if you did want six copies of my book, who would you give them to?” then you are revealing it is a hypothetical question and according to this new study you would not bias people into thinking about a potential purchase. But if you simply removed the word “hypothetically” and said “if you did want six copies of my book, who would you give them to” it is still a hypothetical question, but one which does bias the listener in favour of purchase. In other words hypothetical questions can be used to frame your customers minds, even though the hypothetical nature would suggest otherwise.
On your website it means that you can use hypothetical questions to nudge people ever close towards a sale. Painting a scenario, which although false, could create enough hypothetical thinking to allow people to be more biased towards buying whatever it is you are selling.
So. all those Internet marketing sites saying you too could be on an island hideaway, with your yacht in the marina and your Aston Martin outside your villa…it is all hypothetical, but it frames your mind such that you are more likely to buy. They may be complete nonsense web pages, but those Internet marketing websites are not so daft as they seem at first.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+