Influence (1984), Robert B. Cialdini - Book Summary

Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion (1984) explains in detail the basic tenets of persuasion – the tactic to get the other party to agree that “experts” such as salespeople, advertising agencies, even both scammers, used. Understanding these principles will not only help you become a great persuader, but also protect yourself against schemes, tricks.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone working in sales or marketing;
  • Anyone who finds it sometimes difficult to refuse a salesperson's request;
  • Anyone who has difficulty convincing others.

Who is the author of this book?

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini is a professor of psychology and marketing. The Psychology of Persuasion is based on 35 years of research into the phenomenon of influence and persuasion. Dr. Cialdini also runs a consulting office that focuses on training and consulting for businesses.

When our review shortcuts are taken advantage of

Sometimes animal behavior is ridiculously simple. Mother turkeys spend a lot of time loving and caring for their chicks. But there is a strange thing: mother hens can cut off or even kill their chicks if they don't emit the distinctive “chimping” sound. And if the skunk - the turkey's archenemy - can chirp, it will be protected and cared for by the mother hen. Here, it sounds like a simple switch, a shortcut that helps the mother hen quickly identify her chicks.

In the reaction to the aforementioned model weasel, the mother hen's shortcut seems naive. However, we ourselves are using the same shortcuts. We simply have to because the world is complex. We cannot weigh every decision carefully. Therefore, we choose shortcuts and most of them satisfy us.

Just as scientists can trick a turkey into mothering a stuffed ferret, so-called persuasive experts, like advertisers, salespeople, scammers, can trick you use shortcuts against your own interests. They often do this to create consensus in you, get you to do what they ask, for example to make a purchase.

The most commonly used shortcut is the "you get what you pay for" statement: expensive goods will be of higher quality than cheap ones. This shortcut is only partially correct, but how could a shrewd salesman put it to good use against us? For example, souvenir shops often sell unpopular items by raising their prices instead of lowering them.

Because dealing with the complexity of life requires relying on shortcuts, we must identify and protect ourselves against tricks that trick us into using shortcuts the wrong way, so that we don't take on the burden. ended up like that turkey mother.

The principle of response – when need dominates the person

The law of give and take dictates that we have an obligation to repay others in the same way that they help us. This tendency is ingrained in the socialization process that people have gone through. Belief in the return of favors has made a huge difference in the evolution of human society.

If we receive help from someone and we do not reciprocate, we will feel psychologically as if we are carrying a burden. Part of that is because in society, we often despise ungrateful people.

Many experiments have shown that people are eager to get rid of the burden of favors and that they tend to give back more than they receive. One researcher, named “Joe”, conducted a small test with two groups of subjects: one group that he voluntarily bought for a can of Coca-Cola; The rest of the group did not. Moments later, Joe asked the subjects to buy lottery tickets for him, and the results showed that on average the first group bought Joe twice as many tickets as the group who received nothing from Joe. That is obviously an example of abusing the reciprocity principle. Joe can not only favor the subject by buying drinks, but can also shape their choice of return.

The Krishna organization used this tactic very effectively by giving flowers to passersby on the street. Despite the discomfort, people are often willing to donate money to the organization to satisfy the need to return the bouquet.

So, how to combat schemes and tricks that abuse the principle of retaliation?

“I will refuse all favors.” Then you will soon become a cranky loner! Don't do this foolish thing. While it can be difficult to tell if an offer is genuine or just exploitative, you shouldn't always assume the worst. Doing this can hurt those who bring you sincere specials.

There is another, more possible solution: accept the basis of the offer rather than the whole offering, and then respond with equal value. The reciprocal principle states that favors should be reciprocated with favors, not that trickery should be reciprocated with favors.

Deny-then-withdraw: a cunning tactic

The desire to return favors is similar to feeling compelled to make concessions in an agreement. Let's say a boy scout offers you a $5 lottery ticket, but then backs out and offers you a $1 candy bar. You will be more inclined to accept candy just to satisfy the other boy's "concession", whether you are hungry or not.

This tactic is called deny-then-withdraw, and it's surprisingly effective at persuasion. In addition to making us want to reciprocate concessions, the trick also evokes the principle of contrast: when two objects are presented one after the other, the difference between them seems to be magnified. So, in the Boy Scout's example, the candy bar looks much cheaper than the lottery ticket.

Even a president has been brought down by this tactic, such as the Watergate political scandal. In 1972, President Richard Nixon's re-election was almost certain, but somehow a man named G. Gordon Liddy convinced the Presidential Re-election Committee (CRP) to bring him in. $250,000 to break in and steal documents from the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the Watergate estate.

It was a risky business and utterly illogical, but Liddy employed a denial-and-back strategy. Initially, Liddy proposed a "million-dollar" mission that included a special wiretapping system, break-in, prostitution, blackmail. The plans that follow Liddy's presentation are also dangerous and unpredictable. Although the CRP did not agree to approve it, they began to intend to "meet" Liddy's concession.

And then, Liddy presented the "core" $250,000 plan. Compared to the original "million dollar" deal, this $250,000 project "just" included a small heist and didn't seem "too bad". The plan is approved; and as a result the thieves were caught, President Nixon was forced to resign.

Facing scarcity

One factor that strongly influences our ability to make decisions is scarcity : opportunities seem to be more valuable when their existence is limited. This statement is based on the fact that people hate lost opportunities, and advertisers have used scarcity quite often in sentences like “Last Chance”, “Limited Quantity” or “Promotion only 2 days left”.

One study found that when customers were told meat was only available for a limited time, customers bought twice as much as if there was no time limit. What's more interesting, if the additional announcement of this is "exclusive" information, only a few know, they will buy six times more than customers who only receive the standard sale!

Scarcity has a strong effect under two conditions:

First, we tend to want more of something if their availability has dwindled recently than if they've always had little. That is why revolutions often break out when life is suddenly destroyed and oppressed, rather than when living conditions are always dire. A sudden shock strengthens people's desire for something better, so they act.

The second is competition. Whether it's an auction, an estate transaction, or a real estate romance, the thought of losing something to someone else often changes our attitude, from hesitation to lust. That's why real estate agents often tell buyers that lots of other bidders are eyeing the home, whether or not this is true.

To combat cravings that arise from scarcity, we should always consider whether we really want things based on the benefits they bring (such as their use in our lives). us), or simply out of an irrational desire to possess it.

The attraction of prohibition

The adage “people want what they can't have” is probably quite true. When Dade County (including Miami) in Florida declared phosphate-containing cleaning products illegal, people not only smuggled in and stored the products, but also found them using them as if they were being used. better.

This phenomenon, known as the “Romeo and Juliet effect”, also stems from the fact that humans hate losing opportunities. Therefore, when something is banned, people seem to crave it more. Parents often struggle with their child's stubbornness: any toy becomes attractive if the parent forbids the child to play with it.

This effect also creates many interesting situations in the adult world, mainly related to the problem of censorship, because forbidden information is often considered more valuable than information that is available and free. One study found that, when informed about the ban on a lecture against men and women sharing dormitories, college students felt more sympathetic to the issue being debated, even no need to hear a word!

Similarly, courtroom research shows that even juries are influenced by “censored” information. When the defendant says he has insurance, jurors will award the victim a larger amount of compensation than if the defendant had no insurance. However, if the judge decides to dismiss or the jury is told not to use the evidence, then any attempt at dismissal is counterproductive and results in a much larger amount of damages; like a forbidden toy that looks appealing to any child.

Consistency in words and actions

On the beach, a radio robbery happened. Most people witnessed, however, only 20% reacted. And in a similar context, if the owner of the other radio asked people to look after the property for him, when the robbery happened, 95% of the time, almost became real vigilantes, chasing the robber and quickly get the radio back. Consistency with the promise of custody has become a powerful motivator that goes beyond personal safety.

So, what triggers consistency? The answer is: commitment. Research shows that once we commit to something verbally or physically, we want to make it happen, and making a public commitment is the most powerful motivation. For example, a juror in court almost never changes a decision once it has been announced.

We can even change the profile picture to be consistent with the previous action.

For example, Chinese interrogators forced American prisoners of war to cooperate after the Korean War by asking them to make small concessions, starting with writing innocuous sentences like “America is not perfect.” perfect.” However, as soon as the prisoners accepted to fulfill those small demands, they found themselves obliged to submit to other related but more important demands.

All of a sudden, the prisoner began to see the benefits of cooperation; and thus become more useful to the Chinese government. He gradually adjusted himself to be consistent with what he did. Written commitment is a key element of this process; It seems that the handwritten lines carry a strong attraction that is hard to refuse.

This technique is known as “starting right” – using small commitments to make a big impact. It is very common for sellers to use this technique, starting with small volume orders to win buyer commitment, and then recommending much larger orders.

Responding to the Principle of Social Proof

No one likes pre-recorded laughs. It was a stupid, blatantly fake laugh. Such laughter, however, is common among television program managers. According to research, the inclusion of laughter in a comedy program will increase the humor and the audience's response, even when the comedy material is not attractive.

A question arises: Why do we laugh more at a superficial comedy over a sea of ​​fake jokes?

The answer lies in the Principles of Social Proof. This principle indicates that we often make decisions based on the behavior of others.

Like other weapons of influence, the principle of social proof also provides a convenient shortcut for deciding how to behave. We're so used to using other people's funny reactions as proof of something funny that we react to the sound.

Not only broadcasters, but also church doormen often "put more" money into donation boxes to stimulate support from people and also get very good results.

The principle of social proof is even stronger in ambiguous situations. His hesitation in making a decision unfortunately led to the death of a young girl, Catherine Genovese in the Queens neighborhood of New York.

It is worth mentioning here that for half an hour the offender hunted and tortured the girl, the thirty-eight respectable citizens of Queens Street simply watched, listening from his apartment. No one intervened, no one alerted the police.

There are two main reasons for the “outsiders” attitude.

Firstly, because too many people around know about the incident, each person's personal responsibility will be reduced; Everyone thought that someone else had or would help so they did nothing.

The second is due to the effect of the principle of social proof: uncertainty causes our natural tendency to look around and see what other people are doing and reacting to. When they briefly observe that other people are not taking action, they will assume it is not urgent.

Therefore, if you are in danger in a crowd, point to a specific person and call for help directly from them. This way, they won't have to wait around and will almost certainly jump in to help.

Principle of sympathy

As a rule, we tend to be better with the people we like, and the “persuader experts” know how to earn our trust.

One of the factors that can be mentioned is the attractiveness of the appearance - the cause of the halo effect . A halo effect occurs when a person's appearance dominates how people judge and perceive that person. Studies show that we tend to consider good-looking people to be likable, intelligent, kind, and trustworthy. The worrying thing is that we tend to vote for attractive candidates in elections

Another factor is similarity . We often like flatters and easily fall in love with those who have something in common with us. That is why salespeople regularly praise their customers without regret and take every opportunity to establish a relationship with us: “You choose wisely!”, “Oh, blue is also a color. It's my favorite!"

Cooperation for a common goal is also a powerful agent of sympathy. The method of interrogating the good cop/bad cop also works on this factor: after the suspect is insulted or severely insulted by the bad cop, the kindness, empathy, and protection of the good cop makes him feel good. saw the policeman as a trusted friend, and then easily surrendered.

In short, in order to protect ourselves against the manipulation of sympathy, we need to pay attention to the feeling of liking someone or something that is unusually strong for a short time. When we notice this feeling, we immediately know this person has used some kind of trick, and we begin to take countermeasures. Let the factors work, and then use them against the other person. The larger the influence, the easier it is to detect, so the easier it is for us to react.

The power of authority

From birth, humans are taught to obey those in authority. We often do so without hesitation.

Consider the following case: To treat a patient with pain and infection in his right ear, the doctor prescribed ear drops. However, on it, the doctor is abbreviated. After receiving the prescription, the nurse on duty put the medicine in the patient's anus! Obviously, the treatment for such earache is absurd. But neither the patient nor the nurse asked why. Authority seems to have the power to negate their independent thinking.

If there is no reliable evidence of a person's authority, we will rely on symbols to conjecture. Title is a common tool. When someone says they're a professor, we tend to automatically be respectful, passive, accepting each other's points of view, and even see them as taller!

The second symbol of power that can draw us to mechanical consensus is clothing. Although it is more tangible and obvious than title, the appearance of power is also very easy to fake. Police who maintain records of scams say their advantage is their ability to transform quickly. They can use the white doctor's uniform, the black priest's uniform, or the military green that the situation requires to achieve the greatest effect. By then, it is too late for the victim to realize that he has been deceived by the appearance of power.

How can we avoid being taken advantage of? When faced with authority, ask yourself these two questions: Is this powerful person really an expert? How honest can this authority be expected in this case? In other words, are they really passionate about the field?


The main message of the book is:

People tend to use "shortcuts" in behavior to make decisions, and scammers, advertisers, and salespeople often take advantage of this trait. Because the use of shortcuts is inevitable, we need to be alert to fully understand and protect ourselves against those tricks.