What’s a ‘sleeper effect’ and how does it affect how much money you’re making

What’s a ‘sleeper effect’ and how does it affect how much money you’re making

If you ever read anything about influencing others and making them do what you want, then you probably know one crucial thing you need to do to succeed: leverage the momentum.

Once you hook a potential customer, you need to keep them engaged. You don’t want to lose them now. If you do, you won’t close the sale (you won’t get their email address, their like, their comment). This is because the effects of your persuasive message decreases with time. However, there is an exception to this rule – and this is what sleeper effect is all about.

A sleeper effect takes place in a situation when effects of a persuasive message are stronger when more time passes. This is the opposite to what is usually known (and taught) by experts on the topic.

A sleeper effect is actually one of the more controversial topics in psychology and over the years many scientists have conducted various studies to understand how (and when) it works.
It’s quite natural to imagine, as sleeper effect goes against common sense: persuasion should be strongest just after a message is delivered. And studies support that.

What does all of that have to do with you? Well, a lot.

Why you need to know about sleeper effect and what it means to you

Whatever your thing and/or business is, you are always trying to persuade other people to do something you want them to do. If you’re in sales – then, of course, you want them to buy from you. But you don’t need to be a salesman to understand the sleeper effect and use it to your benefit (or even worse: have it work against you!)
If you have a blog – you want people to read your posts. You want them to comment. You want them to like and share your articles. You want them to sign up for your newsletter.
If you have a Facebook fan page, then you want people to like your page. And you want them engage: commenting, liking and sharing your posts.
And no matter what you do, you want people to like and benefit from your content and offer, you want them to recommend you to their friends and rave about you.
You achieve all this by actually having great content and/or offer, but also by effectively applying the art of persuasion. This is one knowing how the sleeper effect works, and how you can use it to your benefit can determine your success… or a failure. (let’s chose success, ok?)

So let’s talk about this mysterious sleeper effect…

What is sleeper effect and how does it work

Sleeper effect at work: persuasive message increases over time

Sleeper effect at work: persuasive message increases over time

Persuasion decreases over time

Persuasion decreases over time


Sleeper effect is the increase of the impact that a persuasive message has on a person over time. In other words: the more time passes after a person has been exposed to a persuasive message, the more their attitude will be influenced by it. This happens only under these 2 conditions,

Condition #1: Big initial impact

A sleeper effect will only take place if the initial impact of the persuasive message is big. It needs to be major to get our minds’ attention and then to stay there until it re-emerges with a more powerful impact.

Condition #2: A discounting cue

For the effect to kick in, the course of the message should not be trusted. For example, a government spokesperson giving his prediction of improving economic conditions will not be trusted as people perceive them as biased. Usually, government and media are perceived as not trusted. People know that they are being shown propaganda.
When the the source is discredited, the persuasion doesn’t work. But here’s the catch. It doesn’t work right after, but… with time, it will.
This happens when the message starts spreading out and it is no longer associated with the untrusted source. The reason why the sleeper effect hits in is that we tend to process thoroughly the persuasive message (so we remember it well), but we don’t do the same for the source (this one os daily forgotten).
You might have experienced this bias yourself when you remember a story somebody you told you, but you don’t remember where you heard it..

How to use sleeper effect to your advantage

As we just saw, the sleeper effect decreases the direct impact of persuasive message. As it’s occurrence it quite tricky, it is better for you to keep in mind the conditions and eliminate them whenever you try to influence the behaviour of others.
The positive effects of this phenomenon are difficult to measure, as you don’t have much control over how your message spreads and in what time.
You can try and strategically design it into your message, but I personally believe that it’s better if you strategically try to avoid it. It is a safer option.

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