I will write quite a few blog posts about psychological manipulation and I also talk about it in my book. Psychological manipulation techniques are developed out of Evo-Psych. Evolutionary Psychology (or Evo-Psych) is the idea that the way our minds work is an evolved trait(1). We think in certain ways because it helped us survive, and if we survived, we passed on our genes, and the traits defined in our genes continued into the following generations.
Evo-Psych91here are many people who argue against Evo-Psych, and claim that we can’t really test the theories(2). Maybe that’s true, but, Evo-Psych has provided us with a set of tools that do seem to work. The global advertising market in 2017 is projected to be $550B US(3). Advertising leverages Evo-Psych. The best copywriters and ad designers use the Evo-Psych incredibly well. If advertising didn’t work, people wouldn’t use it. Therefor, I would have to say, at a minimum, Evo-Psych works at least good enough.
What is Evo-Psych god enough for in our case? We want to lose weight, get fit, change our lifestyles. How will e use Evo-Psych to do that? Using Evo-Psych requires us to first gain an understanding of what cognitive biases are and how they affect our decision making. These cognitive biases will provide us with the extra weight loss tools. The following link provides a nice info-graphic of all the known cognitive biases: http://www.visualcapitalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/cognitive-bias-infographic.html
There are many laws, effects, biases, etc. in that info-graphic, probably too many to really deal with. Charlie Munger has decided all those cognitive biases make up 24 causes of human misjudgment. Robert Cialdini has distilled these biases down to 6 principles of influence. 6 fits into our thought processes very well since the average person can handle 7 +/- 2 concepts at one time. These biases explain why we favor the snake oil salesman’s get it done quick and easy option over the the tough slogging, long drawn out option.
Cognitive biases are essentially ways the mind reduces the complex world around us into simpler concepts. This reduction allowed us to analyze a situation and make a decision with the limited amount of information we could process in shortest amount of time possible. Imagine walking across the savanna 200,000 years ago. Hyenas, saber tooth tigers, lions, everything all around. Would you have time to sit down and plan an elaborate escape, analyze every bit of information that you acquired through your senses, and slowly come up with your escape route, while the hyenas were busy already eating your friends and family? Nope. So we evolved ways of identifying important information, correlating that information with patterns, and making inductive leaps. These inductive leaps are the decisions that let us adapt, survive, and prosper. Now they lead us down the path of mountains of debt and obesity, among other things.
When it comes to weight loss, many do it quick schemes leverage our cognitive biases to their gain and our loss. The snake oil solution may or may not work, and if it does, it is highly likely to be unsustainable. Unsustainable means you will gain back the weight you lost and in a worst case scenario, you may suffer health problems as well. Remember, people used to think drinking raw petroleum was a health elixir. Losing weight and keeping it off will require us to use those biases to our advantage. Instead of buying into the snake oil for the easy win we use the same weapon to create a whole new way of thinking and acting.
Some of the cognitive biases we can use to our own advantage, and how we can use them are below. These are just quick introductions to get you thinking. I will write or have written complete blog posts about these.
Disliking/Hating Tendency This bias sets up in us a situation where we tend to ignore virtues of something we dislike. A good example to look at here are politicians. Pick one you despise. I’m pretty sure you that you cannot find one single redeeming quality with that person, but I’m also pretty sure they have one. One example of how to use this to our advantage, is find a photo of you at your worst and put some pictures of donuts beside it. Now donuts might remind you of fat you.
Reward and Punishment We have all already experienced this one. Speeding gets you a ticket. Fighting in school gets you kicked out. Landing the big client gets you the promotion. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. We can do the same for weight loss. If you do good one day, then the next, give yourself a treat. If you do bad one day, then immediately punish yourself. Treats are not all day cheat days and punishment is not self flagellation, but, they they need to be significant to you.