Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds

Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds

 ‘Split Second Persuasion’ is written by Kevin Dutton. The book has eight chapters that are well articulated to explain a specific topic. The author has organized the book in such a way that the reader can have a step by step understanding of what the book is all about. The chapter has footnotes that outline some of the sources that the author has used in arriving at the conclusions that the chapters outline.

The book addresses the topic of persuasion and how it affects different aspects of people’s lives. The author has in particular identified a specific strain that is made up of what can be termed as immediate, instinctual persuasion. This is what individuals can use in order to disarm skeptics, win arguments, close deals, as well as other activities. The topic is interesting based on the many aspects of modern life where persuasion plays a major role. For example, in religion, much of what happens is persuasion with church leaders attempting to make the congregation understand the intended message. Consequently, the advertisers use persuasion to make the consumers accept the product as popular and possibly buy them from the company. In this case, the persuasion is aimed at making an advantage for the company in question. 

In reading the book, I wanted to comprehend the various ways that human thoughts are diverted with the aim of making them appreciate a specific school of thought. I wanted to have an understanding of how I can personally use the different persuasion concepts to my own advantage. The book is essential in providing original and brilliant advice on how one can get someone to do something. This is an important part of our day to day lives as we deal with issues such as business, science, law.

Critical Book Review

Dutton passes the message that advertising is based on lies as it is based on the ability of the company to get straight through to some of the emotion centers of the brain. The argument is that there are some primal and ancient structures that we as human beings share with animals. The author offers some specific insights to the well worked subject. For instance, the author provides an insight into the tactic that is liked most by magicians, which is the use of incongruity in distracting attention. To illustrate this, Dutton gives the example of the Avis rental car where the company admitted they were number two in the business. The unexpected nature of this approach made it an attention grabber and in the process aroused the interests of the viewers in the company’s product.

Social conformity in humans is the other concept that the author addresses. This concept is easily identifiable with some of the herd behaviors that are found in animals. Dutton in particular focuses on the success that is there in changing the tradition. For example, companies’ uses the ‘please call me now in order to get more information’ tag line and incase the operators are busy then one is encouraged to call again. Although such a concept outlines the element of inconvenience, it is also an indicator that the item is also popular.

There is also the message that social stereotyping that normally occurs in the society may act in a way that it lowers the self-esteem of the members who make part of the minority population and in the process negatively affect their performance. In order to describe this, the author provides an analysis of an experiment that was conducted by a university professor after President Obama went to power. His ascendance to the top had a positive effect on African Americans in the country especially students who started recording better scores as compared to their Caucasian counterparts. This shows that the African Americans were persuaded that they could also make it to the top of the ladder if only they did the right things and ensured that they followed the same path that the President had followed.

The author has been able to show how we as human beings can be made to trust easily and immediately through the use of specific triggers. This is because of some hidden pathways in the brain that make us believe about something even though we know that it is not even true. The other concept that adds to our ease in getting persuaded is the concept of group dynamics where we become more tolerant or get easily convinced about something.

The book reminds us that we need to change our mindset from the outdated version to a new way of thinking especially when dealing with a problem or else failure will follow. For example, parents are warned that they cannot be bringing up their teenagers the same way they were younger. The same case applies to organizations that cannot be able to thrive if the organizational structure is similar to the one they had in the past. According to Dutton (13), split-second persuasion is the kind of persuasion that can get one what he or she wants. This includes reservations, bargains, contracts, or even clients. However, he cautions that in the wrong hands this type of persuasion can be disastrous or brutal due to its potential to cause some detrimental effects on human beings.

Dutton pg 213 argues that there are not people that think alike. This means that successful persuasion mainly depends on who an individual is and the characteristics of the audience. Dutton asserts that for those with the persuasive talent, and then there are some constants that can be used in providing a concrete analysis. This is what he called the three A’s. The basis raw material of what one says in the context of what the audience pays attention to. The second one is the manner in which one delivers the raw material. This means the approach the audience will have towards the raw material. The third A is related to the affiliation or the psychological factors that relate to how the audience evaluates or appreciates what one says and in connection with the views of others.

Dutton and his team were able to conclude that the three A’s were important in mapping the influence genome. They were also able to find that there were five major axes of persuasion. These include simplicity, perceived self-interest, incongruity, confidence, and empathy.  It is also evident that the five factors that relate to persuasion also fit in the three A’s in that simplicity and incongruity both map onto attention, confidence map on to the element of approach, while perceived self interest and empathy map onto affiliation. The rule that is passed by the author is that what one says does not win the day in any sector but the way one says carries the day. The audience will easily accept what is simple as our brains have some bias towards simplicity.

From the book, it is clear that the job of a persuader is not to make people believe but it is to make sure that they stop unbelieving. The implication is that there are two sides of the story when it comes to persuasion. It is associated with manipulation and coercion by some while others view it as an honest path towards mutual self-interest. Dutton’s work looks at influence and answers the questions of what, why and how.

Journal Article

Question: Why are People Easily Persuaded by Advertisements towards a Specific Product?

Advertisements have been one of the dominant elements in the modern society. People are easily persuaded to think that a product is popular and in the process end up buying the product. The concept of persuasion that is used in these ads is one that strikes the specific instincts of a human being or the target consumer.

In the recent past, there have been questions of people targeting consumers based on their online activities. This means that the activities and the searches that one conducts online are used in directing product ads to the consumer. The aim of these targeted ads is to persuade the consumer to buy specific products. Simple triggers can be able to make someone trust the product immediately despite the product being of lower quality that first thought.

The concept of the group dynamics in persuasion can be easily seen when it comes to the word of mouth advertisement. This is where individuals may be persuaded about the quality of a product by others despite the fact that they have not tried it.  With split-second persuasion, human beings can be able to attain anything. The same case applies to the companies that can have the ability to convince consumers in every way possible. The internet and social media have led to an exploitation of all the well-known forms of influencing. Some companies are better than others when it comes to persuasion. This means that when the concept of social media use, the company can use the existing persuasive abilities and in the process attain a competitive advantage over the other companies. One of the ways that persuasion is done in advertising is through coupling of the product with people who are liked by the potential consumers. This means that people are more likely to buy the products if their celebs are using them.


The book added to the body of knowledge about persuasion as the author supported his views with clear cut examples. It is evident that the art of persuasion is something that we have although others are betters due to their ability to use some specific characteristics such as simplicity and confidence. It does not matter what you say but the way you say it. The premise that is supported by the authors is that it is possible for one to become a persuader if they can master the art of delivering messages in the right manner. Focusing on passing the message in a simple way and with confidence makes one a good persuader. From the book I was able to learn different concepts that relate to split-persuasion especially in ways that it can be used in advertising in order to increase the market share for the consumers. Split-persuasion can lead to good results if it is used in the right way and for the right purpose. However, in the wrong hands, it can lead to detrimental impacts for those involved. For example, in a cult, the split-persuasion technique can also be used in making the members perform heinous acts that are damaging to the members of the society. In my view, the book is well crafted and provides essential information on how one can improve his or her persuasion skills. It is an element that is beneficial to the daily lives of most individuals.

Work cited

Dutton, Kevin. Split-second persuasion: The ancient art and new science of changing minds. HMH, 2011.

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