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The Upside of Uncertainty


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Most of us have had the experience of being persuaded by someone simply because they were so sure about what they were saying.

In persuasion, getting people to think about what you have to say is often a key challenge.

You might have strong arguments for your position, but if people don’t pay attention to you or reflect on those arguments, they won’t be moved. Although counterintuitive at first blush, research has shown that creating some uncertainty in your message can enhance your message’s impact. It can pull people in and get them to think more about what you’re saying. Of course, if your arguments are weak, getting people to pay closer attention to them could backfire. Thus, it is still important to build a compelling case.

How might the interruption—that pause for buffering—affect your response?

Kupor’s studies indicate that as long as the interruption comes early, happens just once, and is brief, it can increase your intentions to eat nuts in the future. In other words, interrupting a message can make it more persuasive. Why would this happen? Just like a cliffhanger, the interruption seems to build curiosity about what’s coming next. This elevates interest in the material when it arrives, causing people to pay closer attention to it. As we’ve noted, that’s often the ticket to persuasion.

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