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Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Saturation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Saturation is a method that can be used in changing minds in a number of ways. The basic principle is to fill up the mind of the target person so they can think of little else other than the subject you want them to consider.

A common saturation method is to keep talking. If the person has to listen, you can saturate them with information to the point where they give up trying to object and simply accept what you way.

Saturation can also be used to target any and all senses, engaging the person and creating a hypnotic state. This may be used as a part of a broader saturation activity.

Three principles that can be helpful in creating saturation are:

  • Completeness: That the information covers everything you want to present and gains full attention.
  • Consistency: That the information is internally and externally consistent, so it does not cause any dissonance and breakout thinking.
  • Continuity: That a steady 'wall of information' is given, without breaks, so constant attention is sustained.


A language training system involves total immersion in the language where everything is spoken in the language for weeks at a time.

A theme park pays careful attention to removing all distractions and sights that do not reinforce the theme in each area.

A sales person isolates the customer in a side room for a full-scale multi-media presentation.


The underlying principle of saturation is to crowd out thoughts that could lead to objections or other resistance.

When we think, we have bounded rationality in the way our minds can only cope with so much. We are neither geniuses nor do we have photographic memories. Even those who may claim such things have their limits. This is particularly true of the conscious mind which, while it can switch back and forth between subjects, can only really think about one thing at a time. The unconscious has more scope, but it also is largely beyond reach of the thinker. This is not to say that it is not engaged and is also subject to saturation.

The 'Gruen Effect' (or 'Gruen Transfer') is caused by shops and shopping malls which envelop customers in a total sensory experience, including sights, sounds and smells such that the customers lose track of time as they are seduced into buying. Gruen methods may include deliberately confusing layouts that force customers to walk longer distances. Bright lights, constant music, beautiful displays all lead customers to become entranced and suggestible. Coupled with the enticing displays, this leads to far more impulse purchases. This principle can also be seen in dance halls where darkness, flashing lights and loud music take over the senses. Alcohol and drugs may also be found in such places.

Saturation can also be used for positive effect, for example in creating habits, learning difficult subjects and avoiding procrastination. When there is no escape, the person gives in and engages with the beneficial activity.

Saturation appears in religious services where smells, sights and sounds are a part of the intense experience along with repetition of familiar phrases and exhortations that ask congregations to think about their lives and how they should live.

Storytelling can use saturation when the intricacies of the plot force the reader (or watcher, in the case of movies) to work hard to make sense of events and characters. Stories also drag the reader in as they identify with the hero and other sympathetic characters. Stories are often used in everyday persuasive situations for just this enveloping effect.

A danger with using saturation is that too enthusiastic use can lead to overwhelm and rejection. For example a sales person might bombard a customer with talk and literature until the customer retreats.

See also

Creating Cognitive Load, Hurry Close, Using Repetition, Hypnotism, Overwhelm, Storytelling


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