Secret to Obama’s 2012 success revealed: Jedi mind tricks

A typical script called for volunteers to classify people as voters, for instance. They’d say, “Mr. Jones, we know you have voted in the past,” reports The Times. Volunteers appealed to voters to make specific plans to vote. They also asked potential voters to declare for Obama by signing a card with a picture of Obama on it.

But signing the Obama-emblazoned card had a subtle purpose. It was what psychologists call the “foot-in-the-door” technique. Research has shown that people who make such symbolic agreements are more likely to follow through on some bigger commitment later.

One of the Obama campaign’s behavioral science advisers, Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, described a famous Stanford experiment concerning the same technique. Researchers asked two groups of people to put a huge, unsightly sign in their yards that read “DRIVE CAREFULLY.”

The researchers asked one group cold, with little success. However, they first asked members of the other group to place a small sign in their windows proclaiming the benefits of safe driving. Members of this second group were substantially more likely to accept the big, ugly signs in their yards.

Members of the so-called “Dream Team” told The Times that, to their knowledge, no Republicans received any such free advice from academic elites about how to subconsciously influence voter behavior.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign did not respond to reporters from The Times.

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