Influence is the seminal book on persuasion, explaining the psychology of why people say yes according to the principles of reciprocation, commitment, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity, which underpin advertising and marketing in our society.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Influence is probably one of the most cited books of its genre.
First published in 1984, the book explores the various shortcuts that the human mind uses when making purchasing or compliance decisions undercovering the key psychology of advertising, salesmanship and persuasion.
Considered groundbreaking at the time, Cialdini’s work has become the standard text for anyone striving to become influential in the modern era including entrepreneurs, political scientists, internet marketers and con-artists.
Below are some of the key insights I took from this book:
- Human psychology like animal psychology is subject to fixed-action patterns that click into place when an appropriate trigger is used.
- Social psychology demonstrates how specific triggers can be used to improve compliance in various settings [e.g. ‘request…because…reason’]
- In many circumstances pricing is used as a fixed-action pattern for quality.
- The use of anchors can also create a perceptual contrast between products where a higher price makes the lower price seem more affordable.
- The act of gifting creates a strong need for reciprocation as people have a strong social desire to reward those who bring us benefit.
- In this context a rejection-then-retreat technique can be used to elicit small favours by asking for larger favours first.
- People also have a strong desire for consistency ensuring that a foot in the door technique works well in many circumstances.
- This is why charitable donations improve when someone gives the response ‘i’m good’ before a donation is requested.
- This is also how car salesmen ensure that paid options are added to car purchases.
- This is also the principle behind the Jonestown massacre where a cult was led to mass suicide as a result of gradually commiting themselves to their beliefs.
- In many cases, the behaviour continues as internalised rather than compliant behaviour when people come to believe strongly in their sales pitch.
- Social proof is another element of persuasion that you can observe in canned laughter, testimonials, street performance, uniform individuality and even high profile suicides.
- In many cases this is an explicit trade as in the work of the operatic claquers who charge specific prices for applause, encoring or standing for ovation.
- Bystander behaviour is also subject to negative and positive social proof in the form of charitable giving, racetrack betting, emergency response and more.
- As a rule people prefer those more similar to them then those who are different so taking objective steps to mirror and match a prospect elicits firmer persuasion.
- While physical attractiveness creates a halo effect, the strongest response occurs where the salesperson offers up hints of similarity in thought and action.
- This also explains why sports fans adopt “we” and “they” depending on the result of the game.
- The perception of authority also aids persuasion as demonstrated by Milgrim and countless social psychology studies.
- In some instances, the authority itself doesn’t matter but simply the perception that an actor who has played a doctor offers trusted health advice.
- Finally, the creation of scarcity can prompt us to compete with others to obtain a product that we didn’t really need due to limited stock or limited timescale.