The Positive Test Strategy Preventing You from Quitting Bad Habits

Don't fool yourself

April 18, 2022

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini is a book you should read and a book that I've referenced here multiple times, in fact the part of the book I'm about to talk about is one that I've already talked about but I've never applied it in a way as impactful as I'm about to here.

The Positive Test Strategy Making You Gullible

For some reason at some point in his life Cialdini learned how to read palms, he was impressed at how it always seemed to work. But Cialdini was also skeptical of the paranormal explanations of how palm reading supposedly worked so he began experimenting and started to intentionally go against whatever the pseudoscience of palm reading would have taught him, and Cialdini found that whether he did it right or wrong people always responded to whatever he told them by saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, that sounds right." There was even one instance where Cialdini read one man's palm twice (there was much time and drinking between the two times) and the first time around Cialdini told the man that he could see that he was a very stubborn man while the second time he told him that he was very flexible and even though these two traits contradicted each other, both times the man agreed with Cialdini's assessment.

This happened because when putting Cialdini's claim to the test the man was subconsciously using what psychologists call the positive test strategy. Basically when Cialdini told him that he was stubborn the man scanned through his memory looking for all the times he was stubborn and ignored everything else, then later when Cialdini told him that he was flexible the man once again scanned through his memory looking for all the times he was flexible ignoring everything else. Had he looked for all the times he was stubborn after being called flexible then he would have seen right through the palm reading scam. Now we shouldn't blame the guy for falling for this because the positive test strategy is the default strategy our brains use in situations like this, if this were not the case then things like palm reading would never work.

The Positive Test Strategy Causing FOMO

What Cialdini didn't talk about was how the positive test strategy affects us in scenarios outside of cheap tricks, situations where we'd probably act differently if we understood what our brains were doing. The world has become filled with people who spend too much of their time scrolling through various websites and social media services, for many it is Instagram or Tick Tock, for others it could be 4Chan or Reddit, for people with a bit more time on their hands it could be YouTube or Twitch, for me it was Twitter that I knowingly spent too much time on. Of course the sad thing about this is that every mature person stuck in one of these traps has the desire within them to quit.

The reason people don't quit is that they have a fear of missing out on something if they do quit and it is a completely valid fear especially when you're subconsciously using the positive test strategy to validate your fear. Whenever you think of quitting one of these stupid websites you quickly scan your memory looking for all the good things that came about from you using that website, and because the internet is full of hidden gems you'll always find something then latch onto it and use it as a reason to stay against your better judgment. You may only be reading my site after being led here from some site you want to quit, don't use that as an excuse not to quit.

The great benefit of reading books like Pre-Suasion is that you learn about the funny ways in which our brain work and when we know these things we can be more resistant to the tricks that rely upon those tricks. Learn to resist the urge not to quit bad habits that the positive test strategy tricks you into keeping.