This persusion technique probably won’t work on hormonally-hit teenagers (sorry weary parents) yet you could try it on spouses, co-workers or customers. Suppose, for example, you’re tired of the dirty cups in the office coffee nook. Try spraying the air with a lemony scent reminiscent of a cleaning agent. When those sloppy colleagues smell it they are more likely to tidy up. That’s what several psychologists have discovered, including Jonathan Haidt, Henk Aarts, Aaron Kay and John A. Bargh.
It’s called priming. We are unaware of it happening to us. It affects your attention, memories, performance and relationships. It is prompting one towards something, for example taking a certain action, such as cleaning up the nook, or holding a certain opinion. As Yale students who’d volunteered to be part of a study were sent, one-by-one, down a hallway to the study they passed a lab assistant in the hallway.
As the assistant’s hands were full, holding a clipboard, textbooks, papers and a cup of either hot or iced coffee, he asked each student for a hand with the cup. A few minutes later the students read about a fictional person then ranked that individual on a range from warm, thoughtful and social to cold, selfish and less social. You guessed it. Those who’d held the cup of hot coffee were more likely to rank that individual more positively than the students who’d held the iced java. They were “primed” to do so. Bargh and Robert Wyer relate this effect to “the automaticity of everyday life.” As you’ve anticipated, priming can prompt “good” and “bad” behavior.
Read more here.