• Dan Connors

Influence- The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert B. Cialdini 2006

***** Five of five stars

This book should be banned. (kidding). It's the type of book that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Cialdini exposes psychological secrets that are used on us all the time by salesmen, politicians, and corporations that want to manipulate and influence us.

The author explains the process as almost automatic, calling it a click/whirr where our brains react to stimuli and give our puppet masters the response that they want. At the end of each chapter he provides plenty of advice on how to say no to these manipulations. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. We need to be more aware of how our strings are being pulled, because our brains are pre-wired to react certain ways, and unscrupulous people are taking advantage of that.

Some great examples of how we are influenced:

- The contrast principle shows that we're more likely to choose an alternative if worse ones are presented alongside it.

- The reciprocation principle proves that we feel a need to give back when someone gives us a gift- even if tiny and unwanted. This is why we get free address labels and other goodies from charities and businesses, because this principle works. He uses the Hari Krishnas as a great example.

- The rejection and retreat method is also popular with salesmen. They offer the most expensive things and you reject them. They back off the request and suggest something less expensive. You see that as a concession, and want to concede something to reciprocate.

- Commitment and consistency is one of the more popular techniques I hadn't thought of before.

People want to think consistently and act accordingly because that's easiest. If you get them to commit to something, even a tiny bit, their mind locks in and the consistency principle carries them into all sorts of behaviors that the manipulator wants.

- Social proof is a method we are suckers for. If we see others doing something, we think it's okay. If we don't, we hesitate. Manipulative people will stress how popular something is, even going to the extremes of paying actors and online bots to provide fake social proof.

- We can be manipulated if we tend to like someone for reasons beyond the content of what they are saying. Physically attractive people are judged more likeable than unattractive ones, and beautiful models can be used to sell beer, cars, food, and damn near everything. We tend to like people who look like us, pay us compliments, are familiar (that's why advertising works so well), or are celebrities. Whether we like someone has nothing to do with whether we can trust them to not screw us over.

- By default, we tend to trust authority figures, even if we shouldn't. Cialdini goes into great detail on the famous Milgram experiment, where subjects inflicted terrible pain on others because an authority figure told them to. We rely on positions, titles, clothing and cars as shorthand for whether someone is rich and successful and worthy of our trust. Uniforms especially trigger this automatic response.

- Finally the book covers the scarcity principle, where salesmen try to manipulate us by telling us that something is in short supply. We are pre-programmed to want something more if we can't have it. The entire phenomenon of scarcity kicks our brain into overdrive to decide that second if we are okay with losing an opportunity.

There are great stories and examples in this book to highlight great moments in manipulation, including Jonestown and Jim Jones, doomsday cults, Tupperware parties, Chinese communist manipulation of POW's, why fraternity hazing is always so humiliating, and why suicides always increase when they show up in the mass media.

Fascinating stuff. Consider yourself "woke" if you read this gem.

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