We are trained to use our powers of evidence and research to make our point. What if we used much less research to make much more of a point?
When I get into a debate or look to persuade something, my natural tendency is to gather and align as much evidence as I can to support my argument. I want to make sure I have a good quantity of ideas to prove my point.
It turns out there are better ways to influence someone. Instead, focus on your best argument and put that forward. Rather than look to overwhelm someone with points, focusing on one or two key points is the way to increase the chance you’ll influence someone else. Why?
Much of this has to do with the way we process information. Rather than view more details as better, we average what we hear together. Thus, your best argument is averaged against the worst-supported point of your argument to guide someone’s assessment. This phenomenon is called the dilution effect. The evidence for this has been around for a long time, yet it isn’t well known. This is partly due to its counterintuitive nature. There is a bias — particularly in Western countries — toward a belief in “more is better,” which, in the case of argument information at least, isn’t true.
Less Is More
The research on the dilution effect points to how people when presented with many points of information of varying relevance and quality, defer to a type of average in their assessment. In other words, your case is only as strong as the average of your points. So stick to your strongest arguments if you want to make a strong point.
This phenomenon also influences how we remember points raised in a series. Research on drug manufacture advertising shows that people are much less attentive to the significant risks associated with a drug when they are presented first in a list, with more benign risks presented toward the end of the list. This has considerable consequences for how we design communication campaigns.
I discuss this phenomenon in the video below. I won’t use any further arguments to convince you 🙂 .
Thanks for reading and watching.
If you’re looking to shape change, your messaging counts a lot. If you’d like some help in crafting strategies that stick, let’s chat and have a coffee.