The Art and Science of Persuasion in Writing and Advertising: Unveiling the Psychological Dynamics

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5 min readOct 27, 2023


by Allison Kilkenny

To understand the sheer reach and impact that the world of advertising has on humans, one need only look around. Advertisements are everywhere — on the subway, in our cars, in movies, and more.

The power of an advertisement lies in its ability to hold one’s attention and persuade through narration and stimuli, and a part of the ad’s effectiveness depends on how well the creators understand and utilize principles of human psychology.

Tips and Tricks

According to the Chicago School, brand advertisers and marketers use psychological tricks and principles to boost the odds of making a sale.

The main advertising principles include the Reciprocity Principle, Commitment, Consensus, Authority, Liking, Scarcity, and the Verbatim Effect, a few of which will be explored here.

The Reciprocity Principle

Probably the most basic principle, the Reciprocity Principle is based on the simple human impulse to do something nice for someone who has done something nice for you.

For example, if Hulu gives you a thirty-day free trial, you’re likely to stick around due to the generous introduction to the streaming platform. The same principle may inspire you to spend more than $30 at a restaurant that offers you a $30 gift card.


The Commitment trick involves a small ask becoming a large ask down the road. For example, getting a customer to sign up for a free class may become getting them to

sign up for a discounted class at a future date.


What’s the first thing you do when considering if you’re going to buy a product on Amazon? You check the reviews because it’s the easiest way to find a quick consensus on a product or service. It’s why businesses oftentimes boast of their five-star reviews on Google and Amazon. When it comes to making a purchase, public opinion matters. Testimonials can be a great way to convince consumers to purchase a product or service. Check out our resource on testimonials here.

Creating an Emotional Connection

We all like to think that we’re rational beings capable of perfect objectivity when it matters, but our emotions play a pivotal role in the decision-making process.

According to Dan Hill’s Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success, “Emotions process sensory input in only one-fifth the time our conscious, cognitive brain takes to assimilate that same input.”

A compelling advertisement will appeal to our most basic human emotions — joy, fear, anger — in hopes of garnering a quick, powerful reaction. Ideally, it’s one that leads to the purchase of a good or service and builds a bond between the consumer and the brand.

Let’s say a client from a real estate company requests copy for a 30-second commercial. They want to convey that they’re the number one choice when it comes to locating a home for their client. The concept of a home is closely linked to the idea of family, love and connection.


MUSIC BED: Inspirational piano/instrumental

CHILD: Mom, when will we have our new home?

VOICE DIRECTION: Hopeful, optimistic

MOM: Soon, honey. Really soon.

ANNOUNCER: When you start your house search, Marley Realtors should be your first call. They know that a house is not just a place to lay your head; it’s a place to put down roots, watch your family grow, and make memories. Let the Marley Realtor team help you find your forever home.

The emotional impact of a successful ad is evident when you think of the way a viewer feels empowered when they see a Nike swoosh or the happy, nostalgic feeling that one might feel when they see a child and a parent sharing a meal in a McDonald’s commercial.

These advertisements have targeted and successfully manipulated this emotional resonance to create a lasting impact.

Social Influence: Leveraging the Power of Conformity

As explored in the Consensus Principle, humans are social beings, constantly searching for validation and understanding among our peers. This social dynamic is harnessed in the psychology of persuasion through the principle of social proof.

It’s how our ancestors knew if something was safe to eat, and it’s how modern humans understand what products we should purchase.

But that consensus-searching takes another shape, colloquially referred to as FOMO on social media: The Fear of Missing Out.

For example, a client requests copy for an upcoming concert of a popular rock band. Using language like “You don’t want to miss this!” or “It’ll be a night that you’ll never forget!” impart upon the listener that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and they’ll regret having missed it.

Scarcity and Urgency: The Fear of Missing Out

Creating a sense of scarcity or urgency taps into the fear of missing out (FOMO) that exists in many individuals.

This impulse is psychologically triggered when you see advertisements with the phrases: “limited stock,” “available for a limited time,” “while supplies last,” or “limited edition.”

For example, a client requests an ad for their clothing store, and the offer is 30% off while supplies last. It would be wise to emphasize the 30% off but also to emphasize that there is a finite stock to push the listener to order and secure the deal:


“Don’t delay! Offer only lasts while supplies last.”


Crafting Compelling Narratives for Lasting Impact

The same basic psychological principles that explain why we love certain stories can be applied to the ads we create to rope in consumers.

A good ad can be entertaining and capture our attention, but it can also tap into a deep, primal emotion that creates a lasting impact/positive association with a brand, just as we associate our favorite directors and authors with our favorite books and films.

The exchange of cognitive, emotional, and social factors forms the foundation of persuasive communication.

By weaving together a compelling narrative that appeals to the rational mind and leverages psychological triggers, writers and advertisers mold content that leaves a lasting impact on the minds of their audience.



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