What do a fire alarm, tornado siren, telephone and doorbell have in common? They’re all designed to make people take unanticipated and immediate action. When school children hear a fire alarm, they are to begin executing emergency evacuation procedures. When a tornado siren sounds, families are to seek shelter in the lowest level of their homes.
While fires and weather-related events are literally matters of life or death, what’s the rationale for lumping telephones and doorbells into the same category? Twenty years ago, there wasn’t one. Like everything else, however, times have changed. Allow me to explain using one of Pavlov’s theories, a time management course, and a couple of real-life examples.
Sit, Ubu, Sit…Good Dog. “Woof”
Pavlov has been credited with the discovery of classical conditioning: The relationship or association between the occurrence of one action in anticipation of another unrelated action. If you’ve studied psychology at any level, you probably remember Pavlov’s experiment where he rang a bell and immediately fed a dog. After repeating the same action multiple times (ringing the bell) and consistently rewarding it with food, the dog eventually began anticipating being fed, as noted by salivation each time the bell was rung. Although stimulus and response are relevant, this post is about the EMOTIONAL STATE EXHIBITED when responding to a stimulus, which leads to the next point…
Who the Phone Serves
One segment of a time management course taken several years ago made a rather startling assertion: The telephone was primarily designed for the benefit of the person DIALING IT, not for the person ANSWERING IT. Since its invention, the phone has been used to ask a neighbor for a favor or a place of business a question about a product or service. It made perfect sense to call instead of driving a car or sending snail-mail, then waiting for a reply two weeks later. The exception to the “benefit to the user” assertion was when a call from another person was ANTICIPATED AND EXPECTED—usually someone important in their lives.
When I was a kid, I remember sitting by the phone in our upstairs hallway WAITING for the phone to ring. My school friends would tell me that they were going to call, but not always when. Needless to say, I was looking forward to it. In that sense, the phone brought me, the person receiving the call, pleasure. To complete this puzzle, let’s combine the two examples of Pavlovian dogs and phone calls into one final example: The doorbell.
This Had Better Be Important
Our family dog loves HIS people (our family). He knows when we’re all home and somehow anticipates when someone who’s not home WILL BE. And unless we’re playing, he rarely makes a sound, even when a family member comes home late at night.
All bets are off when the doorbell rings. Like most dogs, this one also LOSES HIS MIND. He goes into a fit of barking that neighbors can hear even with their WINDOWS CLOSED. Preventing this from happening has been relatively simple: We tell him in advance when we’re expecting visitors. It sounds weird, but he can sense what we’re telling him and he often greets our guests with a few small barks and whimpers. Strange how talking to a dog can reduce a human’s blood pressure.
Putting the Puzzle Together
Still questioning the inclusion of telephones and doorbells in the category of “things designed to make people take unanticipated action”? Take a few deep breaths and visualize the following scenarios:
You’re sitting at your desk working on a project with a strict deadline. The phone is on “do-not-disturb” and your assistant has been instructed to hold all calls. Suddenly your phone rings—someone has broken through the “gate” and IT’S NO ONE YOU KNOW!!!
What was your immediate response? (Was it at all associated with an employment ad?)
You and your family are seated at the dinner table after a long, hectic day. You’re ready for a nice glass of wine and a wonderful home-cooked meal. The family dog is under the table, poised to pounce on whatever falls his way. You take a sip of wine and just as you’re raising the fork loaded with succulent flavors, the doorbell rings. In a nanosecond, your dog goes from peaceful to BALLISTIC. He sprints toward the door to either greet a visitor or annihilate an intruder. (Determining which really isn’t clear although you’re secretly hoping for the latter.)
What’s going through your mind in that instant?
Psychology Behind the Statistics
Social media “gurus” have been throwing out statistics for years saying that cold-calling is “dead”. This post wasn’t written to disprove or argue their points. To the contrary, it was written to reinforce them. It lends insight as to “why” their observations are not only accurate, but also how consumer psychology may indicate their facts are understated. (Unless, of course, those consumers continue to embrace or instill compliance to the activities in the scenarios.) For everyone else, phones and doorbells have been negatively conditioned since the dawn of the Internet Age. In my case, the primary reasons those things should ring today is similar to a fire alarm or tornado siren: A life or death situation.
Otherwise, allow me to introduce you to my dog.