Influence | Robert Cialdini

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Published in: 1984

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Robert Cialdini is regarded by many as a guru on influence. In this book he introduces various tactics used by salespeople, car dealers, and fundraisers to influence us into saying yes. He referred to these tactics as six weapons of influence: Reciprocity, Social validation, Commitment/consistency, Scarcity,  Liking, and authority. These tendencies are very powerful on their own, but when they are used together, they cause a so-called lollapalooza effect. Tupperware parties, for example, use four of these six tendencies.

CLICK, WHIRR. These behaviors occur in virtually the same fashion and the same order every time (nothing in human social interactions works always but often enough that behavioral scientists have labelled these as tendencies). It is almost as if the patterns were recorded on tapes. Click and the appropriate tape is activated, and whirr and out rolls the standard sequence of behaviors. For customers, for example, price alone can become a trigger feature for quality, and a dramatic increase in price alone can lead to a dramatic increase in sales among the quality-hungry buyers. Click, whirr.   

RECIPROCITY. We say yes to those we owe and will often go to great lengths to avoid being seen as someone who make no effort to reciprocate. We even end up complying with someone’s request even if we do not like them. For example, Hare Krishna’s members would forcefully give a flower to a passerby before asking for donations.

SOCIAL PROOF. People are influenced by what others do. At an unfamiliar event or situation, we look to others for the correct etiquette. The more the people doing it, the more we believe that the behavior is correct. This is why it is effective for bartenders to seed their tip jars with a few dollars to give the impression that tipping is the norm.

COMMITMENT & CONSISTENCY. We want to be (and to be seen) as consistent since it is a socially attractive trait – it signals trustworthiness. That is why we stand a greater chance of sticking to goals we have written down or verbally stated. Also, stubborn consistency also allows us to avoid thinking. The same tendency can be exploited by salespeople by agreeing to small requests that may appear inconsequential in the beginning, but with the effect of altering one’s self-image (we are more consistent if we believe that we did it for our own purpose).

“When a person has signed an order for your merchandise, even though the profit is small, he is no longer a prospect – he is a customer”

SCARCITY. On the “pyramid” of availability we like to top. Opportunities seem more valuable when their availability is limited. Marketers take advantage of this tendency when they launch a “limited edition”. We make the worst decision when a timer clock ticks (limited with time). That is why auctions are so seductive.

LIKING. The strength of a social bond is twice as likely to produce a sale than the preference for the product (i.e., Tupperware). One of the subgroups of Liking is “Similarity” – we like people who are like us or customized to us. Take a group photo and show it to the group and notice that everybody will first look at themselves. Information about yourself is a strong “magnet of attraction” – we like it, and we want it customized for it. Liking is also caused by Physical attractiveness (the halo effect), Compliments (we are suckers of flattery), Contact and cooperation (familiarity with someone), and Conditioning and association (“kill the messenger” and vice-versa, and the assumption that we have the same personality traits as our friends).

AUTHORITY. The famous Stanley Milgram experiments has showed that the greater the perceived authority of a person, the more likely people are to comply. The sense of responsibility disappears when we do as a leader says.  We are vulnerable to symbols of authority such as titles and clothes. In marketing, as often seen in commercials, this tactic is used by letting authorities convey the message.

UNITY – (FROM THE BOOK PRE-SUASATION). In his book Pre-Suasion, released in 2017, Cialdini added Unity as a 7th principle. The idea of being a team of greatest credibility, and that is why true win-wins are so strong. If there is one quality we want to see in those we interact with, it is trust. In his annual reports, Warren Buffett establishes his credibility early. He describes a mistake he has made or problems the company has encountered and examines the consequences for future outcomes. Rather than burying, minimizing or wallpapering difficulties, Buffett first shows that he is fully aware of the problems and partly fully willing to expose them. When he then describes the strength of Berkshire, readers trust him. The feeling of unity can be interpreted from below:

“With that warning, I will tell you what I would say to my family if they asked me about Berkshires future” – Warren Buffett

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