The Ideomotor

In his book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" Daniel Kahneman shines the spotlight on how words can prime moods or actions. He supports the theory of the ideomotor effect, where a thought or mental image brings about a reflexive, or automatic muscular reaction that one is unaware of. (*)

Kahneman suggests that our words can be very persuasive, especially if we are thoughtful in their selection and use. For instance, if you relate a client anecdote with strong visual details of the protagonist's obstacle and your solution, the listener's memory kicks in with their version of the same narrative.

Interestingly, the listener feels the same pleasure your client received when you solved their problem. Conversely, when you relate only the features and benefits of a service or product, the ideomotor effect isn't engaged. The lack of visual, descriptive detail doesn't activate interest. Only by using specificity and word-pictures can a speaker change minds and drive action.

(*) The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have been attributed to this phenomenon. Mystics have often attributed these effects to paranormal or supernatural force.

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