Ever wonder, how could they believe that? Are they brainwashed? How could they be so certain of something that just isn’t true? 

For over a decade now I have been studying influence, and it’s striking how simple and powerful it is, how easily we are influenced, and how often used.

Here is some of what I have uncovered on the psychology of influence:

1. Pattern Recognition:

Humans naturally seek patterns and connections in information. When they encounter ambiguous or unexplained events, they may attempt to make sense of them by connecting the dots in unusual ways, leading to the adoption of false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs.

2. Cognitive Biases:

Various cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias (seeking information that confirms existing beliefs) and the availability heuristic (giving more weight to readily available information), can reinforce false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs.

3. Need for Control:

False concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs can provide a sense of control in an unpredictable world. Believing in explanations that differ from reality may make some individuals feel like they have a better understanding of events.

4. Social Identity:

False concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs often form part of a subculture or community. Belonging to such a group can provide a strong sense of identity and belonging, making them psychologically appealing.

5. Distrust in Authority:

People who have had negative experiences with authorities or institutions may be more inclined to adopt false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs as a way to express their distrust.

6. Fear and Uncertainty:

During times of uncertainty or fear, such as a global crisis, people may be more susceptible to false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs as a way to reduce anxiety by assigning blame or finding simple explanations.

7. Motivated Reasoning:

People tend to rationalize their beliefs and seek information that supports their existing views. This can lead to a reinforcement of false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs.

8. Cultural and Social Factors: Cultural context and social networks play a significant role. If friends, family, or influential figures endorse false concepts, false narratives, or false beliefs, individuals are more likely to adopt them.

9. Storytelling:

Narratives and stories are powerful tools for influence. People often connect with and remember stories better than raw facts or data. Stories can convey complex ideas in a relatable and engaging way.

10. Emotional Appeal:

Emotions can play a significant role in decision-making. Messages that evoke strong emotions, whether positive or negative, are more likely to be remembered and influence behavior.

11. Consistency and Commitment: Once people commit to a specific action or belief, they tend to stick with it. This is why small initial commitments (like signing a petition) can lead to larger commitments (like supporting a cause).

12. Scarcity:

The concept of scarcity suggests that people tend to place a higher value on things that are perceived as rare or in limited supply. Messages that highlight scarcity or exclusivity can influence decision-making.

13. Authority:

People are more likely to follow the advice or guidance of individuals they perceive as experts or authorities in a particular domain. This is why endorsements from experts can carry significant weight.

14. Reciprocity:

When someone does a favor or provides something valuable to another person, there is a tendency to feel obligated to reciprocate. This principle is often used in marketing and persuasion.

15. Social Proof:

This concept is based on the idea that people often look to others for cues on how to behave or what to believe. If many people are doing or endorsing something, others may be more inclined to follow suit.

16. Confirmation Bias:

People tend to seek out and interpret information in ways that confirm their existing beliefs and attitudes. When they encounter information that aligns with their preconceived notions, it reinforces those beliefs.

17. The Mere Exposure Effect: Repeated exposure to messages or ideas can make them seem more familiar and, consequently, more trustworthy or appealing. This can result in the acceptance and propagation of these messages, even if they are false concepts or beliefs.

“Stand guard to the door of your mind.” – Jim Rohn