As I mentioned in Extreme Makeover: Refrigerator Edition, my partner and I forget to take vacations. Like in 7 years we have taken a serious, dedicated, this-is-only-our-vacation trip that was not combined with family or business twice. In the Extreme Makeover story so far, I had cleaned off a bunch of random stuff from the side of the refrigerator and left room for ads to show up. Since failure to remember to take time off is a trait we share, reminders to consider upping the frequency of our vacation behavior seemed like a good thing to post in common space.
Since publishing that article I have printed a couple of photos of our favorite snorkeling destination and posted them on the refrigerator. Also a photo of the camper we’d like to own to take weekend trips to visit the many beautiful destinations nearby. I mixed those pictures up with takeout menus and a health club schedule to integrate them with items that feel normal. As I said in How to download and print pictures:
I’ve noticed it can be effective to put it someplace where there is other stuff you have accepted as normal, like photos of your family, take-out menus, cartoons, phone numbers, schedules, business cards, etc. Maybe integrating the image into the familiar helps the outlaw idea slip by the part of our conscious minds that would normally want to argue with it.
So far, so good. But I noticed that the display felt very neutral – I did not have an emotional response. On one level I could agree that these are things I want in my life, but that left a lot for my conscious mind to argue with. I was having what I would call a conditional positive response.
The thing that really made it pop is a huge, adorable photo of our dog. I had an extra one on hand leftover from my New Year collage project. Since I had it and of course we are crazy about our dog, I put it up on the refrigerator.
What that did was move the vacation photos from foreground to background, and I think that’s good. Instead of the conscious mind weighing the pros and cons of vacation logistics, time off, air travel, etc – in other words, all of the things that prevent us from going on vacations in the first place – I just look at the refrigerator and laugh. Seriously – who could not love that mug? Of course in my peripheral vision when I’m feeling so open and happy are the photos of the beach and camper.
That brings us to the second principle that may be operating here: positive association. I’m reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini describes positive association like this:
Did you ever wonder what all those good-looking models are doing standing around in the automobile ads? What the advertiser hopes they are doing is lending their positive traits – beauty and desirability – to the cars. The advertiser is betting that we will respond to the product in the same ways we respond to the attractive models merely associated with it. And they are right. In one study, men who saw a new-car ad that included a seductive young woman rated the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive-looking and better designed than did men who viewed the same ad without the model. Yet when asked later, the men refused to believe that the presence of the young woman had influenced their judgments. Because the association principle works so well – and so unconsciously – manufacturers regularly rush to connect their products with the current cultural rage.
With the photo of the dog front and center, all of the positive happy feelings we have about him are theoretically transferred to vacations. The display has the right feel to it now. I’ll keep you posted. (If you don’t hear from me for awhile it may be because I’m on a beach somewhere!)