INFLUENCE: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSUASION SUMMARY

What You’ll Gain from This Book

Most of us run on autopilot when it comes to our social interactions; we cannot explain why we think, decide, and act the way we do.  We can see this phenomenon in our everyday life when we can’t explain why our behavior is not the same to different sellers who are selling us the same product with more or less, the same price, specification, or quality.  Robert Cialdini essays the different persuasion tools, or psychological push buttons, used consciously or subconsciously by individuals or groups, especially marketers, politicians, and public figures, in order to influence or persuade us—not by appealing to our reason and logic but by influencing us at a deeper, subconscious level.  These tools of persuasion are reciprocity, social proof, consistency and commitment, liking, authority, and scarcity.  This book is empowering because it shows us how to influence and win others to our way of thinking by using these subtle tools, and it also helps us not to fall victim to exploitative or unscrupulous individuals and groups around us, who deliberately use these psychological push buttons to advance their goals and interests.

Nugget

“There is a group of people who know very well where the weapons of automatic influence lie and who employ them regularly and expertly to get what they want…  The secret of their effectiveness lies in the way they structure their requests, the way they arm themselves with one or another of the weapons of influence that exist within the social environment. To do this may take no more than one correctly chosen word that engages a strong psychological principle and sets an automatic behavior tape rolling within us. And trust the human exploiters to learn quickly exactly how to profit from our tendency to respond mechanically according to these principles.”

                                                                                                                              -Robert Cialdini

In a Nutshell (Mnemonic for easy recall: R-CLASS.)

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Social Proof
  6. Scarcity
  • Introduction
  • The behavior of turkeys against polecats illustrates the view that our rational and logical mind is bypassed by these six tools of persuasion. 
  • This fixed action pattern or “stupid” behavior of the turkey, also applies to us.
  • Reciprocation
  • Reciprocation is a universal culture and behavior.
  • This is illustrated by the story of a German soldier during the First World War.
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • People don’t want to renege on their commitments.
  • Consistency is admired by people.
  • This is confirmed by a social experiment for potential voters.
  • Social Proof
  • The use of canned laughter on TV is hated but the practice persists because it promotes social proof.
  • Staged popular support was allegedly used by the Billy Graham organization to create an impression of strong popular support.
  • The murder of Catherine Genovese reveals something unusual from the mass of the usual crimes committed in New York. 
  • Two explanations for the inaction were advanced. 
  • You can protect yourself when you find yourself in a similar predicament by doing two things: 1.by asking for help in a categorical manner and 2.by asking for help from a specific person.
  • Liking
  • Tupperware parties are very successful examples of the power of different subtle tools of persuasion being employed by corporations and salespersons as marketing tools. 
  • Attractiveness leads to the so-called halo effect.
  • People are suckers for compliments, according to the exploits of Joe Girard, the world’s “greatest car salesman.”
  • Authority
  • How far people would obey authority was confirmed by the experiments of Stanley Milgram.
  • Titles psychologically confer respectability and credibility.
  • The clothes that people wear significantly affect how others interact with them.
  • Trappings of wealth such as jewelry and cars also have this influence on people.
  • Scarcity
  • People put more value on things which are scarce.
  • People tend to do what you tell them not to.
  • This was also reiterated by an experiment on the effects of censorship.

Summary

Introduction

  • The behavior of turkeys against polecats illustrates the claim of Robert Cialdini that our rational and logical mind is bypassed by these six tools of persuasion.  According to him, turkeys are very protective of their chicks, and their mothering instincts are activated by the “cheep-cheep” sound of their chicks.  Polecats are predators and enemies of turkeys who are naturally hostile to the former, even to their stuffed imitation.  When these stuffed polecats however, are equipped with an audio player and simulated the “cheep-cheep” sound of the chicks at the push of a button, lo and behold, the mother turkey suddenly changes behavior and becomes protective of the stuffed polecat.
  • This fixed action pattern or “stupid” behavior of the turkey, also applies to us where psychological push buttons greatly influence our behavior because they bypass our logical mind and we behave like that turkey.  Why we act this way is a heuristic or psychological shortcut that may be good for us when it promotes our survival by helping us not to spend too much time pondering similar circumstances governed by these heuristics.  The downside however,  is when these psychological tools are deliberately used against us to manipulate, or take concessions from us against our better judgment or will, and to our detriment.
  • Reciprocation
  • Reciprocation is a universal culture and behavior where people feel the tendency of being under an obligation to reciprocate to those whom we are indebted to, because they gave us a gift or had done us a favor.  This imperative to repay is felt whether the gift is significant or otherwise, material or nonmaterial, whether we like the gift, and this is significant—even if we don’t.  This universal imperative to repay is used by advertisers, vendors, and even drug pushers when they give us their “free” gifts “with no strings attached whatsoever.”  We should do well to always remember that the Trojan Horse was a “gift” every time we receive one.  It goes without saying however,  that a lot of what we give has no ulterior motive other than affection, and this duty to reciprocate makes life easier, our social relations memorable, and in some instances, may even save our life.

  • The book poignantly tells the story of a German soldier during World War I who was routinely given the tasks of capturing enemy soldiers to be brought in for interrogation. “Because of the nature of the trench warfare at that time, it was extremely difficult for armies to cross the no-man’s-land between opposing front lines; but it was not so difficult for a single soldier to crawl across and slip into an enemy trench position. The armies of the Great War had experts who regularly did so to capture an enemy soldier, who would then be brought back for questioning.”
  • “The German expert of our account,” the story continues, “had often successfully completed such missions in the past and was sent on another. Once again, he skillfully negotiated the area between fronts and surprised a lone enemy soldier in his trench. The unsuspecting soldier, who had been eating at the time, was easily disarmed. The frightened captive with only a piece of bread in his hand then performed what may have been the most important act of his life. He gave his enemy some of the bread. So affected was the German by this gift that he could not complete his mission. He turned from his benefactor and recrossed the no-man’s-land empty-handed to face the wrath of his superiors.” 
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • People don’t want to renege on their commitments, and consistency is valued as an adaptive behavior usually considered as an admirable trait in an individual, and consequently, we don’t want to back out from our commitments, whether verbal or in writing (the latter imposes a stronger obligation).  Inconsistency on the other hand, is frowned upon as an undesirable personal trait, and “The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don’t match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill.”

  • Consistency is admired by people and a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. “It is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty…  It provides us with a reasonable and gainful orientation to the world. Most of the time we will be better off if our approach to things is well laced with consistency. Without it our lives would be difficult, erratic, and disjointed.”
  • In a social experiment for potential voters, they were asked whether they would vote and give the reasons why they would or would not.  The turnout of voters on election day, was greatly influenced by their commitment to the questions asked, wherein those who were asked whether they will vote had a turnout of 86.7%, as against 61.5% for those who were not asked.  The prior commitment to vote significantly affected the voter turnout.
  • Social Proof
  • Canned laughter on TV is hated by film writers, directors, and discerning audiences, but why is it that this practice continues to persist?  This is because according to Cialdini, television executives and industry experts “know what the research says. Experiments have found that the use of canned merriment causes an audience to laugh longer and more often when humorous material is presented and to rate the material as funnier. In addition, some evidence indicates that canned laughter is most effective for poor jokes.”
  • Staged popular support was allegedly used by the Billy Graham organization to create an impression of strong popular support, according to the report of an Arizona State University research team, where they claimed that Graham uses six thousand supporters with instructions on when to show up at different intervals and present an impression of spontaneous mass support and enthusiasm during his Crusade visits.

  • Religious cults had always been obsessed with doomsday predictions, since time immemorial.  What happens when those predictions do not come to pass?  “Since the only acceptable form of truth had been undercut by physical proof, there was but one way out of the corner for the group. They had to establish another type of proof for the validity of their beliefs: social proof…It was necessary to risk the scorn and derision of the nonbelievers because publicity and recruitment efforts provided the only remaining hope. If they could spread the Word, if they could inform the uninformed, if they could persuade the skeptics, and if, by so doing, they could win new converts, their threatened but treasured beliefs would become truer.”  Looking at the behavior of the social group that we belong to, and following its example, is always easier than looking after the truth.
  • Cause of Death: Uncertain(ty)
  • The murder of Catherine Genovese reveals something unusual from the mass of the usual crimes committed in New York.  She had not been a victim of a quick, silent death—it had been a protracted, agonizing, loud, and public spectacle.  Thirty-eight of her neighbors watched from their apartment windows as her assailant chased and attacked her in the street three times in a period of about thirty-five minutes, until he stabbed her to end her many cries for help.  No one helped, much less, called the police during the long and repeated assaults against her.
  • Two explanations for the inaction were advanced.  First, everybody thought that perhaps someone else will help the victim, with the painful result that nobody did.  The second is the so-called pluralistic ignorance effect grounded on social proof where people don’t act because they are not sure whether or not there is indeed an emergency, and they wait for social proof from others to act first to confirm that there was indeed an emergency. 
  • You can protect yourself when you find yourself in a similar situation by doing two things: 1.by asking for help in a categorical manner and leaving no doubt in the eyes of observers that you are indeed, under an emergency; and 2.by asking for help from a specific person, who will feel responsible for you and will not wait for someone else to act.  The latter is better than making a general call for help from everybody who will most likely wait first for social proof before taking action.

Chapter IV- Liking

  • Tupperware parties are very successful examples of the power of different subtle tools of persuasion being employed by corporations and salespersons as marketing tools.  Commitment, consistency, social proof, etc., and the most notable of which is the principle of liking, are routinely used to induce sales for its products.   Liking is employed to consummate the sale because buying from the hostess of the party who happens to be a well-liked friend is an effective subconscious tool which ensures the success of the sales pitch which is otherwise not possible when the pitch is given by someone that we don’t like i.e., not our friend.
  • Attractiveness leads to the halo effect which takes place “when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. And the evidence is now clear that physical attractiveness is often such a characteristic. Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence.”  These individuals have a marked advantage in winning elections, getting hired for jobs, and even receiving lighter penalties in terms of fine and imprisonment in case of unfavorable decisions in legal cases because of the subconscious influence of the halo effect. 
  • Similarity is an effective tool of persuasion because people like others who are like them.  Cialdini asserts that “This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or lifestyle. Consequently, those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in any of a wide variety of ways.” 

  • People are suckers for compliments, according to the exploits of Joe Girard, the world’s “greatest car salesman,” whose secret was to send each month, to every one of his more than thirteen thousand former customers, holiday greeting cards with the message “I like you.”  Obvious and simplistic as it seems, it worked on his trade, with obvious and auspicious consequences to his career and financial success.
  •  Authority
  • Just how far people would obey authority was confirmed by the experiment of Stanley Milgram where the subjects of the experiment, or “teachers” administered electric shocks to “learners” in obedience to the lab-coated “authority”.  The research found out that “To Milgram’s mind, evidence of a chilling phenomenon emerges repeatedly from his accumulated data: “It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that constitutes the chief finding of the study.” There are sobering implications of this finding for those concerned about the ability of another form of authority—government—to extract frightening levels of obedience from ordinary citizens.”  The experiment is proven by history which is replete with examples as to how people would do unimaginable things in obedience to authority (and strengthened by social proof), especially during wars and periods of crises.

Connotation, Not Content

  • Titles psychologically confer respectability and credibility to the owner and substantially affect how others interact with that person.  A well-travelled professor often finds himself talking to strangers everywhere.  “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.”
  • The clothes that people wear significantly affect how others interact with them especially when these clothes project an aura of wealth and status.  This was verified by a research where the subject violated the law by crossing the street against the traffic light, sometimes wearing ordinary street attire and on other occasions, pinstriped business suit and tie.  In the latter case, the number of pedestrians who followed the man across the street was three and a half times as many compared to the times he was wearing street clothes.
  • Trappings of wealth such as jewelry and cars also have this influence on people.  Cialdini asserts that “According to the findings of a study done in the San Francisco Bay area, owners of prestige autos receive a special kind of deference from us. The experimenters discovered that motorists would wait significantly longer before honking their horns at a new, luxury car stopped in front of a green traffic light than at an older, economy model. The motorists had little patience with the economy-car driver.”
  •  Scarcity         
  • The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.        -G. K. Chesterton
  • People put more value on things which are scarce, and we tend to be more motivated to act based on what we will lose than on what we will stand to gain.  Marketers knew and exploit this by always telling their prospective buyers that “stocks won’t last,” “for limited time only,” or “Mr. and Mrs. so and so are also interested to buy this house,” etc.  Cialdini’s brother cleverly used this principle in selling used cars, by scheduling to arrive at the same time, the interested buyers who responded to his ads and who want to see his car, so that he can sell it at higher price because the presence of many buyers affects their decision to buy.
  • People tend to do what you tell them not to, a phenomenon which is very prevalent among adolescents.  According to Cialdini, “Nothing illustrates the boomerang quality of parental pressure on adolescent behavior quite so clearly as a phenomenon known as the “Romeo and Juliet effect.” As we know, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet were the ill-fated Shakespearean characters whose love was doomed by a feud between their families. Defying all parental attempts to keep them apart, the teenagers won a lasting union in their tragic act of twin suicide, an ultimate assertion of free will.”
  • This was also reiterated by an experiment on the effects of censorship on reading, wherein students were divided into two groups.  The first group had the book with the warning, “a book for adults only, restricted to those 21 years and over” while the second group had no such restriction.  The study concluded that the censorship had two results: first, it actually increased the readership of the book; and secondly, those who were restricted liked the book better than those who were not restrained.

To Recap (Mnemonic: R-CLASS)

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Social Proof
  6. Scarcity
  • Introduction
  • The behavior of turkeys against polecats illustrates the view that our rational and logical mind is bypassed by these six tools of persuasion. 
  • This fixed action pattern or “stupid” behavior of the turkey, also applies to us.
  • Reciprocation
  • Reciprocation is a universal culture and behavior.
  • This is illustrated by the story of a German soldier during the First World War.
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • People don’t want to renege on their commitments.
  • Consistency is admired by people.
  • This is confirmed by a social experiment for potential voters.
  • Social Proof
  • The use of canned laughter on TV is hated but the practice persists because it promotes social proof.
  • Staged popular support was allegedly used by the Billy Graham organization to create an impression of strong popular support.
  • The murder of Catherine Genovese reveals something unusual from the mass of the usual crimes committed in New York. 
  • Two explanations for the inaction were advanced. 
    • You can protect yourself when you find yourself in a similar predicament by doing two things: 1.by asking for help in a categorical manner and 2.by asking for help from a specific person.
  • Liking
  • Tupperware parties are very successful examples of the power of different subtle tools of persuasion being employed by corporations and salespersons as marketing tools. 
  • Attractiveness leads to the so-called halo effect.
  • People are suckers for compliments, according to the exploits of Joe Girard, the world’s “greatest car salesman.”
  • Authority
  • How far people would obey authority was confirmed by the experiments of Stanley Milgram.
  • Titles psychologically confer respectability and credibility.
  • The clothes that people wear significantly affect how others interact with them.
  • Trappings of wealth such as jewelry and cars also have this influence on people.
  • Scarcity
  • People put more value on things which are scarce.
  • People tend to do what you tell them not to.
  • This was also reiterated by an experiment on the effects of censorship.

To know more about Robert Cialdini or to order his books: https://www.influenceatwork.com/

Download here the PDF version of this summary or my other titles: https://romelbaja.home.blog/book-summaries/

Published by romelbajarumination

I'm an entrepreneur, blogger, online marketer, and Youtube content creator. I love reading, visual arts, organic farming, mushroom cultivation, basketball, Netflix, among other things. Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Reddit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: