Coffee Makes You Gullible?

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coffee gullible persuasion

No, please, say it ain’t so!

Could the drink of the morning Gods really make you more likely to fall under the spell of others? The answer is a definitive…YUP!

In a fascinating bit of research on the effects of caffeine on persuasion, a team from the University of Queensland, Australia gave study participants orange juice that was either spiked with caffeine or just plain old juice.  The spiked juice had about as much caffeine as you’d find in two cups of coffee.

The participants were then presented with a number of messages that argued positions on controversial issues, like abortion and euthanasia.  The quality of the arguments were intentionally varied, some being strongly persuasive and well reasoned, others less so.

So, who was more easily persuaded?

You’d think that the people doped up on caffeine would’ve been more alert and less susceptible to persuasion, but it turns out, the exact opposite was true.

As the researchers revealed:

Caffeine is known to increase arousal, attention, and information processing–all factors implicated in facilitating persuasion….[the] results show that caffeine can increase the extent to which people systematically process and are influenced by a persuasive communication.

The caffeine-heads were 35% MORE likely to be persuaded to agree with one of the positions presented than those who were just running on juice.

Does that mean we should serve double espresso to our adversaries before every negotiation?

Not so fast. The research also revealed that caffeine likely works it’s magic by making us more alert, better able to process and understand “good” arguments and agree with the logic of them.  But, poorly reasoned arguments still fell flat.

So, what’s the moral of our coffee story?

If you’ve got a really well thought, meticulously reasoned, highly persuasive arguement, go ahead and caffeine up the crew, they’ll be more likely to go along with you.

But, if you’re just trying to pull the wool over their eyes or con them with flash and mirrors, but no compelling argument, don’t bother.

So, what do you think?

Bringing a box of French roast to your next meeting?

Have you ever noticed this effect?

Is it ethical to tap it’s magic?

Share your thoughts…

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25 responses

25 responses to “Coffee Makes You Gullible?”

  1. Justin says:

    This is quite interesting. I guess this is good for all the guys who go on dates at a coffee shop. It’ll be easier to convince the girl to stay with you! Of course, this has numerous business applications as well, which is more important.

    I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but I occasionally enjoy a cup.

  2. Jonathan- This isn’t the donut a day to lose weight prank now is it?

    I’ll buy the research’s findings. Coffee is associated with social settings in my world. You’re more open, expressive maybe. So it’s logical that you’d be more easily convinced. Of course, as I am reading your post, I’m enjoying my morning cups of coffee.

  3. Hmm, those Queenslanders are dodgy, Jonathan. I wouldn’t trust their research studies. But I’ll have some Costa Rican full bodied roast if you’ve got some.


  4. […] Coffee Makes You Gullible? […]

  5. Well, since so many people drink coffee, it’s kind of a non-issue, then, don’t you think? Maybe the question to ask is: would quitting caffeine give you an advantage?

  6. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Coffee Makes You Gullible? […]

  7. Jonathan Fields says:

    Hehehe, I’m going to rule the world by injecting caffeine into the water supply, then telling everyone to follow me, mwaaahaahaahahahaahaahaaaa!

    Note to self – make sure to stock up on spring water. 🙂

  8. Eric says:

    I don’t see why it would be unethical to tap the magic of the coffee bean. If the study is accurate, a poorly constructed argument would be less influential to a caffeinated crowd than a good one. If you’re really concerned about the quality of your position, offering free coffee before you start talking might actually help you figure out the holes in your plan and further bolster your argument for the future.

  9. Naomi Niles says:

    Coffee is a magical bean. I knew it!

  10. Finally, a good business rationale for why I am the only person left on earth who doesn’t drink coffee.

  11. You scared me for a minute here. Whew!

    I’m relieved to find that the caffeine-heads were more easily persuaded by good arguments, but dissuaded from cons. Cups up!

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    So, does that mean that if they spiked the O.J. with 4 times the caffeine, instead of 2 times, the participants would have been 70% more persuadable…or would they be so busy bouncing off the walls and running to the rest room that the whole point would be moot?! 😉

  13. zania says:

    You are probably more likely to act on something when you are alert.
    So, yes, this makes perfect sense if you are a salesman who wants to persuade people to act by pulling out their wallets (and a persuasive salesman of course…).
    I guess it could also work as a strategy to encourage employees and colleagues to act on your suggestions.

    But is the research reliable or simply based on common sense?
    And should the persuader be drinking coffee also?

  14. Good to know – now I’ll be more aware of what I’m agreeing to during breakfast meetings!

  15. […] nieuws op Awake@thewheel: van koffie word je goedgelovig. Onderzoek heeft uitgewezen dat een flinke dosis caffeïne in je lijf je meer geneigd maakt […]

  16. Annedien Hoen says:

    The link to the publication seems to be members only.

    If you become more open to good arguments it’s a good thing, right? Why is that ‘gullible’? That word makes me think of foolish, naive, easily conned. If it makes you less stubborn and critical it sounds like a very liberating property 😉

  17. This is indeed interesting! Now I can actually understand why those morning coffee meetings or coffee talks in the company cafeteria can be so creative and productive. It’s the coffee, with a little help from some other friends 🙂

  18. […] Coffee Makes You Gullible – Jonathan Fields takes a look at a study that states that coffee drinkers may be more susceptible to persuasion. Hmmm … I’m addicted to coffee and am not very agreeable. […]

  19. Jarkko says:

    But does it actually mean that the people are more persuadable, or just smarter (i.e. they understand the good deal better than without caffeine).

    If this is the case, then wouldn’t it make sense to drink more coffee yourself too? And in general, try to get people to drink more coffee at work. What’s the downside?

  20. Sharon says: that’s why i did that…never mind…

  21. […] Coffee Makes You Gullible? Posted on July 28, 2008 by JunglesWife Interesting post by Jonathan Fields – Coffee makes you gullible. […]

  22. Wtblogger says:

    Coffee is one of the reasons why i dont scrue things during a day

  23. Roaster Dave says:

    Its quite possible! I roast coffee, and drink it religiously…..or addictively depending on who you ask. Quite often, I’m lured into the land of gullibility while under the influence of caffeine!

  24. I don’t know about this. When I am tired and groggy I get hard headed so I don’t want to hear what anybody has to say. When I’m alert and awake (after a few cups of coffee for example) then I am more open to listening and hearing people out, so maybe I am in some sense more likely to be persuaded. But that doesn’t mean I’m in a weak state of mind or something, it just means that I am alert enough to fully examine an issue before I dismiss the whole conversation as B.S.

  25. Matthew says:

    What an interesting post. I know coffee helps me stay alert, but after reading your post, I can see how sometimes I may be persuaded from time to time early in the morning at work. Nice post!