Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition

People have automatic responses to certain stimuli. Without these shortcuts, we’d be processing and evaluating information all day. While useful, these automatic responses leave us vulnerable to people who know how they work. Understanding these behaviors can help protect yourself from unwanted influence.
The tactics fall into six major categories.
  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity
We repay people who have helped us. All human societies abide by this rule. Cooperation allowed for the development of complex civilizations.
  • It is overpowering and even applies for people we dislike.
  • Uninvited favors can trigger indebtedness putting power into the hands of others.
  • It can trigger unfair exchanges. The stigma associated with not reciprocating is so severe it can cause someone to agree to an unequal exchange.
  • Concessions are viewed as a favor and we tend to return the favor. Popular tactic is Reject-then-retreat: Ask for a large request and when denied, ask for something relatively smaller. When we feel like the other person conceded something, makes us more satisfied.
Saying No
  • It can be rude not to accept a gift, but if they use it to sell something, understand it wasn’t a gift but a compliance device.
  • Understand that when they “concede” and ask for a smaller request, it was not a true concession but another compliance tactic.
We have an obsessive desire to be consistent with what we have already done. We act in ways that justify earlier actions and fool ourselves to keep thoughts and actions in line. We even do this when it is against our best interest. The foot-in-the-door technique works by getting the person to agree to something small. The initial agreeing can change self-perception in a direction that leads to granting larger and less-related favors.
  • Power of Writing – Provides physical evidence and can be shown to others. People believe a statement made by someone reflects their true attitude. We look at our behaviors for information on our values. Internal pressure to bring self-image in line with commitment and outside pressure to adjust our image in the way others perceive us.
  • Public Commitments – Tend to be lasting. Driven to look like a consistent person.
  • Effort – “Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort” -Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills. The mind justifies “If I’m putting in the effort, I must value it”. e.g. Fraternity and hazing.
  • Inner Choice – Prisoners of war were led to defect by write dissenting essays for small prizes. Large prizes are external pressure. If prize is small, prisoner must justify why they are doing it for something small.
Growing Own Legs
Personal commitments can build their own support system. Car dealers get you to agree to purchase the car and then switch something or add on costs. People create new reasons to justify. Doesn’t occur to buyers that those additional reasons might never have existed if the first choice had not been made in the first place.
Saying No
  • When we recognize we don’t want to do something, call the person out on what they are doing
  • Sometimes may not realize what is going on. Ask “If I had information now back then, would make the same choice?”
Social Proof
Viewing what other people think as correct behavior. This is particularly useful when there is uncertainty.
  • A single bystander is more likely to act.
  • When people see that something is an emergency, they will act regardless of being in a group.
  • If you are in trouble, call out specific people and give specific responsibilities.
  • Tend to use actions of others if they are similar to us
In a stabbing in NY, there were 38 eye witnesses and nobody did anything.
  • When there are multiple people, the personal responsibility of each person is reduced
  • Pluralistic ignorance – Each person decides that since nobody is concerned, must not be an emergency.
Saying No
  • Recognize when data is in error
  • When evidence is falsified. e.g. don’t buy from companies that have fake testimonials
  • Social proof can be wrong. Occasionally, see if out of sync with other evidence such as our experiences, judgments, or objective facts
We tend to say yes to people we like.
  • Attractiveness – results in a halo effect
  • Similarities – dress, backgrounds, interests. Mirroring or matching behavior
  • Compliments – People are suckers for flattery even if obvious.
  • Contact – People like familiar things
  • Cooperation – Groups working together for common goal (Good cop/bad cop)
  • Conditioning and Association – Dislike bearer of bad news. People more agreeable after meal due to positive associations with good food. Sports highly personalized; when they win, we win. More likely when self-image isn’t good. Some try to inflate success of those they are visibility connected to.
Saying No
  • Too many tactics to stop on-on-one
  • Need to be aware when undue liking develops
  • The stronger the force, the more obvious
  • Need to separate person with merits of the deal
In shocking experiment, 2/3 participants shocked to highest range. People thought would be in ~1-2% range. People are highly susceptible to authority and underestimate their susceptibility.
  • Connotation – Vulnerable to signals of authority which are easily faked
  • Clothes – Can trigger mechanical compliance. e.g. security guard uniform or business suit
  • Possessions – People are less likely to be aggressive to luxury cars and grossly underestimate this type of influence
Saying No
  • Have an heightened awareness of the power of authority
  • 1) Ask if truly an expert in the relevant topic
  • 2) Ask how truthful they would be
  • One tactical compliance method people use is arguing against their best interests to build trust and credibility in order to gain bigger wins e.g. waiter refers you a cheaper entree, but then tries to upsell dessert and wine.
Opportunities seem more valuable when their availability is limited. People are more motivated by losing something than gaining something.
  • When parents disallow a boyfriend/girlfriend, causes couples to try harder
  • When freedom to have something is limited, people desire it more and assign positive qualities to justify
  • Censorship causes people to want it more and like it more
  • In juries, information said to be inadmissible considered more so
Optimal Conditions
  • Drop off from abundance to scarcity produces greater reaction than constant scarcity
  • Revolutionaries typically people who have a lot to lose
  • Need to be consistent in leeway given to teenagers, because more rebellion if freedom is taken away
  • Also, want something if other people want it
Saying No
  • Cognitive processes are usually suppressed by emotions due to scarcity
  • Need to learn to be aware of heightened arousal
  •  Ask if goal is possession or function. If function, understand the scarcity has no impact on performance
Instant Influence
World is so complex these shortcuts are necessary. The problems arise when they cause us to make bad decisions. Anyone who tries to use these against us should be boycotted. Treachery to attempt to make profit in a way that threatens the reliability of our shortcuts. Cannot allow without a fight. Stakes are too high.

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