Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini

Have you ever gotten an unsolicited key-chain in the mail, and donated money to the charity that sent it? At Christmas time, have you wondered why it’s suddenly impossible to find that special toy your child wants? At some point in your life, have you found yourself wanting to keep up with “the Jones’s”? Or against your better judgment, have agreed to accept less-than favourable conditions in a negotiation?

If you answered “yes” to at least one of the questions above, then perhaps you’ll identify with Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, who starts his bestseller: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by saying: “I can admit it freely now. All my life I’ve been a patsy.” Now, I’m not suggesting you’re a patsy; but it may be possible that like all of us, you’ve made below-par decisions based primarily on your unconscious mental tapes…the ones we’ve all constructed in order to free-up the conscious mind to focus on the complexities of our fast-moving world. And that like Dr. Cialdini, your decisions were made after someone—a marketer; a boss—in understanding how those mental tapes worked, exploited them.

In this compelling book, Cialdini likens the strategies that marketers use today to: the same techniques the Chinese used during the Korean War to seduce POWs into collaborating with them; the solicitation system the Hare Krishna Society adopted in the ‘70’s to dramatically increased its coffers; the method by which the people of Jonestown were persuaded to “drink the kool-aid”. It is somewhat shocking to realize how vulnerable we are to advertisers and salespeople who know how to trigger our subconscious responses for their own profit.

In each of the book’s six chapters, Dr. Cialdini breaks down the elements of those responses into the following principles: Reciprocity; Scarcity; Liking; Authority; Social proof; and Commitment/Consistency. Each principle is backed by social scientific testing and retesting, and presented by anecdotal and vivid real-life examples. At the end of each chapter, Cialdini offers valuable tools which are designed to shake-off anyone who tries to manipulate us.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is not a new book. It was last updated in 1994. (A spin-off: “Influence: Science and Practice” is used primarily as a textbook for classroom instruction.) Regardless of its age, The Psychology of Persuasion is still considered to be the sales and marketing bible. Marketer or not, you’ll find it a fascinating and gripping read.

Reviewed by: Penny Steen

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