Study on suggestibility?
March 6, 2010 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Looking for research on the human brain's susceptibility to suggestion/environmental cues?

Some time ago, a friend of mine linked me to a study in which people were required to read a newsletter espousing political views they strongly disagreed with. There was no immediate change of opinion, but several months later, the subjects were more likely to agree with these ideas they had started off opposing. The conclusion was that after an idea has been knocking around in your head for a while, your brain starts to forget where it came from and whether it was supposed to trust the source or not.

Does anyone know what the heck this study is? Can anyone hook me up with similar research, that simply being exposed to an idea, wither explicitly in writing/speech, or communicated through the environment, is powerful in its own right?
posted by Andrhia to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is this study relevant?
posted by icy at 8:04 PM on March 6, 2010

From a cursory search, what you're describing sounds similar to the sleeper effect. Here's a widely-cited 1953 paper on such an effect: Hovland & Weiss - The Influence of Source Credibility on Communication Effectiveness

Related topics: cognitive dissonance; and the dissociation of source memory from item memory — termed source amnesia or source misattribution.
posted by parudox at 9:19 PM on March 6, 2010

You are talking about Priming
posted by rebent at 11:32 PM on March 6, 2010

Best answer: Here's an article about the study you're remembering. (I thought it was fascinating too)

I think the reason people have linked to both the sleeper effect and priming is that the study you mention deals more with the sleeper effect, but your question seems closer to priming, e.g. a more short term phenomenon dealing with less rational ideas. (e.g. asking people about their race causes black students to do worse)

Though Gladwell gets a pretty bad rap around here, his book Blink has a bunch of stuff about priming, and he describes a number of amazing studies. I also just finished Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide, which touches on it a bit as it gives a more general overview of how your brain works.
posted by ropeladder at 6:08 AM on March 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, ropeladder, that's precisely the study I was looking for! I agree, my question was a little muddled. Sorry. For the thing I'm working on, though, sleeper effect and priming are both related concepts, and still quite useful to me, so I'm glad parudox and rebent brought them up.

Thanks for your help! AskMe is the best.
posted by Andrhia at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2010

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