Episode 1: How Does Our Self-Image Shape Our Decisions?


This is the first episode in a multi-part series on how B2B organizations can leverage human behavior and hueristics to inspire change among your audience.

What comes to mind when you think of a doctor? Do you think of a man with a stethoscope?

What comes to mind when you think of a scientist? Someone with a white lab coat?

What about a librarian? Do you picture a woman with glasses?

How about yourself? What do you think about you?

Stereotypes are powerful. They not only shape how we see others, but also how we interact with them. And often, they reduce people to just a few generalizations.

But stereotypes not only affect how we see each other, it also affects how we act.

For example, It’s been said that boys perform better than girls in science or math. It is also commonly believed that children of Asian descent are more mathematically capable. Two stereotypes, both with data to support them. But the question is this: Are these stereotypes based on the data, or do they result in the data?

In an interesting experiment, researchers took two groups of girls from Asian heritage and primed them with unrelated articles before giving them a math test. One group was given an article that reminded them that they were girls, and the other reminded them of their Asian heritage.  

The results were astonishing! Going into the test, if the girls were aware of their heritage, they performed better than the control group. If they were primed about their gender, they performed worse. This is called stereotype susceptibility.

Because of stereotype susceptibility, we are shaped by these stereotypes and absorb these subtle signals from the outside world to act a certain part, whether we realize it or not.

Applying this to the B2B industry, chances are, organizations need to communicate—and persuade—technical professionals like doctors or engineers or clinicians for a living. Typical marketing and communication primes audiences to act a certain part, and this priming could change the way they make decisions or changes.

Scientists want data, right?  But if you remind them that they’re scientists, they skeptical part of their reasoning is activated and they’ll overly scrutinize your data, instead of using it to make a good decision. Just like you primed them to act.

So what’s an organization to do? Just by priming your audience in another way they see themselves. This could inspire a totally different interaction with them.

Priming can significantly change how your audience acts. It’s relevant in sales and marketing, in your recruitment and workplace branding materials, or even when communicating with an internal team.

Humans are beautifully complex. And our actions are governed by certain patterns. By understanding these patterns, you can use them to inspire change, today.

Interested in how priming can shape the relationship with a technical audience? Let’s talk.


Business Examples + Studies

Does music playing at a store influence which wine you purchase? In this study, psychologists discovered that what’s playing over the speakers matters.

Thanks to subliminal priming, participants who were chosen to drive a Red Bull branded car in a video game happened to drive faster and more reckless compared to those who drove a car with a different logo. It’s assumed that pariticpants attributed Red Bull’s brand characteristics into their driving abilities. Read the entire study here.

From the Freakonomics blog, here’s a study on how priming effects whether or not someone tells the truth.

In this Forbes article, researchers found out that just by talking about a product’s attributes persuades someone to purchase it.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, shares in an interview how, when exposed to certain words, we subconsciously take on these characteristics. For example, in a study done by social psychologist, John Bargh, if we’re primed with certain words like “arthritis” during an interview, we’ll walk more slowly when we leave.