The book Influence: Science and Practice written by Robert B. Cialdini, who received his graduate and postgraduate training in persuasion and social influence from the University of North Carolina and Columbia University. The book shows how much of human behaviour is automatic, as we go through life we develop “rules of thumb” as shortcuts to decision-making, these shortcuts can be used to influence others. An example shortcut occurs when we assume that if something is expensive then it’s of good quality. These rules of thumb work for us the majority of the time. Drawing from research in the field of social psychology, this book explores six “rules of thumb” or principles of persuasion and how they can beused to persuade and influence others.
The Six Principles of Influence
The book explores in detail the following six principles of influence.
- Reciprocation. The rule of reciprocation states that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. Research shows that there is no human society that does not subscribe to the rule. Trigger by uninvited favours. This rule results in the lowering of the natural inhibitions against transactions.
- Commitment and Consistency. This principle is triggered by our obsessive desire to be (and appear) consistent with what we have already done. The drive to be (and look) consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence, often causing us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests. Once we have made a personal choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.
- Social Proof. One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behaviour. We view a behaviour as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.
- Liking. Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.
- Authority. It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that is the focus of this principle. We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and proper. Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.
- Scarcity. Opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited. The idea of potential loss play a large role in human decision-making. People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. We know that the things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.
This book is very well written and contains numerous examples from research to support each of the principles. I was constantly kept interested and intrigued by the examples and anecdotes, extracted from research, found extensively throughout the book. As I read, I was able to continually relate the principles and examples to experiences in my life, providing numerous “A-HA” moments along the way. The book does give some practical examples, which illustrates how the principles are applied. I recommend this book to anyone in management, leadership, marketing, consulting or in roles.