The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.
Influence is written as a guidebook for the savvy consumer. The author’s conversational style and frequent sharing of personal experiences will certainly recommend it to that audience. My interest in the work is probably closer to that of the typical reader: as a persuasion professional I am looking for specific ideas to increase my effectiveness. My attention has been richly rewarded.
Professor Cialdini organizes decades of research and experience into six easily comprehended categories of influence techniques. Relevant examples from marketing and sales are used to illustrate each concept. I especially appreciate the detailed footnotes and citations to original scientific articles. Too few books on sales or marketing have a solid basis in research. Influence remedies the dearth.
I highly recommend this book to anyone willing to invest a few hours in being a more effective persuader–or a cannier “mark.”
Page references are to the paperback edition
[My comments in brackets]
Weapons of Influence
P. 12 [Perceptual contrast, e.g., viewing a fashion model just before your date or placing hands in dishes of cold and hot water, then both hands in same dish.]
p. 20 [Reciprocation: more likely to buy raffle ticket from stranger who gave you a Coke.]
[Certainly not a new principle:
“And oftentimes, to win us our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray ‘s
In deepest consequence –”
Banquo in Macbeth, ACT I, Scene 3 ]
p. 38-9 “rejection-then-retreat technique” [also known as part of “Soviet-style negotiating. Make huge request which is, of course, rejected, then retreat to a lesser request. Lesser request is much more likely to be granted if larger request preceded it.] “One of the most pervasively influential compliance tactics available.”
p. 42 [Power of this technique seems to come from the combination of the Reciprocation tactic with the Perceptual Contrast tactic.]
p. 49 Strangely enough, then, it seems that the rejection-then-retreat tactic spurs people not only to agree to a desired request but actually to carry out the request and, finally, to volunteer to perform further requests.
by-products of the act of concession: feelings of greater responsibility for, and satisfaction with, the arrangement.
Commitment and Consistency
p. 59 [Intent — Post-Sell: Consistency drove people who verbally took a stand to follow-through, sometimes to absurd levels.]
p. 68 Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.
p. 69 [Safe & Similar: direct request gained 18% agreement, same request after “How are you feeling this evening?” gained 32% compliance. Question more powerful than statement “I hope you are feeling well this evening.” because the question created opportunity to take a stand.]
p. 71 Aware that he had written the essay without any strong threats or coercion, many times a man would change his image of himself to be consistent with the deed and with the new “collaborator” label, often resulting in even more extensive acts of collaboration.
p. 73 Signing the beautification petition changed the view these people had of themselves.
p. 74 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 man’s self-image where you want it, he should comply naturally with a whole range of your requests that are consistent with this view of himself.
p. 79 The companies have since learned a beautifully simple trick that cuts the number of such cancellations drastically. They merely have the customer, rather than the salesman, fill out the sales agreement.
p. 89 [1959 Aronson & Mills] “persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort.”
p. 92 It appears that commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behavior when they are active, public, and effortful. But there is another property of effective commitment that is more important than the other three combined.
p. 93 Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. [See Ford]
p. 97 There is yet another attraction in commitments that lead to inner change — they grow their own legs.
p. 100 The impressive thing about the lowball tactic is its ability to make a person feel pleased with a poor choice.
p. 116 …one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.
p. 133 This, according to Latane and Darley, is the state of pluralistic ignorance, “in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react.”
- Physical Attractiveness
p. 171 Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence. … In one study, good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favorable hiring decisions than did job qualifications — this, even though the interviewers claimed that appearance played a small role in their choices.
p. 173 We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style.
- Contact and Cooperation (Familiarity)
- Conditioning and Association
p. 188 Shakespeare “The nature of bad news infects the teller.”
p.201 [Why sales people love talking about pro sports, celebrity endorsements, and famous executives:] it will be when prestige (both public and private) is low that we will be intent upon using the successes of associated others to help restore image.
p. 205 several of the factors leading to liking — physical attractiveness, familiarity, association — have been shown to work unconsciously to produce their effects on us, making it unlikely that we could muster a timely protection against them.
Authority — Directed Deference
p. 232 By establishing their basic truthfulness on minor issues, the compliance professionals who use this ploy can then be more believable when stressing the important aspects of their argument. [Tin Men: drop a five on the carpet, insist that it belongs to the prospect]
“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” G. K. Chesterton
p. 238 For example, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save.
P 245 psychological reactance theory, developed by psychologist Jack Brehm … whenever free choice is limited or threatened, the need to retain our freedoms makes us desire them (as well as the goods and services associated with them) significantly more than previously.
p. 256 Apparently the fact that the news carrying the scarcity message was itself scarce made it especially persuasive,
p. 257 The drop from abundance to scarcity produced a decidedly more positive reaction to the cookies than did constant scarcity.
p. 262 Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we are in competition for it.
p. 290 When a lower status animal is taught the new concept first, the rest of the colony remains mostly oblivious to its value. [ 51% in 18 months vs. 90+% in four hours ]