Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a good little book. It provides a readable interesting introduction to the lifework of Robert Cialdini PhD. Robert's research is an interesting mix of Psychology and Marketing, and while I know that it isn't normal for an Engineer to read something like this, but I like to be atypical (I also am an Aussie who doesn't drink ;)).
Robert presents the findings of his research, and what he has discovered about persuasion, distilled into the form of six principles . What makes this particularly interesting is the active way he did the research. He studied the results of experiments, performed his own studies, and worked hard to understand the results (which he presented well). Also Robert tells of his excitement in trying to analyse situations in which someone persuaded him to do something, and his adventures in trying to understand some of the persuasive people out there. The wide range of examples in the book includes:
- Boy scouts selling chocolates
- How the Krishna work
- Used car salespeople
- Celebrity endorsements
- Limited time specials
- Some very interesting scientific studies
If nothing else reading through each of the examples of the persuasion and the discussion of what happened was brilliant. My perspective of free gifts has completely changed. I'd argue that there is much more value in the book. Getting an idea of why people say yes, and some of the principles behind this is very valuable. The principles are:
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
The following provide a very brief note of each area. They are not complete, instead opening up some of the things that most impressed me, and that are worth noting. Read the book if you want to get the real sense of what's being talked about. (Failing reading the book you can visit the website).
After someone does something nice we are likely to reciprocate and do something nice for them. What we do in return may be much greater in value. Also if we say no to what feels like a big request, we are likely to reciprocate by saying yes to a smaller request.
In sales. Try and start big. Then be nice and sell smaller.
Commitment and Consistency
Once we have made a commitment to something we are likely to act in a way that is consistent with that action.
If we say that we start doing something small we are likely to continue. This provides an interesting trade-off between this principle and reciprocation. The way I would reconcile things is the start with a big request, then graciously let someone turn it down and go with a small request in the initial meeting. The later use the principle of consistency to continue with additional requests.
We will often look to others when deciding how to act in a situation. This mostly works well, but can be the cause of problems in situations like if someone has had an accident in a crowd. People in the crowd will look to how others respond, which can lead to inactivity.
We will often behave differently if we like someone, or if they like us. The best example of using this principle comes from Tupperware. Women will often buy Tupperware when at a party to help their friends, even when they only went to the party because of the friendship. Blokes aren't immune to this either.
We treat authority figures differently. Even young college students (who we expect to have a healthy disrespect for authority) treat authority figures differently. What is particulary interesting is that experimental results show that we have a poor self perception of how much we do value authority.
A cookie tastes better if there aren't many, and even better again if the limited supply is caused by lots of other people wanting it. Tech manufactures use this principles. There is an art form to ensuring that you run out of stock on release day.
Being aware of these principles is a valuable skill to have. We all are in situations where we need to communicate important information. Being able to persuade people is important. We are all in situations where others are trying to persuade us. Robert does a good job in helping us think through strategies of how to avoid being manipulated.
Go Read the book and learn about persuasion, and use your powers for good.