Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion (Cialdini)

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  • Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion

    (Cialdini, 1984)

  • We all have built-in automatic response to stimuli called fixed-action patterns. Behaviors comprising these patterns occur in virtually the same fashion and the same order every time.

    Regular, blindly mechanical patterns of action are activated by a trigger feature.

    Cialdini characterizes these automatic responses with the phrase click-whirr: Click and the appropriate tape is activated; whirr and out rolls the standard sequence of behaviors

  • We need shortcuts in a complex world.

    In fact, automatic, stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much human action, because in many cases, it is the most efficient form of behavingin other cases it is simply necessary

    These fast behaviors perform a useful function, e.g. they save us time when making snap decisions.

    See also Kahnemans Nobel Prize lecture (2002):

  • The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after the other.

    If the difference between the compared items is big, we will tend to see a greater difference than actually exists.

    A spouse is less attractive when compared to very beautiful people.

    An expensive sweater is seen to be less costly when it is contrasted to the price of an expensive suit.

    A more expensive house contrasts favorably to a shabby "setup" property.

  • The Rule: We should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.

    One of the most potent forms of influence.

    All human societies subscribe to the rule (Gouldner 1960).

    Unique adaptive mechanism of human beings studied by many disciplines.

    Each of us has been well trained to comply with and believe in the reciprocity rule!

    Note: The Rule Does Not Apply to Family and Other Close Communal Relationships.


  • Why is the rule easily exploited?1. The Rule is Extremely Powerful. 2. The Rule Applies Even to Uninvited Favors. 3. The Rule Can Spur Unequal Exchanges. 4. The Rule Can Work Even When We Dont Like the Requester. 5. The Rule Also Applies to Concessions. 6. When Paired with Perceptual Contrasts the Rule May be

    Even More Powerful.


  • Reject-Then-Retreat technique aka the Door-in-the-Face technique

    Steps: 1. Ask for a large favor. 2. It is turned down. 3. Ask for a small favor that was wanted all along.

    (It is viewed as a concession). 4. The need to respond with a reciprocal concession is created. 5. Smaller favor is fulfilled.

    Example: the County Youth Counseling Program


  • Defense Rejecting the rule when appropriate Accept offers for what they fundamentally are:

    Authentic Generosity > enter into exchange Trick > reject the rule and react accordingly

    The rule says that favors are to be met with favors; it does not require that tricks be met with favors.


  • Scarcity

    Opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited

    We want it even more when we are in competition for it

    The scarcity principle holds true for two reasons: 1. Things difficult to attain are typically more valuable. 2. When something becomes less accessible, the

    freedom to have it may be lost.

    e.g. The Cookie Jar

    Rule: people assign more value to things when they are less available.

  • The scarcity principle is more likely to hold true under two conditions:

    Scarce items are heightened in value when they are newly scarce. That is things have higher value when they have become recently restricted (i.e. more than those things that were restricted all along).

    People are most attracted to scarce resources when they compete with others for them.


  • Psychological Reactance Theory People respond to the loss of freedom by wanting to have it

    more. As a motivator, psychological reactance is present

    throughout the great majority of a person's lifespan. However, it is especially evident at a pair of ages:

    "the terrible twos"; the teenage years (Romeo and Juliet)

    People at these ages are especially sensitive to restrictions.


  • Defense

    It is difficult to prepare ourselves cognitively against scarcity pressures because they have an emotional quality that makes thinking difficult.


    In defense, we might attempt to be alert regarding the sudden rush of emotions in situations involving scarcity.

    Perhaps this awareness may allow us to remain calm and take steps to assess the merits of an opportunity in terms of why we really want and objectively need.

  • Authority There is strong pressure to comply with the request

    of authority.

    Offers a shortcut through complexities of life.

    We are taught to obey authority from a very early age through virtually all of societys institutions.

    Milgram experiment Subjects were all male who are known for their aggressive tendencies? Subjects didnt know the harm high shock voltage could cause? Subjects were freaks who enjoyed the chance to inflict misery?

  • Obedience-to-authority: A deep-seated sense of duty to authority It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that constitutes the chief finding of the study (Milgram, 1974).

    Blind obedience: we dont have to think, therefore we dont. But what if the authority is wrong? (e.g. R. Ear vs Rear)

    Connotation, not content: clothing (lab coat, uniform, business suit, etc), titles, size and status.


    Defense: Heightened awareness to authority power. Recognition of how easily authority can be faked. Sensitivity to actual vs. fake authority: Is this authority truly an expert? Sensitivity to sincerity of authority: How truthful can we expect this expert to be?

  • Commitment & Consistency Whirring Along

    The drive to be consistent (in our beliefs, words, and deeds) or look consistent, often causes us to act contrary to our own best interests.

    Quick FixBeing consistent helps us to deal with the complexities of daily life: we only need to say or do whatever is consistent with our earlier decisions.

    Foolish FortressI have a problem. I need a solution. I dont need reason and I dont want to think about it.

    Seek and HideAutomatic consistency can be a gold mine (e.g. Toys).

    Good consistency = highly valued in society.

  • Approaches to get people committed: 1. Control em! 2. How would you feel about spending 3h for charity? 3. How are you? Good, are you willing to help the victims 4. The Foot-in-the-Door technique: get people to comply to a big favor,

    by starting with a small request.

    Commitment & Consistency

  • Professionals love commitments that produce inner change: The change cover many situations. The change is lasting. Growing legs to stand on.

    Commitment & Consistency

    Defense: Be aware of our tendency to be automatically and unthinkingly

    consistent. Problem: we do need automatic consistency. If we did not have it we

    would spend all our time thinking about and reevaluating past events. So how do we know when consistency likely will lead to a poor choice? Two separate kinds of warning signals:

    Stomach signs Heart-of-hearts signs (knowing what I now know)

  • Liking & Similarity

    I like you, because 1. Physical attractiveness: halo effect of

    good-looking equals good 2. Similarity: we like people who are similar to us

    (clothes, background, interests) 3. Praise: compliments. 4. Contact: repeated contact under positive

    conditions facilitates liking. 5. Cooperation or association

    Finding a salesman you like, plus the price. Put them both together, and you get a deal.

  • Defense

    Why would I defend myself against a nice person?

    Is it reasonable that I like this person this much?

    Focus on the effects rather than the causes.

    Liking & Similarity

  • Consensus & Social ProofOther peoples behavior and thoughts = mental shortcut (heuristic) to future behavior & cognition

    When we dont know how to behave we learn from others (often unconsciously)!

    Somebody starts yawning A person is standing staring up in the sky One spectator starts applauding Ever laughed to a TV-show with laughs in it?

    The bystander effect Diffusion of responsibility Pluralistic ignorance e.g. Murder of Kitty Genovese

  • Consensus & Social Proof

    Two situations, to be aware of, in which incorrect data cause the principle of social proof to give us poor guidance:

    Sabotage: Purposely falsified social evidence (e.g. canned laughter, claques).

    Looking up: Innocent natural errors that produce snowballing social proof that lead to an incorrect decision (e.g. pluralistic ignorance).

    Proper behavior = the behavior of people similar to ourselves