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When we’re challenged to find flaws in a product — and come up empty-handed — our opinion of that product soars.

This phenomenon was put to the test in 2002 by Derek Rucker and Richard Petty at Ohio State University. Test subjects were split into two groups, both of whom were shown the same information about Aspirin:

  • One group was told simply to read the information about Aspirin (i.e. to process the information objectively)
  • The other group was told to focus on the negative aspects of Aspirin

Then, subjects were asked how they felt about Aspirin.

You might think that those who were asked to focus on the negative aspects of Aspirin would end up with a lower opinion of it. But you’d only be partially right:

  • Those who succeeded in finding faults in Aspirin had a lower opinion of it
  • But those who tried to find fault but failed ended up with the highest opinion of it

The experimenters argued that people who tried to find fault but failed were more cognizant of the fact that the aspirin had no faults than were people who simply processed the message objectively.

 

How can this principle make my website more persuasive?

Specific applications include:

  • Unqualified guarantees
  • Generous return policies
  • Offers like “If you find a better value, we’ll give it to you FREE”
  • Offering a reward to anyone who manages to break your product

Naturally, you can’t do these things if your product isn’t truly superior. But if you truly do have a great product, challenging customers to find fault with it can be extremely persuasive.

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