Priming someone based on their characteristics is all about making them prove they have them. It’s a type of qualification, where you’re qualifying the person based on their actual traits.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

The goal is, as with many characteristics, make the person prove themselves. In this case, you’re doing it based on their traits. The people that most prove they have these characteristics are the closest ones to your ideal target/client.


There are usually two main methods to prime based on characteristics:

  1. The first is to actively draw them out in the person
    1. To say something such as, “I’m looking to work for a manager that sees my talent and will promote me when I deserve it. Do you have these traits'”;
  2. The second is to be vague about every trait except the core ones
    1. If you want committed clients, test the target only on this trait and ignore the others;
    2. The more that you are vague, the more that people will fill the picture in their mind, only having in mind the key traits;
    3. If you’re explicit about many different traits, you may exclude people because they may not be a fit with all of them;


  • “Dream people”
    • When someone says, “this is my dream person” based on only one thing they know, this is being vague. There may be many other characteristics that are not a fit, but they are only focused on these;
  • Saying, “I’m looking for X”
    • Telling someone the characteristics you’re looking for is a usual priming mechanism for sellers or service providers. They pick who they want to work with;
  • Testing by asking, “How do you embody [ABC]?”
    • Very common in interview scenarios where every candidate claims to have a trait (e.g. organized, logical, a team worker);
    • The interview will ask, “How do you have this trait?”, or “Tell me the good and bad of having it” to see whether the person can elaborate or not;
    • It’s a type of implementation intention applied to having those traits;
  • Dilbert
    • Scott Adams, the author, being a persuasion expert, made Dilbert vague on purpose. He doesn’t have a last name, and there’s no company name;
    • The more details Adams would insert, the less people would relate, as they would have evidence that would not be a fit. By being vague, it fits anyone;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways