March 27, 2009
Fear And Romantic Desire Prompt Opposite Views Of Crowds

Advertisers who use popularity of a product or location as a selling point should stop and ask whether they are selling to people who fear or people driven by romantic desire. The emotional state of a person influences whether they see safety in numbers.

In the forthcoming paper "Fear and Loving in Las Vegas: Evolution, Emotion, and Persuasion," Griskevicius and his co-authors find that the emotion we are currently feeling has a strong effect on whether we decide to conform or to go against the grain "Being afraid especially leads people to go along with the crowd, activating a 'safety-in-numbers' psychology," said Griskevicius. "A feeling of lust, however, motivates people to go it alone, activating a desire to be seen as unique. Feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions."

To test the idea, the researchers had people watch a short clip from a frightening or a romantic film. Afterward, people viewed 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"). 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. The romantically minded individuals especially did not want to visit Las Vegas if they knew that many others are already going. Instead, 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.

Since I generally eschew crowds I guess I'm more romantic than fearful. Of course, whether the crowd is the safe place to be depends on who's in the crowd.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 27 12:47 AM  Brain Economics

Mthson said at March 27, 2009 1:27 AM:

Can I still be considered the romantic type even if I'm married to my computer?

dick fuel said at March 28, 2009 11:04 PM:

Randall, do you believe that human beings are capable of (have the power to) determine life's outcome?

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