Influence The Psychology Of Persuasion Book Summary

Influence The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence The Psychology Of Persuasion Book Summary

by Robert Cialdini

You might have noticed sometimes that it’s really difficult to say no to certain people even if you really don’t want to do the favor that they are requesting for. No there is a science behind why it happens. One of the reason might be that the person asking you the favor is really persuasive naturally or maybe he knows the way to persuade you.
Persuasion is a technique to make people say yes to your request or idea and make them do what you really want them to do. It’s one of the most powerful skill to learn and master if you really want to achieve success in any field of your life. Persuasion techniques are used everywhere now a days by people ranging from a normal salesman to billion dollar companies for selling their product and even politicians.

Caution, please don’t use these information given here to manipulate people or for any evil purpose.
As there is a famous saying by Abraham Lincoln “You can fool some people for some time but not all the people all the time”. Don’t make a bad reputation of yourself; if you want long term success use it for only mutual benefits.
Influence the psychology of persuasion is a book recommended by Charlie Munger who is a billion himself and this is one of the best book I came across on the topic of persuasion.

Let’s Begin the Book

During the course of evaluation human brain has developed shortcuts for making decision quick and save energy of the brain. These shortcuts are nothing but triggers. In today’s world our brain uses these triggers more than ever. As our brain is flooded by information through various sources and we don’t have enough time and energy to analyze all the information that comes to us. We hugely make decision on the base of this trigger and not real facts as we think we do. It all happens at subconscious level of the brain so we are not aware of it. There are basically 8 triggers discussed in this book which make us take decision and are used for persuasion.

Number 1- SCARCITY (Insufficient)

Going back thousands of years, survival was very difficult. The most important resources for survival were very scarce so naturally humans grew attraction towards scarce resources as we needed them urgently. After thousands of years that sense of urgency is still present in our brain. We are most likely to get attracted to certain things whose availability is limited and we mostly take action to get it if we feel that we can lose that thing.
Companies use this fact to a great extent. Example: Companies make limited edition products not because they can’t make more products but it triggers the customer to buy it since it is scarce and not available in abundance. Similarly big restaurants put less food on plate, advertisers use terms like hurry offer valid only for today etc are all examples of this. This concept can be used in all aspects of life. Considering love life, dating gurus give important advice to people that they should not be always available for their crush, mainly during the initial period to build attraction and avoid the curse of getting friend zoned.

Number 02- Reciprocity
It’s a really powerful mechanism of brain. Humans have deep internal need to settle things with each other to make things fair. So if you do a favor to someone then they will return it with a favor but if you do something bad you can get a much worse in return. Example: If you get a gift by someone on your birthday then you more likely to give that person a gift on their birthday. No giving a business example: There is a multi-million dollar organization which makes a lot of money through donations. One way of getting donations is that at the airport they approach people and pin a flower to their clothes, even if you say you don’t want they insist you to take it as a gift and after you accept that gift they immediately ask that if you would like to donate some money for their organization. No it becomes very hard for the person to say no as we have the urge to settle things with each other and mostly people donate due to this fact.


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Number 3-Concession
Example for concession from the book explains it clearly. Once when the author was at airport a boy came to him and asked him to buy a ticket for an event but the author was not interested so he reused. After denial they boy asked him to buy chocolate instead which was the way cheaper than the ticket. The author took that chocolate without hesitation but after the boy left he realized something strange that why did he bought that chocolate when he not really liked chocolate that much at the first place.

This concludes the concept of concession i.e. When someone ask you for a large request and after you deny counters it with smaller request. We are more likely to accept that smaller request.

Number 4-Commitment and Consistency
People also have a desire to appear consistent in their behavior and they also appreciate consistency in others. If you make someone commit to something small initially then you then you will be more likely to make them commit to bigger actions later on. Using these facts persuasion is possible. e.g.: an experiment where a group of people were given a cancer awareness button and requested them to wear it for a week. It was harmless request so most of them agreed. Sometime later, these same people were requested to give a donation to help fight cancer.

Not surprisingly, this group of people not even just donated but with an amount much more than that of the other groups. Why? Because in wearing the button for a week, cancer fight had now become a small piece of their identity. They were now more likely to behave as a cancer fighter would. Similarly a charity gets people to sign a petition not so much to influence others but to increase their commitment to the cause. I will tell you another example where toy companies use this principle.

What happens is that a toy is heavily advertised, children get excited by it and then approach their parents about buying it for the charisma’s. After some consideration, parents agree and make the commitment to buy it. When they go to the store they discover that the toy is out of the stock. They check out other stores and ten discover that it is simply not available anywhere. (note this is done purposely by companies and stores) Now what parents to do?

Simply they buy other toys to compensate and apologized to their child. Suddenly in January that toy arrives in store. Children notice this and tell their parents to buy. That is the time when consistency kicks in and parents go to buy that toy. The toy stores not only sold that toy but other toys as well using your commitment and consistency.

Number 5-Social Proof
You might have noticed something like in this example. A study in New York city was done where some people were told to look up on the 6t floor of a building continuously and see what happened. Forty five percent of passersby stopped if 15 people were looking up. A similar experiment was aborted when so many people were looking up that they stopped the traffic. This principle is based on the fact that we copy what others do, especially when we are unsure what to do. If situation are critical we will follow anyone who seems to know what they are doing.
So basically show people how others already do what you want them to do. In an alarming research it has found that highly visible news about suicide, results in an increase in the suicide rates.

This type of suicide is called copycat suicide if you search on Wikipedia. On a positive side, this principle of social proof was used to treat young children who were afraid of dogs. The treatment was very simple. They merely watched a boy playing happily with a dog for twenty minutes a day. After only four days, 67 percent of the children got over that fear and started playing with the dog themselves.

When everyone is laughing you also laugh. Canned laughter that we hear in most of the comedy shows actually helps the joke to appear much funnier than it actually is. Advertisers often tell us that their product is the largest selling, fastest growing etc. These are all implication of this.

Number 6-Authority
We refer to people who seem superior to us. We are brought up to obey authorities, initially parents and later teachers, polices, ministers, managers and so on and on. Such authorities have the power of command, telling us what to do. A key reason we do this is because we believe that there will be a negative consequences if we disobey which is not always true.

The three factors that triggers the authority principle are

1- Titles – A title before a person’s name increase their persuasion capabilities. Titles like Dr., Prof., Ph.D., president, Chairman, Founder, CEO have impact on us.

2- Clothes – Similarly people wearing certain uniforms, suits, religious outfits also impacts.

3-Trappings-These are accessories that define certain positions/roles of a person (e.g. badges, expensive suits. Nice cars, etc.).

They give us the feel that the person using them is a authority who needs to be obeyed. Now looking at an example for this. The expert behind these principles of persuasion Robert Cialdini Phd, is a fine example. Those who read about him for the first time would instantly perceive him as person with extensive knowledge and credibility in psychology due to the title PhD before his name even without knowing what he wrote about.

In an experiment nurses were told to do certain things which were completely against hospital rules but they still did all of them. Why? Just because they were told to do so by a doctor, who was actually a fake doctor, used just for experiment. They shows how it easily people can get manipulate by this trigger.
Business related example of using this concept is when companies use experts, engineers, doctors etc to advertise their product.

Number 7-Liking
It’s so hard to say no to a beautiful girl or a cute guy asking you a favor. This is because people are more likely to be influenced by things or people that they like. Since liking has such a fundamental impact on relationships, it is often used as a powerful tool for persuasion. You can dramatically increase the chances of making people comply to your request, sell or persuade them if they like you at first place.
Now comes to the main question that how to make someone like you? There are various factors on which you can work.

A- Physical Attractiveness – Try to always look as good as possible because good looks also suggest other favorable traits, i.e. honesty, humor, trustworthiness.

B- Similarity – Find similarities between you and the person. We like people similar to us in terms of interest, opinions, personality, background etc.

C- Compliment – Give compliments. People love to receive praises, and tend to like those who give it. Surprisingly even if they know it’s false.

D- Contact and Cooperation – How often they see you can also have an impact and how well you cooperate with them.

E- Conditioning and Association – Try to associate yourself with good things and good people. We like looking at models, and thus become more favorable towards the cars behind them. Now you know how pretty girls or hot models end up in the most of the commercial for any product including pen and even cigarette.

A real world example of our irrational thinking because of this principle is our love towards pandas. They are cute fluffy animals on which billions of dollars are spent to save them from going extinct. Now it’s a really holy deed even I don’t want to see a world without pandas but the real problem is in the fact that there are thousands of other species that are at the edge of extinction.

Many of that other species are easier to save are much important for our eco system and indirectly for our self but we are not getting enough money and resources to save them, why? Just because they are not as cute as pandas. If two girls have committed the same crime and given to normal people for their judgment they will get softer on the girl who is beautiful.
That’s how liking work.

Number 8 – Reasoning
When asking someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason with the request. Example: A Harvard psychologist did an experiment where she approached people in a line who were just about to use the Xerox machine and requested the person to let her use the Xerox machine in three different ways which got her different results

In the 1st way she asked can I use the machine because I am in a rush, 90% agreed. In the 2nd way she just asked can I use the machine and only 60% agreed. That’s why it’s always better to just try and ask. In the 3rd way she asked can I use the machine to take Xerox, surprisingly 90% again agreed. So it is concluded that giving a reason increases the chances of your request getting accepted.
These were the 8 triggers we discussed here. You can learn them in much more detail from the book.

About the Author
Robert Beno Cialdini is the professor of psychology and marketing. His book “The Psychology of Persuasion” has sold over three million copies and has been translated into thirty languages including New York Times best sellers list. Fortune lists the book in their “75 Smartest Business Books”. It has been mentioned in 50 Psychology Classics.


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