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A widely used technique in calls to action is the use of the second person, and specifically the use of the possessive determiner "your" before a noun phrase denoting the good or service that the prospect is being encouraged to buy or consume.

For example: "your new house", "your flu jab", etc.

The implication is that the sale or decision to consume has already been made. The salesperson wishes himself and the customer to converse as if it is already a certainty, almost as if they are looking back at it in time rather than forwards.

This standard technique of persuasion - the use of "your" - is surely so pervasive that it must have a name, other than the long-winded "use of the second person possessive determiner in a call to action"? Yet no succinct name for it appears in, for example, Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Is there a short term for this technique?

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  • More of an implication that the decision has already been made I’d see more of a suggestion of that it could be yours, luring with the sens of ownership. Probably Devin’s book there is more to learn (:
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:15
  • I wrongly wrote the title of Robert Cialdini's book as Persuasion, whereas what I meant to refer to was his well-known book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which was revised as Influence: Science and Practice. Someone changed the reference to point to his book Pre-Suasion, but that is a different book and not a revision of his famous Influence book. My apologies for causing confusion here.
    – ool
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 23:17
  • I'd call it "presumption".
    – chepner
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:19
  • This doesn't just happen in computer UX. A car salesman is likely to refer to the car that you're in the process of purchasing as "your car". It doesn't mean you own it, just that it's attributed to you.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 17:07

4 Answers 4

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There is no specific name (as far as I know), it is simply UX writing within Persuasive Design.

However, if you are looking for answers to the question of which option to use, there are several studies that show that using "my" is much more effective than "your", with a difference of at least 24% in favor of "my" and up to 90%.

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The Psychology of “I”

To understand why using first person pronouns like “I” and “my” are more effective that using “you” and “your,” it pays to look a little at the psychology of sales. [...] Using first-person pronouns takes your sales pitch from the impersonal Internet back to the 1950s corner store, where the store owner greeted everyone by name.

from: https://www.clickz.com/me-vs-you-how-pronouns-affect-click-conversion-rates/32596/

Trying to replicate these results, we conducted the same experiments (with much fewer participants) and obtained similar results, only slightly lower, between 10 and 16% in favor of "your".

However, we also found that this method works consistently only for commercial purposes. When we replicated the experiment with a CTA designed for non-commercial CTAs (blogs, academic purposes, general purposes), the results varied, with no clear winner.

Just a note: we had low traffic, so this could change with high traffic and more targeted audiences. As for the methodology, we ran 10 experiments for each type (commercial/non-commercial) using Google Optimize for A/B testing.

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  • 1
    Yet another, almost dark, pattern that is blindly copied by designers even for productive software. Thanks for providing some background to this!
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:13
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    Thanks for this. Don't you mean "in favour of 'my'" in both instances? The ref to the 1950s corner store is slightly misleading. "My" isn't used orally by salespeople. It would be confusing. It is mostly used on computer screens, a key example being "My computer", which few Windows users change. Most uses of "my" offline are probably in the children's toy and book market, e.g. "My Little Pony". But "your" is used a lot orally, e.g. "Sign up for your flu jab", rather than "Sign up for a flu jab".
    – ool
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 23:01
  • This is a really interesting answer, which I've upvoted and am grateful for, but what might be better is if a question is posted to which this answer corresponds more closely and then this answer is posted as an answer to that question instead, because this question is a) restricted to "your" and b) not meant to be restricted to the online world.
    – ool
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 23:05
  • Yeah, the reasoning in that 'Psychology of "I"' seems really strange. The difference is surely that a button saying "Create my account" is framed as an option for the user to speak to the site; clicking it is the user telling the site to "create my account". Whereas a button saying "Create your account" is framed as the site speaking to the user. Why that makes a big difference in CTR, I don't know, but both 1st or 2nd person language would be heard in a 1950s store depending on whether it's the storekeeper saying "Would you like an X?" or the customer saying "I would like an X please".
    – Ben
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 2:25
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    Trying to replicate these results, we conducted the same experiments (with much fewer participants) and obtained similar results, only slightly lower, between 10 and 16% in favor of "your". I don't understand. You say that you replicated the results but your statement says that the results were in favor of "your" which is the opposite of the original statement where using "my" produces better results. Can you clarify what do you mean by that statement?
    – GACy20
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 8:29
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In psychology the sense of ownership affecting the sense of value is called the Endowment Effect:

Definition of the endowment effect

According to behavioral economics and psychology, the endowment effect occurs when we attribute greater value to things we own than to things we don’t. We overestimate their real market value and as a result, we demand much more to give these things up than we would be willing to pay to acquire them.

What is more, we don’t need to even actually own the thing. It just needs to feel like we do. This is called psychological ownership, or quasi-ownership.

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That's an excellent question and I don't know the answer to this, but I was reading a related article recently that talked about how it's even more effective to use the first person (user's perspective) language, than second person. Again, no real name or term for the technique as far as I'm aware, but it was something about getting better responses when a CTA said "Confirm my subscription" instead of "Confirm your subscription" - the psychology there being, for the user the use of "me/my" feels more like they have control and they're calling the shots, rather than being told to do something by the app (book YOUR appointment).

Also wanted to point out the application of what you're talking about, right here - the CTA here is "Post your answer" :p

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In my opinion, using "Start your free trial" gives them the feeling that something is being offered to them. It's their choice whether to opt in or not. At the same time, "Start my free trial" gives a sense of ownership to the customer, and they may feel like it's something of their own. By starting this service, they are just taking a right and ordering the company to begin their services for the customer.

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