Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Author: Vishal Mehta
Published: December 24, 2011 at 9:37 am
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User behavior and hence user experience can be influenced by persuasion. PET design principles are very sophisticated and works wonders in driving home - the desired user experience. But it can be tricky - in that, adopting these principles carelessly might lead to the concept of manipulation. We certainly don't want that. Ethics is what separates the two - Persuasion and Manipulation.

Persuasion vs. Manipulation


Persuasion is ethical. It is about influencing something that your audience needs and perhaps wants. Manipulation is influencing your audience about something that you want. Also, if you to persuasion by force, it is manipulation. A good logical persuasion builds trust and loyalty. By using manipulative techniques too, trust and loyalty can be achieved, albeit only for short-term; what follows is permanent detachment.

Let's look at few real-world and online examples - about persuasion and manipulation...

#1: Theme park rides leading to souvenir shops

Theme parks such as Disney, Universal Studios, and more - employ a neat persuasive technique to sell souvenirs and gifts. Almost all their park rides exit into a nice little (or big) souvenir shop with nice display and affordable prices. It's a great feeling for you to impulsively purchase a small "relic" after having experienced a thrilling Indiana Jones ride! Your child may need to be the proud owner of some confiscated magical goods from Harry Potter's world.

You can argue that since there's no other way to exit from those rides than the path that they have built, it's actually as if they're manipulating. Manipulation would be "tricking" you into the purchase. This is smart execution of Persuasion.

#2: Subliminal cuts in movies

In 1958 and till years later and perhaps even now, many movies, advertisements have had these subliminal cut frames inserted/edited in between. Subliminal cuts are essentially one frame of information that passes by so fast that it's invisible to naked eye; however, your subconscious mind registers it. For instance, inducing "thirst" in the audiences' minds by keeping one frame of "ice cold cola with ice cubes" in between commercial breaks was done very successfully. Upward surge in sales of popcorn and cola were a proof of this "manipulative" phenomena. This has been one of the most controversial debate in the media and entertainment industry.

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Article Author: Vishal Mehta

I am a dreamer, UX/Usability Professional, self-proclaimed Designer and CEO of IDYeah Creations. I love expressing my opinions through blogs - and occasionally write for Technorati, UX Booth and a couple of other platforms. …

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