Ivan Pavlov was a famous Russian psychologist that is probably best known for
his work on ‘classical conditioning’. Much of his work was in the field of behavioral
psychology and he is attributed with coining the term ‘conditional reflex’. The term
refers to someone acting on impulse rather than applying any critical or rational
Does this sound familiar? It should do. Psychological conditioning leading to reflex
actions is one of the wonderful tricks employed by many internet marketing schemes
hoping to lure customers into impulsive purchases. But how do they manage to
work this psychological magic? Before we delve into their murky strategies, it will be
helpful to offer a brief overview of one of Ivan Pavlov’s most famous experiments.
Pavlov was performing research into the digestive system and discovered that dogs
tend to salivate (drool) when they think they are about to get fed. His experiment
involved ringing a little bell when he was about to bring food to the dog. The dog
soon associated the sound of the bell with a forthcoming meal. It was soon possible
to make the dog drool by simply ringing the bell, even if no food was present. The
dog heard the bell, thought it was about to be fed, and salivated.
In modern terms, this is the equivalent of a dog getting excited when its owner goes
towards a cupboard containing its food or picks up its bowl. The dog has learnt to
associate these actions with food and will start to drool and get excited. The dog has
Behavioral Conditioning and Internet Marketing Schemes
Don’t think that dogs are stupid and humans would know better. People are as easily
conditioned as animals. Children learn by conditioning and we are all impulsive by
nature. Internet marketers know this and have come up with some very devious
methods for exploiting our weaknesses.
The merest mention of missing out on a onetime deal and we too become drooling
dogs. Rational thought goes out of the window and impulse takes over. A dodgy
product looks far more inviting when it is about to become unavailable or is offered at
a discounted price.
There are closets full of hideous clothes bought in a panic when they were on half-
price offer for ‘one day only’. The thought of returning tomorrow and finding the item
gone is too much to bear. The item is bought impulsively. Only later, when rational
thought returns do buyers realize the item bought was on offer for good reason…it
was seriously ugly.
Internet marketing schemes use ‘onetime offers’ and ‘time sensitive offers’ to
encourage a conditioned reflex. Blind panic will always mask a bad product. With
critical thinking out of the equation, the marketer can shift lots of merchandise before
people realize what the hell they just bought.
Fake countdown clocks and pop-ups screaming ‘ATTENTION!’ are nothing more
than clever rouses to tap into our predilection for impulsive reaction.
.'If you don’t grab it right now, it will be gone forever!’
.'This is a special onetime offer’
.'75% off, only available today’
We are conditioned to fear loss. Missing out on a potential bargain kills us. What
if this is the product that will make you ridiculously rich and you don’t buy it? Now
you’re sweating, shaking, searching for a credit card and agonizing over whether
to click that ‘Submit’ button, or not. What should you do? Yes or no? Is this really a
good idea? If only you had more time to think. It’s now or never. If you don’t make a
decision now it will be gone.
The decision will nearly always be yes. You will buy a crappy product. You are
conditioned and have no control over foolish impulsive purchases when faced
with a fear of loss and time sensitivity. It’s a human conditioned reflex and simple
behavioral psychology. You are Pavlov’s dog and the internet marketer knows this.
Ring, ring…woof, woof!