Tag Archive for: persuasion

Christian Unkelbach and Fabia Högden, researchers at the Universität zu Köln, reviewed research on how pairing celebrities—or other stimuli—can imbue objects with characteristics that might be beneficial. Their article in Current Directions in Psychological Science (2019, 28(6), 540–546), titled Why Does George Clooney Make Coffee Sexy? The Case for Attribute Conditioning, described earlier research that showed how REPEATED PAIRINGS of George Clooney and the Nespresso brand, in advertisements, imbued the coffee brand with attributes such as cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and seductive. Research on persuasion (see Cialdini, 2009 and here’s a nice blog-post review), also has demonstrated the power of celebrities to gain attention and be persuasive.


Can we use the power of celebrity to support our training?

Yes! And first realize that you don’t have to have access to worldwide celebrities. There are always people in our organizations who are celebrities as well; people like our CEOs, our best and brightest, our most beloved. You don’t even really need celebrities to get some kind of transference.

What could celebrity do for us? It could make employees more interested in our training, more likely to pay attention, more likely to apply what they’ve learned, etc.

The only catch I see is that this kind of attribute transference may require multiple pairings, so we’d have to figure out ways to do that without it feeling repetitive.

I, Will Thalheimer, am Available!

George Clooney shouldn’t have all the fun. If you’d like to imbue your learning product or service with a sense of sexy research-inspired sophistication, my services are available. I’m so good, I can even sell overhead transparencies to trainers!


I’m joking! Please don’t call! SMILE

Since 1998 when I started Work-Learning Research, I've been trying to spread the word about research-based principles of learning. I naively thought that good information would resonate so much that it would change practices industry wide.

I've largely failed in that endeavor up to this point.

That's okay. I've learned a simple truth about influencing others. It's hard.

Take two recent examples outside the learning field. Antibacterial soap and vitamins. It has been widely reported for about five years or so that using antibacterial soap is generally counterproductive. It has also been reported over the last two years or so that taking vitamins may produce no benefits and in some cases can be harmful (see today's article on vitamins).

I've sent many articles on these topics to my family and close friends. Many people just can't incorporate the new information into their old mindsets. We've learned for so long that germs are bad and vitamins are good that we think from those points of view. New information is deflected before it can become part of our new thinking.

As learning professionals, we know that "Telling Ain't Training" and "Training Ain't Performance" (thanks Harold), but we often forget that long-held views are not easily overcome. We need to be more careful and more energetic in confronting them. It's not our learners' fault when they don't make the turn. We have to make it our fault. We have to take responsibility.