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"He exercises emotional triggers with more gusto than almost any persuader I have ever seen."

How Mentalist Derren Brown Masterfully Triggers Yes

Entertainers instinctively know how to persuade an audience. Then there are those, like the remarkable Derren Brown, who raise it to an art form.

Never heard of Brown? He’s one of the world’s leading mentalists, which is like a magician who operates as much on linguistic and social trickery as on illusion and sleight-of-hand. Brown has established a complete portfolio of mind-blowing tricks, including bamboozling a group of impressionable citizens into knocking over an armored car (it was fake, but still).

One of my favorite routines, however, was the one he pulled on well-known British actor Simon Pegg. I’d rather not spoil it for you, so have a look below before you continue reading:

Brown’s brilliant mental maneuvering isn’t only awe-inspiring for purposes of pure novelty. He exercises emotional triggers with more gusto than almost any persuader I have ever seen.

Let’s Break It Down

Brown uses the Friendship and Reciprocity Triggers by establishing that he has bought Simon Pegg a gift. The gift is something Brown told Pegg he would get him for his birthday long before their meeting, signaling that he is indeed a real pal, a true friend. He also speaks to him in a direct, honest, simple and friendly way when they meet.

Brown’s explanation of the feeling you get when you receive a present as well as his live dissection of the possibilities surrounding the box establish him as a leading thinker in the particular topic he is presenting to Pegg, exercising the Authority Trigger.

The key to the trick as a whole (SPOILER ALERT! Watch the video now before reading any further) is to create an environment that takes the participant in the experiment (Pegg) halfway to a specified psychological habitat, then allow that person’s mind to fill in the gaps in a way that makes sense, a classic activation of the Consistency Trigger.

The Reciprocity Trigger allows Brown to get a little from Pegg each time he gives him a little information. This trigger is less the focus of the trick than the Consistency Trigger is, but the entire experiment has a reciprocal feel to it as well.

Brown offers Pegg the opportunity to take his old preferred top present, a leather jacket, rather than his newly preferred present, a BMX Bike. This sets up a clear yet distinct set of choices: the Contrast Trigger in action.

Brown offers Pegg plenty of reasons to choose the present he winds up with. While these are mostly indirect, they still show hints of the Reason Why Trigger.

Finally, Brown allows Pegg to choose his own present and determine whether or not the item in the box is exactly what he wants. He decided it is, pinpointing the present as perfect for him. Even the Hope Trigger has an impact.

Entertainment vs. Business

Derren Brown’s amazing use of persuasion triggers permeates much of his routine, reminding us that anyone is capable of engaging in a little mentalism once in a while. Just remember that, like any technique or tool, the purpose for which it’s deployed is up to the user. If it can be argued that such a virtuoso deployment of persuasion veers into the realm to tricks and manipulation, it’s innocuous because it’s just entertainment.

In business, transactions – sales, agreements – need to be sustained and solid. It’s far too easy these days for a bad reputation to go viral. Shared solutions, win-win agreements are the most persuasive, and even that which is truly in the best interests of a customer often needs persuasive salesmanship. Maybe even a little mentalism.

So go out there, buy someone a gift, and persuade them to like it.