Robert Cialdini

Influence by winston noronha

Robert Cialdini is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He is best known for his book on persuasion and marketing, ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.’ The book has been translated into 26 languages has also been published as a textbook under the title ‘Influence: Science and Practice.’ 

In writing the book, he spent three years going ‘undercover’ applying for jobs and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations, and telemarketing firms to observe real-life situations of persuasion. The book also reviews many of the most important theories and experiments in social psychology. Cialdini distills his theory down to six key principles: Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity.

Reciprocity refers to the tendency to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle. Commitment and Consistency refers to the fact that if people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. See cognitive dissonance.

Social Proof describes the tendency for people to do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. Social Proof encourages conformity. Authority refers to the fact that people will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre. Liking refers to the fact that people are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. Lastly, Scarcity refers to the fact that perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a ‘limited time only’ encourages sales.

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