Robert Cialdini -- Principle 0: Perceptual Contrast
Perceptual Contrast: we notice and decide by the difference between two things, not absolute measures.
Note: There is no Cialdini video for Principle of Contrast, so here is material for Tracing Success Patterns: A Master Class in Persuasion
Principle 0: Perceptual Contrast
...If two items that vary significantly along some dimension are presented to us one right after another, we perceive the second as being more different from the first than it actually is and therefore we will react differently to the second item than if we had perceived it by itself...
Like other principles of persuasion, perceptual contrast feels like a natural law that can be used while exerting a minimum of personal force. This allows us to manipulate a conversation, situation or negotiation without the appearance of manipulation.
Description – When we make decisions, we tend to do it by contrasting between the decision item and reference items. When two things appear close to one another, we will tend to evaluate them against one another more than against a fixed standard.
Research – Sherif, Taub and Hovland (1958) found that when subjects first lifted a lighter weight, they overestimated the weight of heavier weights they were subsequently asked to lift.
Example – When you meet two other people, you are likely to compare each against the other on several dimensions to decide which you prefer. This may include physical beauty, similarity of interests and various personality factors. (Cialdini 1993) In other words, in a dark room, even a small candle flame seems bright.
A simple physical way of illustrating perceptual contrast is to put one hand into hot water and other into cold water, then move them both to lukewarm water. The cold hand will feel hot and the hot hand will feel cold.
Using it – To make something look good, first show something of inferior quality. To get someone to buy something expensive, first show them something even more expensive. Always show the original full retail price before showing the sales price.
Defending – When you make a decision, think about the comparison standards you are using. If it is something you have recently seen, consider whether the person who showed you the first thing is using it for the contrast effect.
Perceptual Contrast can be used in negotiation and mediation to help influence, manage and even control the bargaining process. This is true because of the power of an initially presented number (or bargaining position) to “ANCHOR” the other party’s perception (or mindset) closer to the opening offer and thereby influence what their initial counter offer in a negotiation is likely to be. If you can limit the options that the other party has to choose from during a negotiation then you can guide the outcome to one that favors your side.