repetition to brainwash

Why Do We Believe So Many Lies?

propaganda poster

Repetition is one of the simplest ways to convince people of something.

Believe me! Does that phrase sound familiar? Well, when I Googled it to see how many times a certain former president used that phrase, I couldn’t get a definitive answer – but there were over 2.3 million search results on the topic. Almost every news organization has written about it. Why?

When we hear things multiple times, we tend to believe it more. It becomes more familiar and more familiar things seem more true. But we have to have a logical argument and facts to back our position up don’t we? And of course, we must have the other person’s attention!

Well no, it turns out.

Repetition Is Effective Without Attention!

It turns out that repetition of an idea convinces people of that idea whether there are strong, logical arguments for the idea or not. In cases where there is not a strong, logical argument, if you’re not paying attention, you’re more likely to be convinced!

The formula looks like this…

Don’t pay attention while something is repeated = convinced.

Here’s a quote…

“Repetition is effective almost across the board when people are paying little attention, but when they are concentrating and the argument is weak, the effect disappears.”

In other words, if you have a weak argument to back it up, repeat your idea when people aren’t paying attention. If you have a strong argument, repeat it whether or not people are paying attention.

Conscious/Unconscious Minds

Kind of a nice reinforcement for the metaphor of the unconscious mind, don’t you think? If the conscious is away (not paying attention), new ideas can get in to the unconscious and take hold.

It also holds true if the idea being presented doesn’t seem to particularly apply to you. You won’t be paying particularly close attention to things that don’t apply to you. Therefor, if the ideas being presented to you fall into that category, you’re likely to accept them. With repetition, you’ll accept them more.

It’s one of the reasons we use metaphor in therapy. It’s a way to introduce an idea without bringing that conscious mind in. The trick is to keep the conscious mind out of the loop while sending signals to the unconscious mind that, ‘this message is for you!’

Easier Is ‘More Truerer’

We also prefer simpler explanations. If something is too hard to think about we may reject the idea and adopt a simpler explanation. It’s just the way we humans work.

It’s why you’ll hear explanations of the housing bubble such as, “The greedy banks caused it.” While banks certainly had a role to play, the situation is far more complex than that. But if we can’t fully grasp what happened, it’s uncomfortable. So, we grab something that’s easy to understand and hold on to it tightly.

Memory Works As A Repetition

Another quote.

“…when an idea is retrieved from memory, this has just as powerful a persuasive effect on us as if it had been repeated twice.”

If we can get someone to remember an idea we’ve presented, they’re repeating it to themselves. That works for convincing too!

What To Do?

OK. I didn’t really write this article to teach you how to brainwash people with lame ideas. I wrote it with two other goals in mind…

1) To help people protect themselves against lame ideas.
2) If you work with hypnosis/NLP, for you to consider how these ideas can help you be more effective.

Here are some suggestions:
1) Don’t watch or listen to TV, radio, people etc. unless you are paying attention or already trust that source.
2) Question your own beliefs when they seem simplistic (all middle-eastern looking people are terrorists, for instance). Yes, it may be inconvenient or uncomfortable to simply admit we don’t know everything, but it keeps us open to opportunities.
3) If you’re working with clients, use the principles here to deliver messages to them in such a way that they find it easier to reach their goals! Repeat suggestions, get the client to repeat them to themselves, present suggestions in an easy-to-understand format etc.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Excellent topic, Keith. Indeed repetition can be used to influence others, so one must be mindful of what they tune into on a regular basis.

  2. Great article – I always warn my clients about falling asleep in front of the TV – you never know what is seeping into the subconscious!

  3. This was a very interesting read. It’s strange (and a bit scary) to think that something can be more persuasive when you aren’t consciously focusing on it. Then again, if we analysed it then we’d probably be more sceptical and less open to it, so it does make sense. And wasn’t it Lenin who said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”?

  4. An amazing and useful article, Keith–in fact, useful may be far too weak a word for it. I’ll be thinking about (and repeating to myself) these ideas and how I can use them. And not just to brainwash people with lame ideas, either.

  5. wonderful insights bro! its true,. Mind works in such a way it respects familiarity. Its a metaprogram which is hardwired into humans mind to help him survive in old times. And this program is wired into a lot of animals brains too:) if you make new frightening sounds to a cat it will be scared just at first time, after it will accomodate to strange sound as it will sound to cat as familiar already. The same applies to human beings. we are animals after all:)) Keith, your 3 solutions to a problems are very true and helpfull. Of course bro, all the things that are repetitive now frightens me:) thanks for good post! bro!

  6. All religions work this way, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat… until it sinks in.

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