Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Probably the best book on the psychology of persuasion. Several topics include: How to improve volunteerism by 700%, how to double your sales by doubling your prices, and how to make people feel like they made a choice when you actually made it for them.

  • If we provide a reason for someone to do us a favor, we are more likely to be successful. A compliance response is triggered whenever the word “because” is used.

  • Instead of trying painstakingly to master all of the things that indicate the value of turquoise jewelry, they relied on just one - the characteristic they knew was associated with quality. Their sole focus was on price alone, believing that would be sufficient information.

  • If a man enters a store with the express intent of purchasing a suit, he almost always pays more for whatever additional accessories he purchases after the suit purchase.

  • After showing the run-down houses to his prospects, the real estate agent watches their eyes light up when he shows them the house he really wants to sell them. “I got them spotted for a house that looks great after they looked at a couple of dumps.”

Our most effective weapon for influencing others is the rule of reciprocity. According to the rule, we should return in kind what others have provided us.

  • In a mail appeal for donations, the response rate is about 18 percent, but when the mailing is combined with an unsolicited gift (gummed, personalized address labels), it almost doubles to 35 percent. Because the rule is based on the obligation to receive, it is so easy to exploit. It is the obligation to receive that reduces our capacity to choose whom we wish to owe favors to, placing that control in their hands. Often, people avoid asking for a favor if they can’t repay it.

  • He had made a concession by requesting that I buy some dollar chocolate bars. This was a retreat from his request that I buy some five-dollar tickets. To follow the reciprocity rule, I need to make a concession on my part. As we can see, there was a concession: I changed from being non-compliant to being compliant when he changed from a large to a small request, even though I wasn’t really interested in either of them. In any case, it didn’t matter that I didn’t like chocolate bars; as soon as the Boy Scout offered me a concession, I responded with my own. Compromising is driven by the reciprocity rule, so an initial concession can be a highly effective compliance technique, it consists of rejecting and then retreating.

  • Let’s say you want me to agree to a certain request, the best way to increase your chances is to first ask me for a bigger favor, one I will probably deny. Following my refusal, you would then make the next smaller request that was really on your mind all along. Provided you have structured your requests well, I should view your second request as a concession to me, and I should feel inclined to respond with my own concession, which is the only one I have immediately available to me - compliance with your second request.

  • This rejection-then-retreat tactic encourages people not only to agree to a request, but also to execute the request, and, finally, to volunteer for more requests in the future.

  • Byproducts of the act of concession: feelings of greater responsibility for and satisfaction with the arrangement. Compared to the two others, the strategy of placing an initial extreme demand and then retreating to a moderate one was the most profitable. They reported that they successfully persuaded the opponent to take less money.

As soon as they took a stand, the need for consistency forced them to bring their feelings and beliefs in line with what they had already done. They simply convinced themselves that they made the right decision.

  • We fall into the habit of being consistent out of habit, even in situations where it isn’t the most sensible thing to do. Our mental laziness is sometimes caused by the cursedly obvious and unwelcome answers provided by straight thinking and we would rather not be aware of certain disturbing things as It provides a safe hideaway from troubling realizations, since automatic consistency is a preprogrammed and mindless method of responding.

How Toy Companies Boost Sales in January and February

  • They begin with TV ads for certain special toys prior to Christmas. The kids want what they see, so they make their parents promise that they will receive the items for Christmas.

What makes each company’s plan genius is this:

  • They undersupply the stores with the toys they’ve persuaded the parents to buy. In most cases, parents have to substitute other toys of equal value when those things sell out. Of course, these substitutes are readily available from toy manufacturers. As soon as Christmas is over, the companies begin running ads for their other, special toys. That makes the kids want those toys more than ever. Afterward, the children go running to their parents whimpering, “You promised, you promised,” while the adults traipse off to the store as promised.

In a survey, a sample of Bloomington, Indiana, residents were asked what they would say if they were asked to collect money for the American Cancer Society for 3 hours.

  • Those who answered the survey did not want to appear uncharitable to the survey taker or to themselves, so many said that they would volunteer. This sly commitment procedure led to a 700 percent increase in volunteers when an American Cancer Society representative called a few days later.

Once he has agreed to a request, his attitude may change, he may become, in his own volition, the kind of person who does this sort of thing.

  • A volunteer came to their door and asked them to accept and display a small three-inch-square sign that said BE A SAFE DRIVER. They all agreed to it as it was such a trifling request. However, the effects of that request were immense. Because they had innocently complied with a trivial safe-driving request a few weeks before, these homeowners became remarkably open to complying with a massive request a few days later.
  • Having improved a man’s mental image, he should conform naturally to all your requests that are in line with that view.

For example, Amway Corporation has discovered a way to spur its sales personnel to greater and greater success. Each employee is asked to set individual sales goals and personally record their commitment to those goals: Before you begin, set a goal and write it down. Whatever your goal, it’s important to write it down, so that you’ll have an objective.

  • Every time one takes a stand that is visible to others, there is a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person.

In Chinese prisons, large prizes were deferred for weaker inducements: They wanted the men to own up to their actions. There were no excuses, no ways out.

An individual who has suffered through an arduous hazing cannot be allowed to believe he did so for charitable reasons. Neither bribery nor threats should be used to force our children to do the things we want them to strongly believe in.

The sequence remains the same regardless of the type of lowballing used:

  • Before the deal is sealed, the original purchase advantage is deftly removed. Under these circumstances, it seems almost impossible that a customer would purchase a car, and yet, it works.
  • Our stomachs turn when we realize we must comply with a request we do not wish to comply with.

A few kids watched 23 minutes of a movie about kids being social and accepted.

  • Meanwhile, the withdrawn children who had not seen this film remained as isolated as ever, while those who had viewed the movie were now leading their schools in social activities
  • A single viewing of this 23-minute movie was enough to reverse a potential pattern of lifelong maladaptive behavior.

Social proof is indeed powerful.

  • Sports fans are involved in the outcome of a match because a loss to their hometown would diminish them personally. Exactly how? By association. The mere connection to his birthplace hooked him, it bound him, it connected him to the incoming success or failure.

You support your own sex, your own culture, your own locality, and want to show that you are better than others. If your team wins, you win; so whoever you cheer for represents you.

Using the pronoun “we” implies the closest possible identifier with the team. When describing their school-team victory by using the pronoun “we,” such as, “We beat Houston, 17 to 14,” or “We won.”

However, in the case of a lost game, “we” was rarely used. They used terms to keep themselves apart from the defeated team - “They lost to Missouri, 30 to 20,” or “I don’t know the score, but Arizona State lost.”

If we are truly satisfied with our accomplishments, we will not seek reflected glory.

However, when prestige (both public and private) slips, our focus will turn to using other people’s successes to restore our image.

A well-tailored business suit signifies authority status in our culture. It elicits a surprising level of deference from total strangers.

He recommended dishes that were slightly less expensive than originally ordered, proving he was a reliable source of information. He seemed to have the customers' best interests at heart, instead of trying to line his own pockets. It was apparent that he was both knowledgeable and honest, a combination that gave him great credibility.

  • Oftentimes, I interrupt an interesting face-to-face conversation to answer an unknown phone call. In such a scenario, the caller has a compelling feature that my face-to-face partner lacks: potential unavailability. I might lose that call (and the information it contains) forever if I don’t take it.

  • The thought of losing something seems to motivate people more than the thought of gaining something equally valuable. As an example, homeowners who are informed that they could lose money if their homes were not adequately insulated are more likely to insulate their homes.

Increase the immediate value of an item by convincing customers that it is rare.

  • When unavailability interferes with our access to a particular item, we respond by desiring to possess it at all cost because we are convinced of its rarity.

  • This tendency leads one to think that what is banned is more worthwhile for this reason.

  • People who belong to fringe political groups, for example, may find that their most effective strategy is not to publicize their unpopular views, but to get their views censored officially and then to publicize the censorship.

  • The customers who were told about the impending scarcity using “exclusive” information bought six times as much.

Dropping from abundance to scarcity triggered a more positive reaction to the items than constant scarcity. It is most likely that we will see revolutions after a period of improving economic and social conditions was followed by a short, sharp change in those conditions. In other words, traditionally downtrodden people are not particularly prone to revolt since they regard their deprivation as a natural part of life. A revolutionist is more likely to be someone who has experienced some form of progressive development. As soon as the economic and social improvements they have grown to expect and experience suddenly become less available, they desire them more than ever and often act violently to get them.

For would-be leaders, this pattern offers valuable lessons:

  • It is more dangerous to give freedoms for a while than to never give them at all.

  • The parent who grants privileges or fails to enforce the rules consistently invites rebelliousness by unwittingly allowing the child to indulge.

As soon as we feel the tide of emotion flowing from scarcity influences, that rise in intensity signifies that we need to back off. Wise decisions cannot be based on finicky and feverish reactions. In order to return to a rational perspective, we need to calm ourselves down.

As Alvin Toffler documented in his book Future Shock, the pace of daily life has been accelerating at an unprecedented rate:

Travel has become faster and more frequent, relocation to new residences is more frequent, with houses built and demolished faster. The number of people we communicate with increases, but our relationships with them are shortened.

There is now a plethora of styles and products available that weren’t conceivable a year ago and will likely be forgotten in future years as civilized existence can be described as a combination of novelty, transience, diversity, and acceleration.