Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

278 Pages · 2009 · 2.06 MB · English

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion


    The Psychology



    ROBERT B. CIALDINI PH.D. This book is dedicated to Chris,

    who glows in his father’s eye Contents

    Introduction v


    Weapons of Influence 1


    Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take…and Take 13


    Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind 43


    Social Proof: Truths Are Us 87


    Liking: The Friendly Thief 126


    Authority: Directed Deference 157


    Scarcity: The Rule of the Few 178

    Epilogue Instant Influence:

    Primitive Consent for an Automatic Age 205

    Notes 211

    Bibliography 225

    Index 241


    About the Author



    About the Publisher INTRODUCTION

    I can admit it freely now. All my life I’ve been a patsy. For as long as I

    can recall, I’ve been an easy mark for the pitches of peddlers, fund-

    raisers, and operators of one sort or another. True, only some of these

    people have had dishonorable motives. The others—representatives of

    certain charitable agencies, for instance—have had the best of intentions.

    No matter. With personally disquieting frequency, I have always found

    myself in possession of unwanted magazine subscriptions or tickets to

    the sanitation workers’ ball. Probably this long-standing status as

    sucker accounts for my interest in the study of compliance: Just what

    are the factors that cause one person to say yes to another person? And

    which techniques most effectively use these factors to bring about such

    compliance? I wondered why it is that a request stated in a certain way

    will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly

    different fashion will be successful.

    So in my role as an experimental social psychologist, I began to do

    research into the psychology of compliance. At first the research vi / Influence

    took the form of experiments performed, for the most part, in my

    laboratory and on college students. I wanted to find out which psycho-

    logical principles influence the tendency to comply with a request. Right

    now, psychologists know quite a bit about these principles—what they

    are and how they work. I have characterized such principles as weapons

    of influence and will report on some of the most important in the up-

    coming chapters.

    After a time, though, I began to realize that the experimental work,

    while necessary, wasn’t enough. It didn’t allow me to judge the import-

    ance of the principles in the world beyond the psychology building and

    the campus where I was examining them. It became clear that if I was

    to understand fully the psychològy of compliance, I would need to

    broaden my scope of investigation. I would need to look to the compli-

    ance professionals—the people who had been using the principles on

    me all my life. They know what works and what doesn’t; the law of

    survival of the fittest assures it. Their business is to make us comply,

    and their livelihoods depend on it. Those who don’t know how to get

    people to say yes soon fall away; those who do, stay and flourish.

    Of course, the compliance professionals aren’t the only ones who

    know about and use these principles to help them get their way. We

    all employ them and fall victim to them, to some degree, in our daily

    interactions with neighbors, friends, lovers, and offspring. But the

    compliance practitioners have much more than the vague and amateur-

    ish understanding of what works than the rest of us have. As I thought

    about it, I knew that they represented the richest vein of information

    about compliance available to me. For nearly three years, then, I com-

    bined my experimental studies with a decidedly more entertaining

    program of systematic immersion into the world of compliance profes-

    sionals—sales operators, fund-raisers, recruiters, advertisers, and others.

    The purpose was to observe, from the inside, the techniques and

    strategies most commonly and effectively used by a broad range of

    compliance practitioners. That program of observation sometimes took

    the form of interviews with the practitioners themselves and sometimes

    with the natural enemies (for example, police buncosquad officers,

    consumer agencies) of certain of the practitioners. At other times it in-

    volved an intensive examination of the written materials by which

    compliance techniques are passed down from one generation to anoth-

    er—sales manuals and the like.

    Most frequently, though, it has taken the form of participant observa-

    tion. Participant observation is a research approach in which the re-

    searcher becomes a spy of sorts. With disguised identity and intent, the

    investigator infiltrates the setting of interest and becomes a full-fledged Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D / vii

    participant in the group to be studied. So when I wanted to learn about

    the compliance tactics of encyclopedia (or vacuum-cleaner, or portrait-

    photography, or dance-lesson) sales organizations, I would answer a

    newspaper ad for sales trainees and have them teach me their methods.

    Using similar but not identical approaches, I was able to penetrate ad-

    vertising, public-relations, and fund-raising agencies to examine their

    techniques. Much of the evidence presented in this book, then, comes

    from my experience posing as a compliance professional, or aspiring

    professional, in a large variety of organizations dedicated to getting us

    to say yes.

    One aspect of what I learned in this three-year period of participant

    observation was most instructive. Although there are thousands of

    different tactics that compliance practitioners employ to produce yes,

    the majority fall within six basic categories. Each of these categories is

    governed by a fundamental psychological principle that directs human

    behavior and, in so doing, gives the tactics their power. The book is

    organized around these six principles, one to a chapter. The prin-

    ciples—consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, and

    scarcity—are each discussed in terms of their function in the society

    and in terms of how their enormous force can be commissioned by a

    compliance professional who deftly incorporates them into requests

    for purchases, donations, concessions, votes, assent, etc. It is worthy of

    note that I have not included among the six principles the simple rule

    of material self-interest—that people want to get the most and pay the

    least for their choices. This omission does not stem from any perception

    on my part that the desire to maximize benefits and minimize costs is

    unimportant in driving our decisions. Nor does it come from any

    evidence I have that compliance professionals ignore the power of this

    rule. Quite the opposite: In my investigations, I frequently saw practi-

    tioners use (sometimes honestly, sometimes not) the compelling “I can

    give you a good deal” approach. I choose not to treat the material self-

    interest rule separately in this book because I see it as a motivational

    given, as a goes-without-saying factor that deserves acknowledgment

    but not extensive description.

    Finally, each principle is examined as to its ability to produce a distinct

    kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willing-

    ness to say yes without thinking first. The evidence suggests that the

    ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make

    this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent

    in the future. It will be increasingly important for the society, therefore,

    to understand the how and why of automatic influence.

    It has been some time since the first edition of Influence was published. viii / Influence

    In the interim, some things have happened that I feel deserve a place

    in this new edition. First, we now know more about the influence

    process than before. The study of persuasion, compliance, and change

    has advanced, and the pages that follow have been adapted to reflect

    that progress. In addition to an overall update of the material, I have

    included a new feature that was stimulated by the responses of prior


    That new feature highlights the experiences of individuals who have

    read Influence, recognized how one of the principles worked on (or for)

    them in a particular instance, and wrote to me describing the event.

    Their descriptions, which appear in the Reader’s Reports at the end of

    each chapter, illustrate how easily and frequently we can fall victim to

    the pull of the influence process in our everyday lives.

    I wish to thank the following individuals who—either directly or

    through their course instructors—contributed the Reader’s Reports

    used in this edition: Pat Bobbs, Mark Hastings, James Michaels, Paul

    R. Nail, Alan J. Resnik, Daryl Retzlaff, Dan Swift, and Karla Vasks. In

    addition, I would like to invite new readers to submit similar reports

    for possible publication in a future edition. They may be sent to me at

    the Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ


    —ROBERT B. CIALDINI Chapter 1



    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not sim-





    opened an Indian jewelry store in Arizona. She was giddy with a

    curious piece of news. Something fascinating had just happened, and

    she thought that, as a psychologist, I might be able to explain it to her.

    The story involved a certain allotment of turquoise jewelry she had

    been having trouble selling. It was the peak of the tourist season, the

    store was unusually full of customers, the turquoise pieces were of good

    quality for the prices she was asking; yet they had not sold. My friend

    had attempted a couple of standard sales tricks to get them moving.

    She tried calling attention to them by shifting their location to a more

    central display area; no luck. She even told her sales staff to “push” the

    items hard, again without success.

    Finally, the night before leaving on an out-of-town buying trip, she

    scribbled an exasperated note to her head saleswoman, “Everything in

    this display case, price × ½,” hoping just to be rid of the offending pieces,

    even if at a loss. When she returned a few days later, she was not sur-

    prised to find that every article had been sold. She was shocked, though,

    to discover that, because the employee had read the “½” in her scrawled

    message as a “2,” the entire allotment had sold out at twice the original


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