Article on Law and Non-Verbal Market Manipulation

Shmuel I. Becher of the College of Management (Israel) – School of Law and Yuval Feldman of Bar-Ilan University have written Non-Verbal Market Manipulation. Here is the abstract:

Consumers make purchasing decisions in various markets every day.  Contrary to common belief, such decision-making is often not the result of deliberate analysis of information and data and of rational thinking.  Rather, it is frequently based on feelings, sensations and intuition.  Purchasing decisions are not made in a vacuum and are regularly influenced by sellers’ manipulation and selling tactics.

It is well documented that people receive a substantial part of the information they possess via non-verbal communication.  One of the most alarming aspects of this reality is that consumers are mostly unaware of non-verbal cues and the ways it can influence them.  Therefore, consumers cannot correct their mistakes.  This stands in sharp contrast to the intentional efforts invested by marketers in employing non-verbal marketing methods. 

Current consumer protection law neglects to address the encoding and decoding of wordless cues exchanged between consumers and businesses.  This opens a challenging gap between the law’s intention to protect consumers from deceptive practices and its ability to do so effectively, which contributes to a false consumers’ consciousness of proper protection.  It provides consumers with an artificial sense of effective legal protection while leaving them exposed to far more sophisticated manipulations of which they are not always aware.

Non-verbal manipulations are a robust phenomenon, extensively employed by sellers who are well versed in marketing research.  Yet legal scholars, judges and legislatures lack a systematic understanding of how non-verbal cues influence consumers, let alone how the law should respond.  This Article, while focusing on the psychology of non-verbal manipulations, aims to narrow this gap both descriptively and normatively.

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