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Influence: Science and Practice

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago

Robert Cialdini (1988) Influence: Science and Practice

Up: Key References


This book arose from an intriguing double investigation. The author and colleagues studied various "compliance professionals" including used-car salesmen, Hare Krishna fundraisers, restaurant waiting staff and door-to-door salesmen. They also used controlled laboratory experiments to test hypotheses about compliance.


The resulting science has been boiled down to seven basic principles of persuasion which this book explains in a very informal and unintimidating way. The principles are illustrated with many examples from marketing, politics and other aspects of life. Although this is basically a science textbook, with study questions, extensive references and all the rest, its topic (what makes people tick) is so interesting and the presentation so engaging that I would recommend it to anyone.


The overall theme of the book is that automaticity plays a much greater role in social decisions than we imagine; rather than wisely balancing all the relevant factors, we respond to very simple features of the situation we are in. From the perspective of advertisers, salesmen or cult leaders these heuristics are a vulnerability that they can exploit for profit.


The copy I have is the second edition, published by HarperCollins. Subsequent revised editions have been released. The second edition has about 260 references.


Cialdini has written other books on persuasion research. See Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion


One passage of the book is examined in Halo Effects of Attractiveness.


Biases and heuristics discussed in the book:


Chapter 1. Weapons of Influence

Triggering behaviour by uninformative or unreliable stimuli; Contrast effects


Chapter 2. Reciprocation

Reciprocity rule; Rejection, then retreat (another kind of contrast effect)


Chapter 3. Commitment and Consistency

Escalating commitments; Commitment to justify effort (e.g. hazing)


Chapter 4. Social Proof

Canned and hired laughter; Festinger's "When Prophecy Fails"; Bystander effect and pluralistic ignorance; Three-day effect on suicides and violence (Phillips)


Chapter 5. Liking

Halo effects; Effects of attractiveness and similarity on compliance; Sherif research on inter-group conflict; Aaronson on jigsaw classroom; Reverse halo effect: negative effect on perception of a person due to association with bad news (weathermen, sports teams who lose)


Chapter 6. Authority

Milgram obedience experiment; Effect of requester status (e.g. uniform) on compliance; Halo effect on height(!) (i.e. the same person, credited with higher professional status, appears taller)


Chapter 7. Scarcity

Effect of scarcity on evaluation of quality; effect on competitive behaviour; Feigned scarcity as a way of getting commitment; Psychological reactance (loss of opportunity to do something makes us want to do it more); Commodity theory of persuasion


Chapter 8. Instant Influence

Thoughts on the necessity of heuristics in a complicated world and the determination needed to resist influence

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