923 of 948 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2003
As I sit here and write, I wonder why I did not draft this review long before now. I read Cialdini's book about five years ago and have been hooked ever since. It is simply a superb book about influence.
Cialdini believes that influence is a science. This idea attracted me. As a rhetorician, I have always thought of persuasion as more of an art. Cialdini, however, makes a first-rate case for the science point of view. But maybe most importantly, he makes his case in a well-written, intelligent, and entertaining manner. Not only is this an important book to read, it is a fun book to read too.
He introduces you to six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. A chapter is devoted to each and you quickly see why Cialdini looks at influence as a science. Each principle is backed by social scientific testing and restesting. Each chapter is also filled with interesting examples that help you see how each principle can be applied. By the end of the book, I had little doubt that these are six important dimensions of human interaction.
I highly recommend this book to all professionals. It does not matter if you are a manager, sales person, pastor, or non-profit volunteer. The ideas in this book, once applied, will make it easier for you to accomplish your goals. In a video featuring the author, Professor Cialdini even goes so far as to promise that these principles can help you influence the most resistant of all audiences--your children.
With a claim like that, who wouldn't be intrigued?
My advice is to read this sooner rather than later. You will be quite glad you did.
404 of 430 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2003
Most books of applied psychology fall prey to one of two weaknesses: Either they lack scientific content (or over-simplify) or they present solid information in an academic manner that readers find difficult to absorb and apply. Robert Cialdini's book stands out brilliantly from these books. Combining wide and deep scientific scholarship with an engaging, lucid, and personal style, Influence may be the single best work on the topic. The intent of the book is to show how we can understand and defend against pervasive non-rational influences on our decision-making. Of course the same principles could be applied to market products or influence colleagues and rivals either in place of or in addition to genuine reasons. One sign of the range of the book is the fact that Cialdini doesn't get to the famous Milgram experiment on "Obedience to Authority" until p.208. The book concentrates on several factors that evolution and culture have drilled into us to produce compliance for good reasons, but which can be abused by "compliance professionals": reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Any reader will find the research results stunning and frightening. Fortunately, Cialdini concludes each compelling chapter with hints on "How to say no". No matter how intelligent you are, you have undoubtedly fallen for many of these techniques used deliberately or accidentally. How many poor business investment decisions, product purchases, or strategic moves have been influenced by non-rational factors? You have to read this book. Why? Because I've done you a favor with this review and you owe it to me; you can't say you're a rational person if you don't; everyone else is reading it; I'm attractive, friendly, well-dressed, similar to you, and you like me; I'm an psychology expert and I recommend it; and you need to buy it now before all copies are sold!
340 of 372 people found the following review helpful
The human mind is a wonderful thing, capable of the most wonderful thought processes and ideas. Yet the brain is on automatic pilot for most situations. That allows the conscious mind to really focus. The drawback is that some people will use our conscious inattention to sneak one by us, like a fastball pitch to a hitter looking for a change-up.
Influence, the book, is very useful in this regard, because it uses interesting examples to help us be aware of our own tendency to let automatic pilot thinking take over.
Since I first read this book many years ago, I have been watching to see if the circumstances I see support or invalidate Professor Cialdini's points. By a margin of about 9 to 1, Cialdini wins.
Given that we are easily manipulated by our desire to be and to appear to be consistent with our past actions and statements, swayed by what the crowd is doing, and various other mechanisms, the only way we can be armed against unscrupulous marketing is to be as aware of these factors are the marketers are.
At the same time, I appreciated how the book explores the ethics of when and how much to apply these principles. Without this discussion, the book would come off like Machiavelli's, The Prince, for marketing organizations. That would have been a shame. By dealing with the ethics, Professor Cialdini creates the opportunity to educate us intellectually and morally. Well done!
I have read literally dozens of books about marketing and selling, and I find this one to be the most helpful in thinking about how influence actually works. Even if you will never work in marketing, you will benefit from reading this book in order to better focus your purchases and actions where they fit your needs rather than someone else's.
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2003
This is most certainly not only a book about negotiation, it is for anyone interested in a gripping read about human psychology and our subconscious response to external stimuli. An interesting example: if you are at a party and you begin talking with a member of the opposite sex whom you find moderately attractive, it is very likely that your initial assessment of this person will decrease when a "beautiful" girl or guy ambles over to join the conversation. Obviously the first person did not morph into someone physically different, but did become comparatively less appealing when smothered in the shadow cast by the "beautiful" person.
While "Getting to Yes" and "You can negotiate anything" were flush with such interesting real-life nuggets and the best on offer in their time, "Influence" would rate as my personal favorite that conceptually digs deep into the art of persuation.
For one thing, Cialdini's writing style is entertaining and exudes common sense. Which makes it worth the ride for just about anyone interested in an intelligent read. I'd even venture to say that he comes across as accessible as Thomas Schelling ("Strategy of Conflict", "Choice and Consequence") in the kinds of intuitive but compelling examples that he uses to illustrate his points.
For another, this is one of the rare books that explain the *psychology* of WHY and HOW human beings/animals respond the way they do. What is different about his hypotheses? Cialdini breaks down his analysis into 6 broad principles consciously or subconsciously employed by people to persuade their counterparts (consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity) and then discusses each of these principles in term of its ability to elicit "automatic, mindless compliance" from us. And if you do not feel that simply being aware of such compliance tactics is defense enough, he goes on to offer useful, practical shields in a scattering of sections such as "How to Say No".
This is an incredibly useful book that one can only hope does not fall into the hands of one's adversary. Clearly required reading for anyone involved in the business of persuasion (marketing/sales, diplomacy, strategy etc) and highly recommended for everyone else.
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 1999
Great and unnerving at the same time, the book is filled with various studies in the field of social psychology. I cannot recommend this book too highly; an entertaining and informative read. If you've ever been snookered into buying a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita in a bus station or found yourself purchasing a timeshare condo against your better judgement (or the thousand other unneeded sales we've all been hit with at some time or another), this book is for you. It gives a structure to the various cultural instincts we have and how these can be subverted. On a more positive note, it is also useful for understanding how to best get your own message across (while avoiding being manipulative). For example, after reading it I now tell my children "clean your room, because...", as using "because" makes the request more effective (oddly enough, regardless of the reason given after the word "because", at least in theory. I haven't tried "because the moon is full" yet). I plan to give this book to my children when they graduate from high school (if not sooner).
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2001
*Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion* is one of the most useful books I have read in a long time. Its author, Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, applies his technical background to the task of explaining in everyday terms a subject that impacts all of us: persuasion, and the psychological principles that make it work. Sales professionals are a natural audience for this book; they will find in it the explicit theory and scientific research behind what they have already been doing for years by instinct and trial-and-error. For the rest of us, this book is a powerful defense against those manipulators who seek to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities to get us to comply with their desires.
Cialdini's basic theoretical perspective is that, to deal with a complex world, our brains have automatized responses to various phenomena. In the long-run and in general, these mental mechanisms are practical tools, enabling us to live in society harmoniously and to make decisions quickly and with minimal effort. In specific cases, however, they can misfire, leading to bad decisions. Hence our vulnerability to people who know how these mechanisms work when we do not.
After introducing his subject, the author tackles six of these "weapons of influence" in six chapters. He first explains what they are and how they are used, utilizing personal anecdotes, scientific studies and vivid real life examples to make his case. Much of this is fascinating stuff. For example, according to Cialdini, some of the very techniques advertisers and salespeople use today were used during the Korean War to seduce American POWs into collaborating with their Chinese captors. And the Hare Krishna Society, its fundraising efforts in the 1960s frought with public relations problems, owed its dramatic turnaround in the 1970s to the adoption of solicitation tactics based on shrewd psychology. Cialdini then rounds off each chapter by suggesting what we can do to defend ourselves. He is not a behavioral determinist; half of not falling prey to our unconscious responses is simply being aware that they exist and then taking action to circumvent them or to leverage them in our favor.
For the record, I must state that this book is not perfect. Cialdini sometimes interprets human psychology in ways that I do not believe are warranted given the studies he cites. But endnotes and an ample bibliography are included for readers who are interested in doing further research. Taken with a grain of salt, I believe *Influence* is a worthy read--whether you are a sales professional, or someone who is unwilling to be an easy mark for one.
85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2004
This is the sort of book one is inclined to wish one had read carefully at a young age. All successful people have developed skills to get what they want. As a young man for a while I got my way with a particular person by advising "A" when what I really wanted was "Not-A". But Robert Caldini's great book lays it all out systematically, and I guess I now regard the A/Not-A device as an example of abnormal psychology at work.
Caldini starts by saying: "I can admit it freely now. All my life I've been a patsy." An "easy mark...." This "long-standing status as a sucker" made Cialdini interested in the "psychology of compliance." Why do requests put one way mostly fail while a slightly different approach often wins? For nearly three years Cialdini combined experimental studies with "systematic immersion into the world of compliance professionals - sales operators, fund-raisers, recruiters, advertisers, and others."
There are thousands of different tactics used by those aiming to get someone to say "yes", but the majority fall within six basic categories, each of which is governed by a "fundamental psychological principle that directs human behaviour and, in so doing, gives the tactics their power." The principles are consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. This list deliberately does not include "the simple rule of material self-interest" since this is an obvious motivator not worthy of detailed examination. (As an economist, I am put well and truly in my place by this observation. One assumes that, as in the famous story, Cialdini chose to experiment on economists rather than rats since one gets to like rats after a while.)
Chapter one is entitled "Weapons of influence." Animals and people (even economists!) operate with certain automatic rules that usually produce a good result. Often in this book Cialdini introduces experiments from animal or people studies to buttress the psychological arguments. In this chapter he discusses how mothering behaviour in turkeys is triggered by the "cheep-cheep" sound of young turkeys, a response often observed in the Thornton household, incidentally.
A reflex of many people, especially it seems Americans on holiday, is to use the rule "expensive = good." In fact the example that starts chapter one is of a seller of jewelry who accidentally doubled instead of halved the price of some jewelry it was proving hard to move. After a short absence from her shop, to her surprise she found that the previously difficult-to-move items had all been sold.
Another rule is that people are more likely to agree to a request if a reason is given - "People simply like to have reasons for what they do." So if you need to go to the top of the queue, give a good reason, and most of the time people will let you in. In fact, the research cited shows it was the use of the word "because" rather than the inherent strength of the reason that produces this result.
Then there is "the contrast principle." An example from the retail world illustrates. Salespeople in retail stores are often instructed to sell the most expensive item first. Having paid a lot for a suit, for example, most people it seems pay more for shirts and ties than if they started with those relatively inexpensive items first. Car dealers first sell you the car, then add the optional extras. With a different use of contrast, real estate salespeople start by showing you the undesirable properties first - they have a set of these, called "set-up" properties.
The process of using "weapons of persuasion" is subtle, not crude. "With proper execution, the exploiters need hardly strain a muscle to get their way ... the approach is not unlike that of the Japanese martial art form called jujitsu."
And now to the principles themselves. Each chapter starts with a nice quote, that I have reproduced.
Reciprocation - "Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The rule of reciprocation "possesses awesome strength." This is not basically related to liking - people are programmed to respond positively to a request if they have previously accepted a gift even from a stranger. The famous case is the Krishna organisation whose members give people a flower or a book before asking for a donation - works like a charm apparently.
Retailers know the power of the "free gift" - eg the cubes of cheese in food halls, the wine tasting in wine shops or at wineries, the Amway phenomenon, the power of the Tupperware party.
Politics works like this also - "logrolling" being a powerful American example, Lyndon Johnson being the master of this game. The power of the political donation in Australian politics shows this is not just an American trait, although I suspect reciprocation reaches its highest art form there.
A more subtle version of reciprocation comes when one feels bound to respond to a concession. "Will you buy my raffle tickets for $10?" "No" "Will you but two chocolate bars for $2?" Often one does, the original requestor having made a concession one is forced to match.
The most stunning example given by Cialdini concerns the Watergate break-in. Apparently G Gordon Liddy first presented an absolutely outrageous plan. When he was told "no" he later came back with a less costly but still outrageous plan. After a second "no" he finally came up with a stupid but even less expensive plan which several apparently sane men approved.
This chapter ends with a section on "How to say no."
There is another famous quote that says something like: "No good turn goes unpunished." Cialdini does not discuss this apparent contradiction of the reciprocation principle - perhaps it is another example of abnormal psychology.
Commitment and Consistency - "It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end." - Leonardo da Vinci.
Two Canadian psychologists have shown that , immediately after placing a bet, punters become far more confident about the chances of the horse they back Humans have, Cialdini asserts, a "nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent ..." This is another example of a trait that in many circumstances is useful and adaptive. "Without it our lives would be difficult, erratic and disjointed." Too much thinking is difficult. But there is a more perverse attraction of mechanical consistency. "Sometimes it is not the effort of hard, cognative work that makes us shirk thoughtful activity, but the harsh consequences of that activity. Sometimes it is the cursedly clear and unwelcome set of answers provided by straight thinking that makes us mental slackers."
But the forces making for consistency can readily be exploited. Cialdini provides a nice example of how toy stores use this principle to boost post Christmas sales. (Coles Meyer, if you do not know this trick, now is the moment.) But what is it that produces the "click that activates the whirr of the powerful consistency tape?" "Commitment" is the answer. If we take a stand, we are likely to behave in ways stubbornly consistent with that stand.
Telephone marketers routinely ask: "How are you feeling this evening, Mr Jones?" Apparently, once you have said you feel fine, it is hard to refuse to give to the anti-cancer fund or to help a third-world orphan, even thought the initial question and answer were for all appearances a stylized exchange. The researchers have, incidentally, tested whether or not it is the politeness of the initial approach that does the work - no it is not, it is his initial response that has committed Mr Jones.
Cialdini goes on to examine the far more serious issue of how to get prisoners of war (POWs) to cooperate with their captors. The Chinese did a far better job of this than the North Koreans during the second world war - by asking first for a minor act of compliance (which was rewarded) and gradually upping the ante. An important part of the process was that the minor commitment initially achieved was made public - people's written and public commitments being far more powerful than private, unwritten ones. And small inducements are often far more powerful than large ones - since if the inducement is large one will feel one has been paid for the act of compliance, not accepted it as a firm commitment.
This chapter looks quite deeply into the techniques used as well as their application in business situations - eg when people sign on to challenging KPIs. Again it ends with a section on how to say no.
Social proof - "When all think alike, no one thinks very much" - Walter Lippman
TV producers use canned laughter, bar-people often "salt" their tip jar at the start of a shift and evangelical preachers have been known to seed their audiences with "ringers" who are programmed to come forward and commit at the right moment. Cialdini examines the famous case of a cult that has wrongly predicted the end of the world. When this did not occur, the group had to establish another truth, which in this case was a crusade to persuade the world about their peculiar beliefs.
The principle of "social truth" works especially well in conditions of shaken confidence and uncertainty - in the previous example when the beings in flying saucers did not arrive on schedule.
This example leads on to a far more horrible case, that of the murder of Catherine Genovese in New York City in 1964. "For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a women in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens." No-one called the police during the murder, and only one witness called after the women was dead. Everyone was stunned and the witnesses themselves could not explain their inaction. The newspapers seized on the theme of an "uncaring" society.
Two psychologists examined the case. To them the really odd thing was that there were 38 witnesses, none of whom did anything. They found two reasons for the lack of action. When there are more than one person witnessing a crime, personal responsibility is diluted. This is a common issue - eg when a group is asked to do something without someone nominating who is responsible. "(Shared responsibility is no responsibility") But the second reason is more interesting and involves what psychologists call the "pluralistic ignorance effect." At times of uncertainty, people naturally look round to see how others are reacting. If others seem calm and unruffled, one is inclined to act the same way and to convince oneself that the event in question is not really an emergency.
The chapter goes on, covering another example of the consequences of "social proof" - the well documented case of sudden jumps in apparently accidental deaths in the period immediately after a newspaper or TV account of a suicide
A final horrible example concerns the mass suicide in Jonestown.
Learning how to resist the automatic pilot of social proof might be vital. There is also a message for anyone in danger in a crowded situation - do not issue a general cry for help, but try to focus on one person and ask him for explicit help.
Liking - "The main work of a trial attourney is to make a jury like his client" - Clarence Darrow.
Most of us prefer to say yes to the requests of those we like. This principle works, however, when used by total strangers - eg if he pays one a compliment such as "That is a great suit/haircut/car, etc. This much is obvious, but Cialdini goes on to apply it to important matters like the impact of school desegregation upon racial tension, the "good cop/bad cop" situation and the behaviour of sports fans.
How to say no is handled deftly, as usual. ("Say no")
Authority - "Follow an expert" - Virgil.
Again the simple point is obvious, but we learn of more subtle and insidious effects involving the use of fake titles, film stars advertising coffee and trappings of con-men such as flash cars.
Scarcity - "The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost" - GK Chesterton.
This is a ripper chapter, containing as it does the scheme used by the author's brother to fund his way through collage and some severely practical advice on how to deal with toddlers and teenagers.
The scarcity principle is understood by all of us, even economists, who associate scarcity with high prices. But what would you think of a collage student who purchased second hand cars, gave them a cut and polish and advertised them for sale at a distinctly higher price than he had paid? His secret weapon was to ask everyone who responded to his ad to arrive at, say, 2 PM. The first guy to arrive was shown the car and while he was looking another prospective buyer would arrive. Then another. The first guy would be told a queue is forming and given a few more minutes to make up his mind. You could imagine the anxiety that built up in the potential buyers' minds. If the first guy did not buy, the second one almost always did.
This chapter goes on to provide advice on coping with the "terrible twos" and the teenage years based on the theory of "psychological reactance" that is linked to scarcity in some interesting but non-obvious ways. The link concerns the loss of freedoms, and withdrawal of privileges is a classic case of loss of freedom leading to psychological reactance."
.Cialdini relates this to the Russian counter-revolution that restored Gorbachev to power ("Freedoms once granted will not be relinquished without a fight.") Another case concerns the close bonding between Romeo and Juliet in the face of parental opposition to their relationship. ("... the teenager will sneak, scheme, and fight to resist ... attempts at control.") Another interesting example concerns directions to a jury to ignore a particular piece of evidence - the conjecture in this case is that such directions may in fact make the jury give greater weight to the banned evidence.
I have provided a far longer account of this book than I intended at outset. To a mere economist, who is drilled to assume the simplest possible mental models of behaviour - "maximising welfare, "simple self-interest" - both the examples as well as the logic and clever experiments are full of interest. If it is too late for you to benefit, give this book to a much loved member of the younger generation.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2000
Robert Cialdini, presents very basic mechanisms that we use to make our lives simpler. Those same mechanisms can be used by "compliance professionals" in a way that seems very natural to us.
The Book Dissects 6 weapons of influence, namely; Reciprocation, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity.
The book will protect you from being ripped off and will make you wiser and more aware of the psychological mechanisms taking place around you.
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2006
I think many of the principles discussed in the book have long been exposed. Nevertheless, the book also explains many of those principles really well and with great illustration. The book as a total was a pleasure to read, and the illustrations were sometimes captivating. Essentially, if you are one to make rapid decisions regarding your purchases of goods/services, this book can provide you the tools necessary to combat that "automatic, mindless" purchase.
A simple example is retail. A customer is more likely to purchase accessories after purchasing an expensive suite let's say. So, if you're in retail, show off your pricey stuff first, if the person buys, the accessories look cheap.
The free sample is an example. It was really interesting how one person provided a free sample of cheese and invited customers to slice their own portions. The sales were tremendous.
Consistency and Commitment
It is desirable for individuals to appear to be consistent, as society simply dislikes inconsistent people as "confused," "irresponsible," and often "incapable." Anything in writing can really be powerful to influence future behavior. Further, if a commitment is made publicly, a person will be substantially more consistent with making the effort to remain committed.
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Catherine Genovese experienced a "long, loud, tortured, public" murder in NY City in March of 1964. Her murder was witnessed by 38 of her neighbors, as she would sometimes escape from her murderer, screaming for help, then the murderer would catch her again and stab her, and this happened several times. The whole event took place over half an hour. However, not one person, of all thirty-eight of them, notified the authorities. Then, one witness called, after Catherine Genovese was dead.
Uncertainty. The bystanders thought someone else would call the police or try to do something. Everyone was thinking some one else would help, so no one provided help.
(1) If you are uncertain, provide help. If you see a person being assaulted, having what appears to be breathing problems, provide aid to your fellow human. Do NOT wait for others to provide aid, even in group situations such as concert halls.
(2) If you require aid, specifically point to someone and clearly and forcefully say something like, "YOU! In the blue jacket! I need help. Call an ambulance right away!"
Simply, we are going to comply with people we like. However, do not be deceived by: (a) physical attractiveness, (b) similarity (oh, we seem alike, you are from where I grew up!), (c) compliments. The three above can influence us to make automatic, mindless decisions.
I am really astonished, to be honest, how compliant people are to those in positions of authority or those that appear to be in positions of authority. I am not refering to respect but rather to complying to things that are just wrong. E.g., the Milgrim Study is discussed at great length, and I really enjoyed reading about it (again). That is, how an individual was complaint to a person who appeared to be in a position of authority in lab attire and holding a clip board to administer electric shocks to a person, even as the person begged for the shocks to be stopped.
If something is rare or becoming even more rare, the value of it seems to increase. Therefore, words such as "limited availability" or "one time offer" or "exclusive" seem to influence people to make purchasing decisions.
In closing, I recommend the book, particularly for individuals who require some tools to prevent mindless purchasing. Further, the book can benefit businesses as well to improve the marketing and sales of their products/services.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2001
Robert Cialdini's book is not only entertaining to read, it reveals exceptionally useful psychological fundamentals. His research studies how and why people agree to things, and is not inclusive to any one area of life. His book explains the psychological triggers that influence people to comply with requests, and also covers how these triggers are used and abused.
As a developmental trainer, I have found his work exceptionally insightful. It has helped me understand why certain management & sales techniques work, and sheds light on how we all are subject to these powerful psychological responses. The examples that he cites are powerful: all are well researched, easy to understand, and many are quite entertaining! If you are interested in affecting human behavior in anyway, this book is a must read. I originally read it nearly 10 years ago, and have read the book several times since.
Have you ever wondered why you've donated money to an organization you didn't even care about because they gave you a simple trinket? Ever found yourself "overpaying" a favor you received from another? Have you ever wondered why we all feel compelled to "keep up with the Jones," or why that special toy everyone wants for Christmas is so hard to get?
My company has a core set of values that we expect over 1500 people to follow, and none of our efforts would be possible without understanding his research and applying the principles of commitment & compliance. Salespeople, supervisors, executives, and anyone even remotely involved in influencing the behavior of others should IMMEDIATELY read this book.