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Exploding Creativity

May 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Book Review

Continuing copying my book reviews from my LinkedIn Amazon widget to my blog. I’ve referenced this book in Episode 10: The Dark Side of Creativity.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials), by Robert B. Cialdini

Cialdini has written a number of books on Influence, and based on what I read in this book, I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong with any of them.

This book, as the title says, discusses the psychology of persuasion: how we as human beings have set up short-cuts in our decision making in order to effectively deal with information overload, and how the “compliance practitioners” exploit these and cause us to unwittingly agree to something we wouldn’t ordinarily agree with. Cialdini notes that as the world gets more complex, we rely on these short-cuts more and more, and thus are becoming even more prone to be victims of the practitioners. This book was written to help people defend themselves from being exploited by teaching what the short-cuts are and how to say no to the exploiters. Cialdini also writes about how these short-cuts can be used for helpful purposes, too, not just for exploitation. I think it’s also true that there’s info here that can ethically be used by people, for example, for their sales, marketing, and negotiation purposes.

The short-cuts/psychological persuasion principles Cialdini writes about are:

Expensive = Good. Increasing the price of something may increase its sales, as people will believe it now has higher quality.

Contrast principle. If the most expensive item is sold first (e.g., a car), then follow-ons will seem less expensive and are now more likely to be bought (e.g., extended warranty). If a trashed house is shown first, the nicer and more expensive house shown next is more likely to be bought.

Reciprocation. One person gives up something of low value (e.g., a free sample) causing the other to give up one or more things of high-value (e.g., buying a product they wouldn’t ordinarily).

Commitment and consistency. People will behave in a way that is consistent with what they have already done, even if the continued behavior is unreasonable. One may commit to a small matter and then to act consistently, agree to larger and larger matters, at their own detriment. E.g., agreeing to a low-ball price for something, and then when that can’t be delivered to then agree to a higher priced item that they would not have originally bought.

Social Proof. If we think other people believe something, we’ll more likely believe it. Think laugh tracks, pre-loaded tip-jars, and advertising that emphasizes how popular something is, not how good it is.

Liking. We tend to say Yes to people we know and like. Relationships matter, first impressions matter, referrals matter. Watch for salespeople who mirror you or claim similar backgrounds, who flatter. Think of car salespeople who “battle” with their boss to get you a good deal; good cop/bad cop.

Authority. People have a sense of duty to authority, and are likely to conform to their dictates, even when it doesn’t make sense. Think of “I was only following orders”, actors being hired to play doctors to sell something. People will misrepresent themselves with what they wear, with a self-given title, in order to seem more authoritative than they really are.

Scarcity. People will give something not prevalent a higher value. Think of “for a limited time only” and “while supplies last”, or being pressured to make a decision right away because there’s another buyer.

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