I’m sure you’ve had this experience: you’re driving down the road, listening to the radio, and suddenly you’re transported back to a memory from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. A song, maybe not even a great song, or a song you particularly liked very much back then comes on the radio. Maybe it reminds you of a time when you were in love, or when you were heartbroken, or when you were having the time of your life with friends.
You drift back into your memories to that girlfriend or boyfriend, remembering that first date or the date you really wanted.
I was about sixteen years old when I met my first wife. The song ‘Twenty-five or Six to Four’ by Chicago was popular at the time. When that song comes on the radio still, to this day, I’m transported back to my new Toyota Celica GT, driving through the Columbia Gorge off to my girlfriends house, full of excitement that I was going to be able to spend time with her. When I put myself in the memory, I’m driving east on 84. The car smells new. Chicago is playing on the radio. I’m full of anticipation and power and a thrill to be alive.
I’m taken back thirty years. . . okay, a little more than thirty years, to a crystal clear memory, to a palpable feeling.
You might even have an ‘our song’ with your significant other, that’s the song where when you both hear it, you say, ‘oh, that’s our song’. Or maybe you’ve had one in the past that you can remember.
What is this? And what does it have to do with persuasion?
It’s called anchoring and anchoring has everything to do with persuasion. Music has the ability to put you in intense emotional states. These emotional states are connected with the stimulus of the memory. They travel through neuro-pathways of emotions and memories that words and language cannot. And sometimes music affects us so intensely that we want to share it with others, but a song that touches me deeply may not touch you as deeply. It’s extraordinarily individual and powerful. Aldous Huxley said, ‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ We’re constantly exposed to things that we have been conditioned to react to. It’s often been said that we are far more reactive than proactive. The human brain is really more on automatic pilot than it is a conscious device. We think we’re conscious. We have a vested interest in thinking that. But we’re really not.