How to Persuade the Other Party

An interesting article in The Atlantic talks about studies showing that liberals think in terms of fairness while conservatives think in terms of morality. So if you want to persuade someone on the other team, you need to speak in their language. We almost never do that. That’s why you rarely see people change their opinions. 

As I often say, fairness is a concept invented so children and idiots can participate in debates. Fairness is a subjective illusion. It isn’t a rule of physics, and it isn’t an objective quality of the universe. We just think it is.

On the conservative side, morality is usually seen as coming from God. I’m not a believer, so I see morality as a set of rationalizations for our biological impulses. Luckily, we evolved with some instincts for taking care of each other. 

The Persuasion Filter says that both fairness and morality are different forms of magical thinking. And according to that filter on reality, you can’t change the mind of a liberal or a conservative with your logic and your reason. Magical thinking is immune to both.

If your aim is to persuade, you have to speak the language of the other. Talking about fairness to a conservative, or morality to a liberal, fails at the starting gate. The other side just can’t hear what you are saying.

Let me run through some examples. These haven’t been A/B tested, so don’t assume they are persuasive. But they do follow proper form. 

Bad argument from a conservative to a liberal:

Abortion is wrong because it takes a human life. (morality)

Good argument from a conservative to a liberal:

Is it fair that you got to grow from a fetus to a full life while so many others do not? Who gets to choose who lives and who dies? (fairness)

I’m not saying the “good” argument would necessarily work. I’m just saying it follows form.

Flipping it around…

Bad argument from a liberal to a conservative:

Climate change is enriching the energy companies at the expense of everyone else. (fairness)

Good argument from a liberal to a conservative:

God created this world and asked us to look after it. We will be judged in the afterlife if we accidentally ruin it for the sake of temporary profit. (morality)

I realize my examples are not strong, but they help explain the concept. The only way you can judge the power of the arguments is by testing them.

Logic, morality, and fairness are three different approaches to persuasion. But there is a fourth way to persuade that involves ignoring both fairness and morality without giving up logic. You can take most debates out of the weeds of fairness and morality to what I call the High Ground, where everyone already agrees. 

For example, on the topic of abortion rights there is no way to reach agreement if we are squabbling about morality and fairness. But we might agree that the Federal government should stay out of the abortion business – both pro or con – and leave those types of decisions to the individual and the states.

In the olden days of Roe Vs. Wade, states could ban abortion and get away with it. In 2017 it would be economic suicide. Big employers would stay away because it would be hard to attract talent. Tourists would stay away in protest. Social media would turn the state into a wasteland. No governor can survive a drop in employment that is both state-specific and caused by government action.

Liberals can argue that it is only fair for women to have control over their own bodies. Conservatives can argue that morality means protecting every “life” as they define it. There is no room for compromise with that framing. But both sides might agree on three High Ground concepts:

1. The Federal government (and their Supreme Court puppets) should get out of the business of deciding on women’s reproductive rights. It is neither fair nor moral for them to be involved.

2. It would be economic suicide for a state to ban abortion in 2017.

3. The question of who pays for what is a separate issue.

For new readers of this blog, my view on abortion is that the most credible laws in that area are the ones that have the support of the most women. I choose to delegate my opinion on this topic to women because they have the most skin in the game and I have no special insight to improve the quality of the decisions. I also respect the principle that the people who contribute the most should get some extra rights. (The question of who pays for what is separate.)

If you are waiting for your kids to be dropped off by the school bus, you might love using the WhenHub app that my startup makes because you’ll know exactly where they are. That is both fair and moral. And logical.

How To Know Your Product Will Succeed

People often ask me if it is possible to use the tools of persuasion to predict which types of products or businesses will succeed. I’ll tell you a trick for doing just that. But keep in mind that this is NOT backed by any studies or science as far as I know. This is based on my experience alone, and it is subject to all the usual biases. I recommend looking for the pattern I’m about to describe in your own life to see how often it predicts winners. You might be surprised how well it works.

I’ve started dozens of businesses if you count the ones that died before they even got named. And that experience has given me a fairly reliable pattern for predicting which types of products will succeed. At least I hope it is reliable. So far it has been spot-on. The pattern is this:

Look for unexpected positive physical action from potential customers.

I’ll have to give you several examples before you can see what I mean. 

When Dilbert first appeared in newspapers in 1989 it was not a success. It appeared in fewer than a hundred newspapers and didn’t grow much for the first several years. With syndicated comic strips, that sort of slow uptake and modest demand almost always predicts a slow decline to failure. My syndication company at the time (United Media) moved their marketing focus to newer comics and left me to fend on my own.

And fend I did. I started running my email address between the panels of the comic. This was when email was still so new that most people didn’t even have it. My inbox exploded. The number of people sending me email was far beyond what made sense for a failing newspaper comic. The email response was unexpected, and it required physical action from the sender. As you probably know, Dilbert went on to be one of the biggest comic properties in history.

As Dilbert grew in popularity, people started emailing to say they were sorting my comics into themes and using photocopies and glue to create their own physical books with chapters for each topic. Literally dozens of people emailed to say they were doing this exact thing. They said they would love to buy a book of this type from me if I also added some text to go with the comics. This type of reaction was unexpected and it required physical action. I designed my first non-fiction book, The Dilbert Principle, exactly the way the fans asked me to do it. The book went on to become a number one New York Times best-seller.

After I got rich with Dilbert, I decided to create a business that would benefit the world so I could give something back and be a good citizen. I thought I could engineer a food product that was convenient and tasty and had all the nutrients one would need for the entire day. I invested millions and worked on the product for years. It was called the Dilberto, a frozen burrito brimming with vitamins, minerals, protein and complex carbs. Lots of people said it was a good idea. Some even said they loved the product. 

But no one ever did anything unexpected and physical. They just bought the product and ate it, as expected. And not often enough. It never took off. Eventually I closed the business.

I experienced a similar reaction to my earlier start-up, Calendartree.com. The product solved an important problem in scheduling, and thousands are using it today. But no one did anything unexpected and physical because of it. They just used it the way we expected. But not often enough for us to someday monetize it.

More recently I co-founded WhenHub.com. It does everything CalendarTree does but it is an order of magnitude larger in scope and features. WhenHub is a way to create and share interactive visualizations of any events over time. And the related WhenHub app is like the Uber app without the Uber car – a way to watch people approach a meeting on a map. WhenHub is already generating unexpected and physical action. Specifically, people I have never met have been contacting me via social media and asking if they can invest.

That doesn’t happen for most startups. It certainly didn’t happen with CalendarTree. This sort of reaction is unexpected and it requires physical action to contact me. We have also been contacted by companies that want us to add some feature so they can use it internally. That’s not normal either. Based on the initial public reactions that are both unexpected and physical, WhenHub should succeed.

I’ve also started a new book that will tell the story of how I used persuasion techniques to be the most accurate political pundit of the last election. At least a hundred people have asked me to write a book of that type. That type of reaction hasn’t happened since i wrote The Dilbert Principle. This too is a good sign. (My 2017 is looking great.)

The reason I call this a persuasion-related prediction is that it doesn’t involve facts or reason. Prediction-wise, I don’t care if someone thinks my product is both useful and a good value. I’m happy about that, but it doesn’t predict anything. I need to see people doing things that are so unexpected that it borders on irrational. That’s a good indicator. Facts and reason are not.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. If you are involved in some sort of new product or business, ask yourself how people are already reacting to it. If all they are doing is complimenting you on your idea, or perhaps sharing some links on social media, that doesn’t predict success. But if people are asking to bring a friend to see your product, or offering to invest, or using the product in some new and unexpected way, you might have something there. Look for the unexpected and physical reactions to predict your product’s fate.

My book that talks about this topic in one chapter is here.

Clinton Takes the Persuasion Lead

As amazing as this sounds, I watched a video clip of Dr. Drew explaining to CNN’s Don Lemon that Trump does NOT show signs of insanity or dangerous narcissism. Indeed, as Dr. Drew explained, some healthy narcissism is probably helpful for leaders because they want to be seen as successful. (I have said the same in this blog post, and also this one, which are totally worth another look.)

Is the amazing part of this story that Dr. Drew thinks Trump is probably sane?


The amazing part is that Team Clinton’s persuasion is now so powerful that the question of Trump’s sanity seemed like a legitimate question for the press. 

Okay, okay, I know you don’t think the press is legitimate, and CNN is clearly favoring Clinton. But even under those conditions you still need events in the real world to support your pro-Clinton narrative. And apparently CNN thought it had that justification. They had cover from all the pro-Clinton pundits who are saying Trump is mentally unbalanced (with different language).

Keep in mind that Trump has run an empire for decades, raised several great kids, doesn’t drink or do drugs, and has no known history of mental issues. And as I have explained, the craziest stuff Trump does is mostly (but not always) compatible with good persuasion technique as we know it. 

The stuff Trump does that isn’t part of persuasion technique, and still looks crazy to you, is something unfamiliar in the political realm: honesty and politically-incorrect humor. For example, when Trump said about McCain’s war record that he preferred someone who didn’t get captured, it was an adaptation of a well-known joke form, and it made me laugh when I heard it, in large part because it was so politically incorrect. The wrongness, along with the clever twist, is what made it a joke. See my six dimensions of humor to understand why.

I support the troops, by the way. But I think most of them know the difference between a bullet and an offensive joke. Only one of them is harmful.

Anyway, my point is that Clinton’s campaign has such strong persuasion going right now that she is successfully equating her actual misdeeds of the past with Trump’s imaginary mental issues and imaginary future misdeeds.

Clinton’s side (which is my side too, for my personal safety) has made you fear the imaginary monster under the bed so you’ll ignore the thief going through your drawers. That’s weapons-grade persuasion. 

I still predict a landslide win for Trump because of the Shy Trump Supporter Effect. But he’s losing on persuasion in the past week or so. That could change on any given day. 

In related news, Trump’s comment on Mrs. Khan’s silence at the Democratic convention made the country go nuts for a week. On the surface, it looked like a terrible week for Trump, as team Clinton successfully framed his comment about Islam and gender into something about their son, which it wasn’t. In the long run, you’ll forget Trump’s insult. But you will never forget the optics of Mrs. Khan deferring to her husband on stage. Short term, Trump got slaughtered on that issue. Long term, Trump has enough credibility with veterans that it won’t matter any more than the McCain joke did.

But you won’t forget the visual of the Khans on stage, and the husband looking in charge. That will stick with you. It was a gutsy persuasion play from Trump, but we will never know if it worked. My best guess is that the whole situation is just a bump in a long road.

If you support the troops, you might like my book, because both of them have a sense of humor.

Sunday Persuasion Reading

Here are four articles I know you will enjoy if you have been following my writing on Trump’s persuasion skills, confirmation bias, and hypnosis.

Brendon Marotta looks into my hypothesis that watching the Democratic National Convention lowered testosterone levels in men.

Christina Hoff Sommers describes six feminist myths that science-denying supporters of Clinton believe.

Aedonis Bravo digs into the allegations that Trump is a racist. It’s a great case study in confirmation bias.

Erica Goode in the New York Times tells us how science confirms that hypnosis has powerful effects on the mind.

You might enjoy my book because I am drinking a cup of coffee right now, and you love coffee.

The Persuasion Diet

Business Insider has an interesting article on how traditional dieting is becoming less popular. Now people are focusing on health and fitness, with weight management being a side benefit. That’s a big deal because dieting was always the wrong approach to health.

Dieting is a bad idea because it treats weight as a function of what you do. The idea is that if you do less of the bad stuff – eating cake, for example – and more of the good stuff – let’s say eating salad – you will lose weight and be healthy. While that is technically true, it is a terrible system because it ignores the biggest challenge of weight management: Your mind. If you get your mind right, everything else happens easily. But if you try to overclock your brain and use willpower to force yourself to eat less, eventually your willpower will crap out, and you’ll be back where you started. That’s why traditional dieting rarely works in the long term.

A smarter approach to fitness is to fix the brain first, and let the body follow. You might call it the Persuasion Diet. That’s what I wrote about in my book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I teach you how to learn which foods to eat, manage cravings, create positive habits, and eliminate the need for willpower. In other words, I teach you how to persuade yourself to good health without doing anything unpleasant whatsoever.

Because I’m known as a cartoonist – and not a doctor – none of you should be taking health-related advice from me. I wrote the health-related chapters in my book with the full knowledge I would be ignored and mocked for my lack of qualifications. But I didn’t mind that tradeoff because I counted on two things:

1. I have no sense of shame, as I will demonstrate once again in this post. So I knew it wouldn’t bother me to be mocked. It didn’t.

2. I figured science would catch up to me and validate my “mind first” approach to fitness. We’re almost there.

Since publication of my book – which only has a few chapters on fitness – I have heard from readers all over the world that they have lost lots of weight and gotten back into exercise, all relatively effortlessly. So the idea of systems being better than goals – for all areas of your life – is spreading.

Also, I have been documenting my own progress as I approach my 60th birthday next June. I achieved this level of fitness – the best of my life, by far – without any willpower or sacrifice at all. I simply developed systems to train my brain. My body followed. This photo is a day old. And I should note that I don’t have a personal chef or a personal trainer. This is just me eating whatever I want, whenever I want, as much as I want, and going to the gym for about 45 minutes a day. 

You might say I hypnotized myself to identify and prefer healthy foods, disdain unhealthy foods, and stay active every day. That is essentially true. That’s how I can eat “whatever I want.” It’s because I only want healthy food these days. And you can do the same, by developing your own personal system as described in my book. (Your system would be different from mine, and from anyone else’s.)

Regular readers of this blog have heard too much about my book already. The reason I’m revisiting it is because by now you also know about my writings on persuasion during this presidential election. As I have been saying since last year, Trump’s powers of persuasion would change more than politics. It would open a crack in the universe so people like me could explain to people like you how powerful persuasion can be, and how to use it to your benefit. That’s what I’m doing here. I’m persuading you to see fitness as a self-persuasion system, not a goal that you accomplish with willpower.

You might like my book because it is filled with words that I tried to arrange in a sensible order.

The Time I Accidentally Plunged Europe into Economic Uncertainty

I have to confess that I wasn’t paying attention to the Brexit issue until after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. I wondered why so many folks from England had been asking me what I thought of the persuasion angle the Brexit “Leave” side was using. I always responded that I wasn’t following the topic and had no opinion.

Now we learn that the winning side of the Brexit vote was using what they call a Trump strategy of ignoring facts and appealing to emotion. The persuasion apparently worked. The “Leave” side won, defying both polls and expert predictions.

As regular readers know, I have been blogging for months about Trump’s powers of persuasion, and how he often ignores facts because facts are worthless for persuasion. I predicted Trump’s success thus far in the election cycle based on his tools of persuasion. And I documented his techniques as I went.

What you might not know is that I have a lot of blog readers in the United Kingdom.

So…did the winning side in the Brexit vote learn how to use Trump’s persuasion tools by reading my blog? And does that make me directly responsible for the coming economic collapse in Europe?

Well, probably yes, and probably no. For many months I’ve been the loudest voice to say that Trump’s strategy of ignoring facts and using persuasion was a winning system. And I’m reasonably sure my writing made it to the folks in the Brexit “Leave” movement. A-a-a-a-and I can be persuasive.

But I don’t think Europe will fall apart because of the Brexit vote. I base that prediction on what some of you already know as the Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters.

The law states that whenever humans have plenty of warning of a pending disaster, we always figure out how to avoid it. That’s why the Year 2000 Bug turned out to be no big deal. That’s why we haven’t run out of oil, or food. That’s why we haven’t all died in a nuclear war. If we see it coming, we get out of the way. We’re extraordinarily good at that.

Humans have enough time to figure out how to make the Brexit situation work. It will be inconvenient and unpredictable for some time, and economies hate that. But in the long run, no big problem. That’s my prediction.

But if I’m wrong, and the Brexit vote destroys Great Britain and Europe because of my Trump blogging, please don’t add that accomplishment to my Wikipedia page. It’s already bad enough.

If you think the Brexit vote was the wrong decision, you might like my book. And if you think the Brexit vote was the right decision, you might like my book

Hypnotizing My Dog, Snickers

I often write about the importance of context. Watch how important context is to my dog, Snickers. 

And yes, humans are almost as easily influenced by context. They just don’t realize it.

If you like this video, there is no reason to believe you would also love my book and recommend it to everyone you know. And remember to check out the larger Persuasion Reading List I put together for you.

Bono Says Send in the Clowns

Bono suggests using comedy to fight ISIS. The idea is completely stupid except for the fact that it is totally genius. I agree with Bono that psychology (persuasion) is the key to beating ISIS. I wrote about it here.

You shouldn’t be surprised when Bono is right. He has a genius-level IQ. Or to put it another way, if you think Bono makes no sense – about anything – the odds are good that the problem is on your side.

Bono is the real deal – a Master Persuader all the way down to his DNA. 

Bono’s suggestion to send in Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, and Sasha Baren Cohen to defeat ISIS is pure Trumpian hyperbole by design. Bono made it visual so you would remember it, and so you would quote it. He isn’t seriously suggesting we send stand-up comedians to war zones. The fact that you think he MIGHT be serious is the genius of it. That’s what makes you talk about it.

Listen to Bono’s quote about maleness, and about the power of mocking. He’s spot on.

How powerful is mocking as a tool of persuasion? It’s hard to say, but if you look at the growth of business books in the 1990s you might find that the growth stopped at about the same time Dilbert came on the scene and mercilessly mocked the industry. Maybe the business book industry had just run its course. Maybe it was a coincidence. But I can tell you I have gotten hundreds of email messages from managers and authors who say they cancelled plans because they imagined how those plans would sound when mocked in a Dilbert comic.

Mocking is powerful force. And it has special power among the young. 

Could we mock ISIS out of existence, thus killing it as an idea?

I say yes. I’m with Bono. Take him seriously.

The Tells (for cognitive dissonance)

Today I offer you a new and probably different filter for interpreting your reality. You can try the filter in the same way you would try on a new pair of sunglasses. See for yourself if the new filter fits the data better than your old one. This is for entertainment only. Science is probably at a different URL.

What follows is a description of some of the tells for cognitive dissonance. If any of what follows is accurate, it might set you on a path that changes your life in delightful ways. Or maybe reading this post will do nothing but leave you with less time to interact with other people. Either way, you’re welcome.

This might be a lucky day for you.

Pay attention.

Cognitive dissonance, as I use the term in this post, refers to a situation in which a person is presented with facts that contradict that person’s self-image, causing said person to say things that sound 100% reasonable to the speaker while sounding like nonsense to others.

When I say nonsense, I do not mean a normal difference of opinion based on different values or different information. I mean serious head-scratching WTF stuff.

A tell, in this context, means an involuntary action that reveals a person’s inner thoughts in an unguarded moment. In the context of a poker game, a tell might signal a bluff. In the context of police work, a tell might signify a lie. In the context of hypnosis, a tell signifies a switch from rational thinking to irrational thinking. 

A tell in this context can mean you guessed the admin password for a human being. The tell is your feedback that the words you used got translated into a physical response. That is the hypnotist’s equivalent of A-B testing. The hypnotist tries an approach and watches for the subject’s physical reaction. 

Recognizing tells takes practice. The more tells you spot in your lifetime, the easier it is to find more. Your mind gets tuned to them. You recognize the pattern. You see them coming before they even happen, based on the trigger event. 

Complicating all of this is the fact that each tell has a false-positive explanation that will always sound plausible. The best way to estimate the odds of a tell being the real thing is by its proximity to a known trigger. If someone exhibits a tell symptom without a trigger, it probably just means you are talking to an idiot. And that happens less than you probably assume it does. All the rest of your “idiot” encounters are smart people experiencing cognitive dissonance and not realizing it.

And now for the list of tells.

Speechless Moment. This one can only be detected when you are in the same room. When a person that is otherwise witty and verbal becomes temporarily tongue-tied, it means they are having a strong physical response to your suggestion. Use this method in your love life to identify a person’s sexual preferences in casual conversation.


Love Interest: “Sorry I am late.”

You: “You need a good spanking.” (Said with a knowing grin, for effect.)

Love Interest: [silence that last over 5 seconds]

Interpretation: A sudden “struck dumb” silence means you reached into your love interest’s subconscious and found a powerful hidden craving. 

False-positive: That’s a messed-up thing to say to a nice girl you barely know. She is wondering how to end the date early.

Lone Penguin: The Lone Penguin is the person you see on the Internet imploring others to stop listening to person X. The usual phrasing looks like “Why is anyone listening to that terrible person X?”

The tell is that the Lone Penguin will offer no data or reasoning to back up the emotion. At most, the Lone Penguin will offer a link to a story in which a journalist got something wrong or out of context.


Economist: Here is my data showing that capitalism is the best system for everyone, even the poor. (This is just an example.)

Aged Hippy: “Why are we listening to this fascist? He said in an interview ten years ago that his favorite color is blue.”

Interpretation: The Lone Penguin hates person X because the argument made by person X is persuasive, and that violates the Lone Penguin’s identity as a person who always disagrees with person X and similar lines of thinking. 

False-positive: Person X really is a total turd with no redeeming points of view. The Lone Penguin is actually just a person with good judgement.

Personal Attack: A personal attack without reason is among the strongest tells. That means the person being attacked has been so persuasive that it is shaking someone else’s self-image.


Politician: My policies will stimulate the economy. Here is the data proving that this plan worked in every country where it became law.

Citizen: That guy is a reactionary asshole

Interpretation: The politician’s argument is so strong that it violates the citizen’s identity as someone that is always on the other side of that particular argument. How can the citizen maintain his old self-image and still feel rational? Cognitive dissonance is triggered and anger comes out.

False-positive: The politician really is a reactionary asshole with a bad plan.

Godwin’s Law Comes Early: Named for its creator, Mike Godwin, this observation says that every online conversation will eventually invoke Hitler’s name if you wait long enough. For our purposes, the tell is that Hitler’s name comes up too soon.


Politician: I favor a tiny change in gun laws that will have no impact on legal gun ownership but might keep some guns out of the hands of criminals.

Citizen: That’s what Hitler said.

Interpretation: If you skip directly to Hitler without passing “why” you are probably experiencing cognitive dissonance.

False Positive: Sometimes a genocidal dictator does invade a neighboring country.

Too Many Explanations: When you see pundits or citizens offering a wide variety of explanations for an observation, it probably means no one has any idea what the real reason is. If people were rational they would say they don’t know the reason. But if cognitive dissonance sets in, people will imagine reasons and convince themselves they are real.


Pundit 1: He leads in the polls because he is an outsider.

Pundit 2: He leads in the polls because he says what people are thinking.

Pundit 3: He leads in the polls because the press likes a clown. He will fail later.

Pundit 4: He leads in the polls because people like his immigration plan.

Pundit 5: He leads in the polls because serious voters are not paying attention yet.

Pundit 6: He leads in the polls because people think he can win and people like to win.

Interpretation: When everyone has their own explanation, nearly all of them are in cognitive dissonance. 

False-positive: Sometimes things do have more than one explanation. 

Slippery Slope: Any reference to a slippery slope is a tell for cognitive dissonance because there is no logical argument that involves a slippery slope unless kids are involved. When reason fails, you go for a Hitler analogy or a slippery slope defense. They are roughly equal in absurdity.


Politician: I favor doctor-assisted suicide.

Citizen: That is a slippery slope to a cannibal society.

Interpretaton: I agree with your reasoning but it scares me because it makes me imagine something similar happening in a bad way.

False-negative: You have encountered a rare situation in which the slippery slope is a real thing. For example, allowing your kid to eat candy before dinner just one time is definitely a slippery slope.

Jokeless laugh: When I was training to be a hypnotist, our instructor taught us that a subject will often laugh at something you say, or a background sound, that would normally have no humor trigger. The real trigger is that the subject is feeling the hypnotist’s words translate into bodily reactions and it causes an involuntary giggle.

Case in point, I often find myself doubled up in laughter when I read quotes from Donald Trump. I feel the persuasion working at the same time I recognize his tricks for pulling it off. That feeling of absurdity (my mind is being changed without the benefit of reason) triggers a laugh response when there is no joke in the vicinity.


Hypnotist: Your arm feels weightless. It will start to float.

Subject: Hee hee! That lawnmower outside made a funny noise.

Interpretation: The subject felt her arm getting lighter, which makes no sense in her old view of how things work, and it triggered a laugh response.

False-positive: The lawn mower is actually funny for some reason.

Nonsense Rebuttal: When you hear an irrational response to your rational argument, it probably means the argument was sound but it violated someone’s sense of identity. Here I am talking about the truly illogical responses you see on the Internet all the time, not routine disagreements over data and priorities.


Other Guy: Locking up criminals forever does not reduce crime.

Me: That could only be true if for some reason law-abiding people decide to become criminals at a higher rate because the real ones are in jail.

Other Guy: It is a slippery slope.

Me: WTF?

I am sure I am leaving out lots of tells. And you will be quick to point out that the tells conveniently form a narrative that lets me be right all the time while viewing everyone else as being in a state of cognitive dissonance.

You have a good point there.

Why do I think I can spot tells more often than chance would predict? The best answer I can offer is that I think I can. My experiences are anecdotal, not measured. You are invited to be skeptical about this and all the rest of my blogging on the topic of hypnosis.

In a past post I teased you that there are some topics that can’t be communicated because of their nature. This is one of them. The rational people reading this blog should be skeptical that, for example, Trump can dominate the country using little more than good business sense and linguistic engineering. To me, that seems like an easy accomplishment for Trump, given his skill level. 

Trump’s “inexplicable” success so far opens the door just enough for me to discuss this topic. If you watch him march to the White House while the pundits disagree why this “magic” is happening, my credibility on this topic will increase to the point where  I can communicate with you and you will listen. There is lots more to tell.

If Trump stumbles, for any reason, the door will close and no one will think his skills at persuasion were a big thing. Most of you expect that to happen. And stumbling seems common enough that we can’t rule it out. Nate Silver, who is right more than most people, gives Trump a 2% chance of success.

But if Trump goes all the way, and the Master Wizard hypothesis fits the data best, everything you know about the world will change. I know how that will feel because a similar thing happened to me in my twenties.

You think the Trump spectacle is about politics, or money, or the usual media circus. And perhaps it is. But if he wins, it could mark a fundamental change in how humans view their place in the world. Once you see yourself as a Moist Robot, subject to programming by Master Wizards and prophets, you can never unsee it.

Let me give you a concrete way to make these tells useful.

If you get into a debate, and you suspect the other person has abandoned reason for cognitive dissonance, what do you do?

Most of you would try harder to be more rational and to provide better data. But the hypnotist sees a different problem. To the hypnotist, the problem is not the argument but the the person’s self-image. So the hypnotist might, for example, use the Big Picture move to adjust a person’s self-image until the argument starts to fit.


Arguer: Your plan is terrible because [absurd reason].

Hypnotist: You might be right. But if we are smart we will try the plan that teaches us something even if it doesn’t work. Then we will be in better shape to test the next iteration. Let’s view it as a process.

[Here the hypnotist elevates the discussion from the weeds to the Big Picture of how one finds certainty in an uncertain world. The arguer recognizes this as bigger thinking than the argument in the weeds. He does not want to be the weeds guy. He immediately adjusts his self-image from weeds-guy to big thinker. Once his self-image matches your plan, he is free to agree. That typically takes the form of over-agreeing, or amplifying the Big Picture to demonstrate allegiance to it. As in…]

Arguer: Yes, of course we need a system to rapidly test all the plans. Duh. I tried to tell you that yesterday but I got busy. And I guess we can try yours first, since you already have the details worked out.

Summary: If someone disagrees with you based on facts, provide better facts. But if someone disagrees because of cognitive dissonance, change who that person believes they are. The Big Picture move is just one way to do that.

Trump isn’t trying to change your mind on the facts. He knows voters are in cognitive dissonance half the time or more. Trump is changing who we are, until our self-images match his argument. 

Don’t believe me? Wait until you see how many people that now oppose Trump’s immigration plan suddenly turn into people who understand we need a wall because good fences make good neighbors.

And you’re a good neighbor, right? 

That’s just one way Trump could win you over by keeping his argument the same and modifying your self-image.

If Trump does not win the White House, for any reason, I invite you to discard the Master Wizard hypothesis I have proposed in this blog space. I would do the same in your situation.

But if he wins it all… and no one can agree why…

Before you ask, I am working on a book list that would give you a wider exposure to this way of thinking, from different and more scientific perspectives. I’m waiting for a book that I have seen in draft form that will be a must-read when it has a final title and cover. It includes science and stuff. Give me two weeks.


For more on the Moist Robot hypothesis, see my book that has been enjoyed by dozens of attractive people so far, so it must be good.


In Top Tech Blog, And how about a robot that can lay bricks? That’s what we need. Send those robots to the desert to build us affordable housing, solar energy farms, and the rest.