Use This One Word Because It Makes You More Influential

Don't ask me to explain why the human brain works the way it does. And don't ask me how scientists get the idea for some experiments. Instead, take note of the most influential work in the English language, because I want you to be more influential.

What's that one word?

It's not "you" or "free" or "instantly" or "new."  They're very powerful words, as every copywriter knows. But they're not the most influential.

The most influential word comes from The Wizard of Oz.

wizard of oz because

Becuz becuz becuz becuz beCUZ!

Because Is the Most Influential Word, Because It Is

Researcher Ellen Langer wanted to see how to make requests more persuasive. She had her researchers approach lines to copiers in busy offices and asked if they could go next. Each time, researchers used a very specific request: "Excuse me, I have five pages. Could I use the copier next?"

When asked this way, sixty percent of the time the people already in line let the researchers butt in. Not bad.

When the researchers added "because I'm in a rush," the number soared from 60 percent to 94 percent!

But here's where the word "because" really earns its stripes.  Researchers realized "because I'm in a hurry" made sense.  What if the "because" clause was meaningless.

They ran the experiment one more time, this time asking, "May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies."  Well, of course, they had to make copies. Why else would they be asking to use the Xerox machine?

You'd think such a silly request would prompt the people in line to say "get lost."  But that didn't happen. What did happen was astonishing, and it made the word "because" easily the most influential word in English.

When asked "May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies," 93 percent of the people in line said "sure."

Like I said, don't ask me to explain why the brain works this way, just remember that it does.

When you ask someone to go vote on April 2, add a because clause.  "Will you vote on April 2, because it's an election day," will be as effective as "will you vote on April 2, because your liberty depends on it."

Now, go find out:

Why the Sequester Was Worse Before It Happened

How Psychological Biases Hurt Government

And here's the book that'll make you more influential: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Source:  The Xerox studies can be found in: Langer, E., Blank, A., and Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of “placebic” information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36: 639– 42. Retrieved from Goldstein, Noah J.; Martin, Steve J.; Robert B. Cialdini (2008-06-10). Yes! (Kindle Locations 2882-2884). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Miss The Brain Study That Tells You How to Influence Democrats

One of the most powerful tools of influence is fear. Decades of research shows that fear of loss is about three times as motivating as hope for gain. (This changes under certain situations, like conditions of certain loss, but that’s for another time.)

So political message writers often use negative messages to influence voters to take a chance on a cause or a candidate.

This tactic works well with Republican voters, and less well with Democrats. New neuroscience research tells us why—and what you can do about it.

Republicans and Democrats Assess Risk With Different Parts of Their Brains

When assessing risk, Republican voters use their amygdala, while Democrats use their left insula.


The amygdala are the brain’s primary danger triggers. They kick off the flight-fight-freeze response.

The left insula’s primary function involves consciousness of self and others. It processes social information.

This is critical to understand if you’re asking people to take a risk.

This Study Is a Remarkable Predictor of Party Affiliation

The study by Dr. Darren Schreiber of University of Exeter with colleagues from University of San Diego shows that fMRI imaging during risk tasks predicts party affiliation with 82.9% accuracy.

That’s stunning. In fact, few other methods of predicting political preference even come close.

Read more about the study on Science Daily, and you can see the whole paper on PLOS One.

How To Influence Republican Brains

Say you want people to stop freaking out over the sequester. If want to influence Republicans, talk about the dangers of freaking out. For example, if the House Republicans freak out about the political consequences of automatic spending cuts, they’re likely to accept a really bad demand from the White House.

In other words, double down on their highly activated amygdala by reminding them (truthfully) that freaking out will only make things worse. There’s more to lose in compromise (surrender) than in standing firm.

How To Influence Democrat Brains

The White House has done a fabulous job activating the left insula in Democrats by talking about how sequestration will hurt them personally and people they care about.

To get Democrats to stop freaking out about the risk of the sequester, remind them that the more money the government takes, the less money people have to spend on important things like the environment, caring for the poor, and taking care of their families. Remind them that, someday, Congress and the White House will be in conservatives’ hands, along with all the spending power. Remember Bush?

You Are Not Your Voter

This is just more evidence that you are not the voter you’re trying to influence. And it’s only one aspect of brain science that needs to be considered when developing a marketing strategy.

What’s clear, though, is that messaging that mobilizes people who think like you might turn off people who don’t.  But carefully designing your campaign with multiple messages that trigger different parts of the brain will increase the number of people who at least consider your side.