Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Share This Post

Add the word “because” it can trigger an automatic compliance response, the main example is the well known study skipping a queue at a photocopy machine, chance of moving forward is high if you give a reason.  A quality of modern life is that “civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.”

Expensive = good

The contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another. This perceptual contrast means when we compare things such as how attractive someone is after looking at supermodels we may judge them to be less attractive than they are.

Therefore, if selling items show the most expensive one first, the contrast makes subsequent ones look much more attractive. 

The reciprocity rule, says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. Reciprocation rule is too widespread to escape and too strong to overpower once it is activated. If you just widespread decline any positive intentions you miss out. Instead participate fairly in the “honoured network of obligation” However, if the initial favour turns out to be a device, a trick, an artifice designed specifically to stimulate our compliance with a larger return favour, this person is not a benefactor but a profiteer. Once you have determined that this initial offer was not a favour but a compliance tactic, react to it accordingly and be free of its influence.

We are obligated to the future repayment of favours, gifts, invitations, and the like. The general rule says that a person who acts in a certain way toward us is entitled to a similar return action. We have already seen that one consequence of the rule is an obligation to repay favours we have received. Another consequence of the rule, however, is an obligation to make a concession to someone who has made a concession to us.

The truly gifted negotiator, then, is one whose initial position is exaggerated enough to allow for a series of reciprocal concessions that will yield a desirable final offer from the opponent, yet is not so outlandish as to be seen as illegitimate from the start.

Be sure to react to requests objectively, uninfluenced by the reciprocity and perceptual contrast forces.

If you can generate responsibility and satisfaction on their part it may lead to more future deals. Responsibility refers to the person who felt most responsible for the final deal, which may be obtaining a price lower than initially proposed.  Satisfaction can be gained through agreement that has been forged through the concessions.

Interestingly some toy stores advertise certain items prior to Christmas which they then deliberately undersupply.  This means that parents promise the particular toy, find they are sold out so are forced to substitute with other toys of equal value. The toy manufacturers, of course, make a point of supplying the stores with plenty of these substitutes. Then, after Christmas, the companies start running the ads again for the initial special toy outlining is back in stock.

The power of consistency is formidable in directing human action. You can engage this force with commitment. If you can get someone to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), it will set the stage for automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.

You can use small commitments to manipulate a person’s self-image; you can use them to turn citizens into “public servants,” prospects into “customers,” prisoners into “collaborators.” And once you’ve got a someone’s self-image where you want it, they should comply naturally with a whole range of your requests that are consistent with this view of himself.

Mentions a fair bit about how the fraternity chapters and Chinese Communists manipulated people. It is not enough to wring commitments out people; people have to be made to take inner responsibility for their actions. It will not achieve the larger goal of convincing someone that they do not want to lie because they thinks it’s wrong. A much subtler approach is required. A reason must be given that is just strong enough to get someone to be truthful most of the time but is not so strong that they see it as the obvious reason for her truthfulness. The important thing is to use a reason that will initially produce the desired behaviour and will, at the same time, allow them to take personal responsibility for that behaviour. Thus, the less detectable outside pressure such a reason contains, the better. This generates additional reasons to justify the commitment as the reasons are new. Thus, even if the original reason for the civic-minded behaviour was taken away, these newly discovered reasons might be enough by themselves to support his perception that he had behaved correctly. The advantage to an unscrupulous compliance professional is tremendous. A compliance professional is someone who is wanting you to undertake a certain action, often buying something.  Because we build new struts to further embed choices we have committed ourselves to, an exploitative individual can offer us an inducement for making such a choice, and after the decision has been made, can remove that inducement, knowing that our decision will probably stand on its own newly created legs.

Lowballing is used, the sequence is the same: An advantage is offered that induces a favourable purchase decision; then, sometime after the decision has been made but before the bargain is sealed, the original purchase advantage is deftly removed. The question to ask yourself to overcome this is: “Would I make the same choice again?” you would be well advised to look for and trust the first flash of feeling experienced in response. This helps overcome reasons you make up to justify things.

Our tendency to assume that an action is more correct if others are doing it can be exploited in a variety of settings. . In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct. In the process of examining the reactions of other people to resolve our uncertainty, however, we are likely to overlook a subtle but important fact. Those people are probably examining the social evidence, too. Especially in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon called “pluralistic ignorance”.

The bystander effect in which a lack of bypasser stop to help is a good example of the phenomenon. A victim is much more likely to be helped by a lone bystander than by a group, especially if the people in the group are strangers to one another. It seems that the pluralistic ignorance effect is strongest among strangers. We like to look poised and sophisticated in public and because we are unfamiliar with the reactions of those we do not know, we are unlikely to give off or correctly read expressions of concern when in a grouping of strangers. Therefore, a possible emergency becomes viewed as a nonemergency, and the victim suffers.

If you need to overcome bystander effect pick out one person and assign the task to that individual. In a car accident if cars are driving past try pointing to an individual driver, they may stop to help and others will then follow!

An important point about the principle of social proof is that we will use the actions of others to decide on proper behaviour for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves, for example similar demographics. 

Werther effect relates to rise in suicides when a high profile suicide has taken place, this effect was named after a book that was banned in which a character commits suicide. Seemingly there is evidence that within two months after every front-page suicide story, an average of fifty-eight more people than usual killed themselves in the area where publicised. Surprisingly, the impact is even wider there is noted to be an increase in road traffic accidents and even plane crashes, this speculates some of these maybe actual suicides, as the rise isn’t noted in areas where the suicide wasn’t publicised. Even those people who kill themselves tend to have similar demographics.

It is important to note that although the familiarity produced by contact usually leads to greater liking, the opposite occurs if the contact carries distasteful experiences with it. There is a natural human tendency to dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information, even when that person did not cause the bad news. The simple association with it is enough to stimulate our dislike.

For example, more home-school shirts were worn if the football team had won its game on the prior Saturday. What’s more, the larger the margin of victory, the more such shirts appeared. It wasn’t a close, hard-fought game that caused the students to dress themselves, literally, in success; instead, it was a clear, crushing conquest smacking of indisputable superiority. This tendency to try to bask in reflected glory by publicly trumpeting our connections to successful others has its mirror image in our attempt to avoid being darkened by the shadow of others’ defeat. In an amazing display during the luckless 1980 season, season-ticket-holding fans of the New Orleans Saints football team began to appear at the stadium wearing paper bags to conceal their faces. As their team suffered loss after loss, more and more fans donned the bags until TV cameras were regularly able to record the extraordinary image of gathered masses of people shrouded in brown paper with nothing to identify them but the tips of their noses.

Analysing results about how people discussed games it was clear obvious that the people try to connect themselves to success by using the pronoun “we” to describe their -team victory—“We beat Houston, seventeen to fourteen,” or “We won.” In the case of the lost game, however, “we” was rarely used. Instead, the students used terms designed to keep themselves separate from their vanquished team—“They lost to Missouri, thirty to twenty,” or “I don’t know the score, but Arizona State got beat.

That’s why it is so important to be alert to a sense of undue liking toward someone who is trying to sell you items. The recognition of that feeling can serve as our reminder to separate the dealer from the merits of the deal and to make our decision based on considerations related only to the latter.

Obedience to authority is strong, the electric shock study in which people told to deliver shocks by someone in a lab coat to another participant in another room, even though they are led to believe it is harming them is a good demonstration to this. There are variations to this experiment, if the authority says to deliver a shock people tend to do it, if varied to the person telling them being solely another participant instructing they don’t deliver shocks and if conflict with two authoritative figures do not agree they don’t do it.

A system can be manipulated to constrain people’s actions through the pressure to obey – in other words making sure people follow orders. A multilayered and widely accepted system of authority confers an immense advantage upon a society. It allows the development of sophisticated structures for resource production, trade, defence, expansion, and social control that would otherwise be impossible. The other alternative, anarchy, is a state that is hardly known for its beneficial effects on cultural groups and one that the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes assures us would render life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Mentions medication errors: Causes and Prevention by two Temple University pharmacology professors, Michael Cohen and Neil Davis, attributes much of the problem to the mindless deference given the “boss” of the patient’s case: the attending physician. According to Professor Cohen, “in case after case, patients, nurses, pharmacists, and other physicians do not question the prescription.” Take, for example, the strange case of the “rectal earache” reported by Cohen and Davis. A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. But instead of writing out completely the location “right ear” on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read “place in R ear.” Upon receiving the prescription, the duty nurse promptly put the required number of ear drops into the patient’s anus. Obviously, rectal treatment of an earache made no sense. Yet neither the patient nor the nurse questioned it. The important lesson of this story is that in many situations where a legitimate authority has spoken, what would otherwise make sense is irrelevant. In these instances, we don’t consider the situation as a whole but attend and respond to only one aspect of it.

Wherever our behaviours are governed in such an unthinking manner, we can be confident that there will be compliance professionals trying to take advantage. Within the field of medicine we see that advertisers have frequently harnessed the respect accorded to doctors in our culture by hiring actors to play the roles of doctors speaking on behalf of the product, this is particularly effective if that actor is strongly associated by the audience as playing a well respected doctor.

We are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance. There are several kinds of symbols that can reliably trigger our compliance in the absence of the genuine substance of authority. Con artists, for example, drape themselves with the titles, clothes, and trappings of authority.

Mentions a friend travels quite a bit and often finds himself chatting with strangers in bars, restaurants, and airports. He says that he has learned through much experience never to use his title—professor—during these conversations. When he does, he reports, the tenor of the interaction changes immediately. People who have been spontaneous and interesting conversation partners for the prior half hour become respectful, accepting, and dull. His opinions that earlier might have produced a lively exchange now usually generate highly grammatical accurate statements of accord.

Mentions a study that reveals even the title of professor makes you appear taller! Study had students in a classroom who were introduced to someone with their job role as a visiting student / lecturer/ professor, on them leaving students were asked to estimate the height of that person. The students thought the person was tall with the more senior their role!

Another interesting experiment noted was with college students who drew cards that had monetary values printed on them ranging from $3.00 to –$3.00; they won or lost the amount shown on the cards they picked. Afterward, they were asked to rate the size of each card. Even though all cards were exactly the same size, those that had the more extreme values—positive or negative—were seen as physically larger. Thus it is not necessarily the pleasantness of a thing that makes it seem bigger to us, it is its importance.

Because we see size and status as related, it is possible for certain individuals to benefit by substituting the former for the latter. Less blatant in its connotation than a uniform, but nonetheless effective, is another kind of attire that has traditionally bespoken authority status in our culture: the well-tailored business suit.

As soon as we feel the tide of emotional arousal that flows from scarcity influences, we should use that rise in arousal as a signal to stop short. Panicky, feverish reactions have no place in wise compliance decisions. We need to calm ourselves and regain a rational perspective. Once that is done, we can move to the second stage by asking ourselves why we want the item under consideration. If the answer is that we want it primarily for the purpose of owning it, then we should use its availability to help gauge how much we want to spend for it. However, if the answer is that we want it primarily for its function such as we want something good to drive, drink, eat, etc., then we must remember that the item under consideration will function equally well whether scarce or plentiful so deliberately consider spending less as scarcity is not an important factor.

We tend to employ the factors of reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity so often and so automatically in making our compliance decisions. Each, by itself, provides a highly reliable cue as to when we will be better off saying yes than no. We are likely to use these lone cues when we don’t have the inclination, time, energy, or cognitive resources to undertake a complete analysis of the situation. Where we are rushed, stressed, uncertain, indifferent, distracted, or fatigued, we tend to focus on less of the information available to us. When making decisions under these circumstances, we often revert to the rather primitive but necessary single piece of good evidence approach. It is of note that because technology and information can evolve much faster than we can, our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate, relying on automatic short cuts to decision making.

When those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with the shortcut approach of narrowed attention and automatic response to a particular piece of information. The problem comes when something causes the normally trustworthy cues to counsel us poorly, to lead us to erroneous actions and wrong headed decisions.

You may want to adopt an aggressive stance to any situation in which a compliance professional attempts to abuses the principle of social proof or any other form of influence. For example you could refuse to watch TV programs that use canned laughter, if you see a bartender beginning a shift by adding a few high denomination bills to his tip jar of his own, perhaps give him none. If, after waiting in line outside a nightclub, you discover from the amount of available space that the wait was designed to impress passers by with false evidence of the club’s popularity, you could leave immediately and announce your reason to those still in line. Don’t be afraid to use boycott, threat, confrontation, express severe disapproval, tirade, nearly anything, to retaliate against attempts to influence and manipulate you.

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Sign up to my newsletter and receive 5 tips to get the most of your life!

More To Explore