If you want to bring someone around to your way of thinking, you should make sure they have a cup of coffee in their hand, according to research showing that caffeine makes us more open to persuasion.
The Australian researchers say a caffeine hit improves our ability to process information and increases the extent to which we listen to and take on board a persuasive message. They tested this by quizzing people about their attitudes to voluntary euthanasia and abortion before and after either the equivalent of about two cups of coffee or a placebo.
They were also given a persuasive argument to read after having the caffeine.
The experiments showed that "caffeine increases persuasion through instigating systematic processing of the message".
But caffeine also puts people in a better mood, which makes them more likely to agree with a message, the researchers say.
The research is posted on the Queensland University of Technology website and is submitted for publication in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
Co-author Dr Blake McKimmie says the research suggests that caffeine increases our ability to scrutinise the content of a message.
The study has implications for advertisers, he says, because it suggests that they should schedule adverts for times when people are likely to be consuming caffeine, such as breakfast time.
Drinking too much coffee, however, means we are more likely to be distracted by peripheral factors, rather than the strength of the argument.
"So if you're looking at an advertisement you may be more distracted by the attractiveness of the person selling it than the actual product," he said.
Caffeine and the brain
Associate Professor Pradeep Nathan of Monash University, an expert in behavioural neuroscience who was not involved in the research, says caffeine stimulates the central nervous system including the brain, where it affects several neurotransmitters.
The Melbourne-based researcher says it improves memory and makes us pay closer attention to tasks at hand.
"It does improve attention and it can improve memory, so by being more attentive and remembering your attitude to a particular thing may change," he says.
"If you're more attentive, yes [it does have implications for advertising]. Advertising works on the principle of getting people's attention, you want to get as many people interested in your ads as possible."
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