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NeuroTactic Overview

Semmelweis Reflex

We tend to reject facts, and even evidence, when it is in contradiction of our existing beliefs


Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician. In 1847, he discovered that 90% of childbed fever deaths could be prevented if doctors washed their hands in between seeing patients. Upon hearing this, his fellow doctors ridiculed him, in some cases rejecting the claim that a “gentleman’s hands could transmit disease.” 

The Semmelweis Reflex is a reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts our established norms, beliefs, or paradigms. 

A creative application of this NeuroTactic to your marketing is the use of satire. By stating facts that are blatantly false or exaggerated, your audience will notice more easily in their process of rejecting what you’ve said. Be careful not to abuse this effect. Remember—satire is a form of comedy. If you venture outside the realm of comedy in this case, you may put your brand reputation at risk.

Primary Source:

Mortell, Manfred; Balkhy, Hanan H.; Tannous, Elias B.; Jong, Mei Thiee (July 2013). “Physician ‘defiance’ towards hand hygiene compliance: Is there a theory–practice–ethics gap?”. Journal of the Saudi Heart Association. 25 (3): 203–208.

Dream Category:


The DREAM framework, created by Vivid Labs, represents a research-backed framework for effective marketing messages. It stands for Desire, Routing, Emotion, Attention, and Memorability.

AIDA Category:

AIDA is a well-known framework for assembling a marketing message. It stands for the four steps of human decision-making: Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action.

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