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Littler Books cover of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Summary

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Summary, Notes, and Quotes

Robert B. Cialdini

3.5 minutes to read
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Influence: One Sentence Summary

The classic book on principles of persuasion, giving you the knowledge to navigate and understand the forces that shape human behavior.

Influence: Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. Turkey mothers are loving and protective, and they identify their children with the sound their offspring emit. This sound is used as a shortcut by the mother to trigger her parental instincts. However, this sound can also be mimicked by other animals to trick the turkeys.
  2. Humans also rely on shortcuts that can be exploited by compliance professionals like advertisers and salespeople to manipulate us.
  3. The power of because: giving a weak reason is way better than giving no reason.
    1. In one study, a researcher asked people waiting in line for a copy machine if she could skip ahead. When she provided a reason, 94% complied, compared to only 60% when no reason was given.
    2. Surprisingly, even when she gave a nonsensical reason like needing to make copies, 93% still complied. This suggests that people have a mental shortcut that accepts any reason as enough to grant a favor.
  4. Rule of reciprocation: humans feel obligated to return favors.
    1. This principle is deeply ingrained in societies and has evolutionary roots in resource sharing.
    2. The desire to reciprocate can be seen at various levels, even in international relations.
    3. Studies show that people often go to great lengths to fulfill the sense of obligation created by a favor, sometimes performing larger favors in return for small ones.
    4. Manipulators can exploit this principle to influence behavior. To resist such manipulation, it is important to question the genuineness of favors. True favors deserve reciprocation, while manipulations do not.
  5. Rejection-then-retreat strategy, also known as the door-in-the-face technique: start with an outrageous request and then concede to a more reasonable one.
    1. When you use this strategy, it evokes the reciprocity principle in your negotiation partners, who feel obliged to reciprocate the concession.
    2. It also takes advantage of the contrast principle, where the difference between the initial and subsequent offers is magnified. β€œYou don't have to buy our $15 burger, but at least try our $3 fries.”
    3. There is a limit to how extreme the initial request can be before it backfires. If your initial offer is too extreme, people will not take you seriously.
    4. Working for a Republican election campaign, G. Gordon Liddy proposed to kidnap anti-war protest organizers and lure mid-level Democratic with prostitutes. However, these plans were deemed too extreme, so when he proposed to burglarize the offices of the Democratic National Committee, it seemed relatively reasonable and he was given permission to proceed. The burglary became the Watergate scandal and led to US President Richard Nixon's resignation.
  6. The social proof principle: we seek the behavior of others to determine the correct course of action.
    1. This is why sitcoms have laugh tracks and why books will tell you if they're β€œbest-selling”.
    2. This principle is related to the bystander effect, where people are less likely to act in an emergency when more people are present. People feel less responsible when others are around.
    3. To effectively seek help in an emergency within a crowd, single out an individual and provide a clear and direct request for assistance. By assigning responsibility to a specific person, they are less likely to rely on the behavior of others for guidance, and the likelihood of receiving help increases drastically.
  7. The Werther effect: we tend to emulate those who are similar to us, even when it's suicide.
    1. The name comes from Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, in which the main character commits suicide. The book was likely responsible for a spike of suicides after its publication.
    2. Marketers often try to influence us through advertisements featuring endorsements from people that look like us.
  8. The likability principle: we comply more with people we like.
    1. Factors that can enhance liability: flattery, finding commonalities, humor, and being perceived as being on the same team or sharing the same goal.
    2. We tend to vote for more attractive candidates in elections. This is because physical attractiveness creates a halo effect, leading us to view attractive people as more positive and trustworthy.
  9. The authority principle: we tend to obey authority figures without question.
    1. Stanley Milgram's famous study demonstrated that individuals would administer potentially harmful shocks to others simply because an authority figure instructed them to do so.
    2. Symbols of authority, such as titles, clothing, or props, can influence our perception and compliance.
    3. To protect ourselves, we need to be aware of the power of authority and question its legitimacy and intentions.
  10. Foot-in-the-door technique: a small purchase or commitment leads to a larger purchase.
    1. Humans have a strong desire for consistency and staying true to our word.
    2. Studies have shown that when people agree to watch someone's belongings and then witness a theft, they are much more likely (95% vs. 20%) to intervene and help recover the stolen item.
    3. This technique changes the prospect's self-perception from an observer to a participant/customer, making them more receptive to further offers.
  11. The lowball technique: giving a favorable offer and then changing it later.
    1. This tactic is used to evoke inner change regarding the product.
    2. When we decide to make a purchase, we will create justifications for it and become attached to it. Subsequently, when the original offer is changed, it's harder for us to say no.
  12. The harder we work to obtain something, the more we tend to value it. This is why group initiation rituals are often punishing.
  13. The scarcity principle: when something becomes scarce or limited, we want it more.
    1. Studies have shown that when an item is presented as scarce, people are more inclined to purchase it. Advertisers take advantage of this principle by emphasizing limited-time offers or limited availability.
    2. Scarcity is created when two conditions are met: the availability of the item has recently decreased, and there is competition involved.
    3. It is important to consider whether we genuinely need the item or if our desire is driven by the irrational wish to possess something scarce.
  14. The Romeo and Juliet effect: forbidding, banning, or censoring something often makes it more desirable.
    1. The name comes from the fact that barriers or interference in relationships can actually intensify feelings of love and desire.
    2. Similarly, when information is banned or censored, it is perceived as more valuable.
    3. Humans have a strong aversion to losing opportunities, and when something is banned or restricted, it creates a sense of urgency and desire.
    4. Studies have shown that people tend to sympathize with and give more importance to information or ideas that are deemed forbidden or restricted.

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