Book notes: Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence book summary by Marlo Yonocruz

Influence: Science and Practice, ePub, 5th Edition by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

Synopsis: “Influence: Science and Practice is an examination of the psychology of compliance (i.e. uncovering which factors cause a person to say “yes” to another’s request).

Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say “yes.” Widely used in classes, as well as sold to people operating successfully in the business world, the eagerly awaited revision of Influence reminds the listener of the power of persuasion.

Cialdini organizes compliance techniques into six categories based on psychological principles that direct human behavior: reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.” – Amazon

Opening thoughts:

Another book that was recommended by Ramit Sethi in one of the Tim Ferriss podcasts I was listening to. Based on the synopsis, I figured it would be one of those books that discusses a topic with scientific and anecdotal support. Most likely, it would cover the key ideas that surround what influences people as it might relate to marketing and sales. At least, I’m sure the insights Ramit got from it could be applied to sales and marketing.

Key ideas/notes:

  • We all have fixed action patterns. Regular, blindly mechanical patterns of action
  • Trigger features in nature make animals play invisible recording tapes
  • Stereotype: expensive = good, and cheap implies inferior
  • Betting the shortcut odds may represent the most rational approach possible (heuristics). Automatic stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving. In other cases, it is simply necessary
  • We exist in an extraordinarily complicated environment, easily the most rapidly moving and complex it has ever existed on this planet. To deal with it, we need shortcuts
  • Judgemental heuristics: mental shortcuts that allows for simplified thinking that works most of the time but leaves us open to occasional costly mistakes
  • Automatic response versus controlled response. People are more likely to have a controlled response when they have the desire and ability to analyze all the given information
  • The ability to manipulate without the appearance of manipulation
  • The contrast principle: lifting a light object and then a heavier object makes the heavier objects seem heavier than it would’ve been if lifted alone
  • The rule of reciprocation: we should try to repay in kind what another person has provided us
  • There is an honored network of obligation in human history and cultures
  • The creation of interdependencies that bind individuals together into highly efficient units. It is a sense of future obligation that is critical to produce social advances
  • We reap what we sew
  • Liking for a person affects compliance
  • By providing someone with a small favor prior to your request can greatly increase the chance that they will do what you wish
    • An obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay
    • Unsolicited assistance can engage the reciprocity rule
    • The reciprocity also applies tot he groups which the individuals belong
    • This rule can engage asymmetrical return on investments
    • The feeling of indebtedness, most of us feel highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation
    • We may be willing to agree to perform a larger favor than the one we received merely to relieve ourselves of the psychological burden of debt
    • Those who violate the reciprocity rule by accepting without attempting to return the good acts of others is disliked by the social group
  • In its purest form, reciprocity is unnecessary and undesirable in certain long-term relationships such as family or established friendships. What is exchanged reciprocally is willingness to provide what the other needs when it is needed
  • An obligation to make a concession for someone who has made a concession for us
    • Little things are not always little, especially when they link to the bigger things in life like reciprocity
  • The rejection then retreat technique, a.k.a. “door in the face”
    • If the initial request is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. The party who makes the extreme request does not seems to be bargaining in good faith. Any retreat from that extreme first request is not seen as genuine
    • The concession uses the rules of contrast and reciprocity in combination
  • Consistency is a powerful motive. In many cases, it is valued and adaptive
    • It offers a shortcut through the complexities of modern life and a way to evade the rigors of continuing thought. It is difficult to curb this automatic response
    • The comforts of mindless consistency. People avoiding logic by hiding behind consistency
    • Big toy companies get parents to commit to buy specialty toys and then undersupply during holiday season, then resupply afterwards with the sale
    • Making a commitment will set the stage for the automatic consistency
  • Foot-in-the-door technique: starting with smaller requests that lead to larger ones
  • Be very careful with agreeing to trivial requests because those agreements can change our self-concepts
    • Written down and publicly made commitments can be used not only to influence others in desirable ways, but also to influence ourselves
  • People try to avoid the look of inconsistency. Therefore, the more public a stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it
  • What makes hazing to precious to various groups?
    • Persons who go through a great deal of pain or trouble to attain something tend to value it more highly than a person who attains the same thing with a minimum of effort
    • Increased severity of initiation equates to increased commitment to group
  • Lowball tactic: makes a person feel pleased with a poor decision
  • Consistency increases with age
  • Individualists decide what they should do next on the basis of what they personally have done
  • Most people have the desire to be and look consistent within their words, beliefs, attitudes, and deeds
    • Consistency is highly valued in society
    • By being consistent with earlier decisions, one reduces the need to process all the relevant information in future similar situations
  • Securing the initial commitment is key. After making a commitment or taking a stand on a position, people are more willing to agree with requests that are in keeping with the prior commitment
    • Ask yourself: “knowing what I know, if I could go back in time, would I make the same commitment?”
  • The principle of social proof
    • We determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct
    • People are more persuaded by the actions of others than any proof you can offer
  • What we prefer to be true will seem to be true
  • Uncertainty develops through lack of familiarity with the situation. In these situations, we look for others to resolve our uncertainty
  • Pluralistic ignorance phenomenon: in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking for what everyone else is doing
  • Bystander effect: the personal responsibility is reduced with the greater amount of people present during the incident
    • Bystanders fail to help because they are unsure, not unkind. This happens when they are unsure whether or not an emergency exists and whether they are responsible for taking action. When responsibility is clear and the emergency is clear, people are exceedingly responsive
    • You must dispel all uncertainties clearly in an emergency situation
    • Get the ball rolling, social proof will do the rest and galvanize others to action
  • We are more likely to follow the lead of a similar individual rather than a dissimilar one
    • The Verta effect: the publicity of one suicide leads to multiple other suicides
    • Certain trouble people who read of another’s self-inflicted death kill themselves in imitation. This is a morbid illustration of social proof
  • Principle of social proof: people follow the lead of others when they are unsure of themselves
    • The relocation of the Jones town people into a strange and foreign land created huge uncertainty. The mentality of the heard makes it easy to manage
    • Be alert to counterfeit social evidence in order to consciously turn off automatic pilot systems
    • Communal cultures and societies are more susceptible to social proof influences
    • Horse betting. Skilled betters will bet on least favored horse early to get others to follow suit and get odds up. Later, they will bet on their true favored horse and win with better odds
  • As a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like
  • What are the factors that cause one person to like another?
    • Good-looking people have an advantage in social interaction
    • Halo effect: one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others in other ways
      • plastic surgery for “ugly” inmates is at least as effective and less costly than rehabilitation methods in keeping them out of jail (not necessarily reducing chances of committing a crime though)
    • Attractive people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently helped, seen as possessing more desirable personality traits and greater intellectual capacities
      • The social benefits of good looks seem to be acquired early on in life
  • We like people who are similar to us
    • Sales training urges salespeople to mirror the customers’ body posture, mood, energy, and verbal style
    • The information that somebody likes us can be a bewitchingly effective device for producing return liking and willing compliance
  • We are phenomenal suckers to flattery
  • For the most part, we like things that are familiar to us
    • More frequent contact approach to race relations can be beneficial
    • However, continued exposure to a person or object under unpleasant conditions such as frustration, conflict, or competition leads to less liking
    • Repeated exposure within the competitive cauldron of the classroom does not ease tensions, it might even intensify it
    • The recipe for disharmony: segregate into groups and add competition
    • Successful joint efforts towards common goals steadily bridged the rift between both groups within summer camp of boys
  • Jigsaw route to learning: require that students work together by giving different sections to each in order to master the material to be tested on in an upcoming examination
    • Competition has its place also, as it can serve as a valuable motivator and an important builder of self-concept
  • Good cop, bad cop
    • There is a tendency to dislike a person who brings us bad news
  • Association principle: what we associate with and whom we associate with impacts us and our image
  • Luncheon technique: subjects become fonder of the people and things they experienced while they were eating
  • Principle of association and Pavlov. Positive feelings associated when eating good food or negative feelings when receiving bad news
    • Connect yourself to good news to be liked, whereas giving bad news will make you disliked
    • In regards to sports teams, people take it personally as their teams’ success links to their personal success
    • Twin desires of people to connect themselves to winners and distance themselves from losers
  • The power of authority pressure and electric shocks experiment
    • When it is their job, how much suffering will ordinary people be willing to inflict on an entirely innocent other person?
    • Deep seated sense of duty to authority we are conditioned to have as kids. Obedience to proper authority is right, and disobedience is wrong
    • Following authority served a practical use as following our parents and older peoples’ advice was wise because they had more knowledge and experience
    • Mindless obedience leads us to appropriate action most of the time
    • Higher authority gets higher respect, and also the impression of larger stature
    • The clothes and “look” of authority also has a dramatic impact
  • 3 effective symbols of authority, rather than substance, are: titles, clothing, and automobiles
  • The practice of acknowledging failure to advance one’s career
    • Trust-enhancing tactic of first providing some mildly negative information about themselves. Through this strategy, they create a perception of honesty that makes all subsequent information seem more credible
  • The scarcity principle: the rule of few
    • The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost
    • This influences determining the worth of an item. If an item is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable
    • The threat of potential loss plays a huge part in human decision making (fear of loss)
    • Messages stressing potential losses are most effective. The most straightforward use occurs in the “limited numbers” tactic
    • We know that difficult to acquire things are typically better than easily acquired things
  • People have the desire to fight against the restriction of their freedoms
    • The “terrible twos” and defiance when given a restriction. The concept of their individualism and autonomy brings the concept of freedom. They are discovering where in their worlds they can expect to be controlled and where they can be in control
    • A wise parent is one who provides highly consistent information
    • For teenagers, there is a similar emerging sense of individuality
    • Romeo and Juliet concept: the psychological reactants produced by parental interference
    • Things we cant have that we want, we tend to assign them positive and better qualities, and see as higher value
    • Exclusive information is more persuasive
    • Newly experienced scarcity is more powerful than constant scarcity. Losing a right or freedom creates more resistance than not ever having the right at all
    • Parents who discipline inconsistently produce more rebellious children
  • Scarcity by social demand/competition is significantly more desirable than scarcity by accident. Cognitive processes are suppressed by our emotional reaction to scarcity pressures (case in point: limited quantities of items during a Black Friday sale)
    • The joy is not in the experiencing of the scarce commodity, but in the possessing of it
    • Reselling a used car with 2 or 3 prospects looking at the same time produced an emotional reaction that made it difficult to think straight
  • When stressed, distracted, or fatigued and have limited energy and resources, we tend to focus on less of the available information and revert to the primitive but necessary single piece of good evidence approach
  • Because we’ve built such a vast, information-laden, and complex world, we must deal with it like the primitive animals we’ve long since transcended
    • “Modern automaticity”
  • In the scientific field, knowledge is known to double every eight years. Most of the information we have as a species is recent
  • Shortcut approach: decisions are made using a single source of usually reliable information
  • Most popular and reliable compliance triggers mentioned in this book:
    • Commitments, reciprocation, social proof and compliant behaviors of similar others, feelings of liking or friendship, authority directives, and scarcity
  • Of the increasing tendency for cognitive overload in our society, the prevalence of shortcut decision-making is likely to increase proportionately

Closing thoughts: Very interesting and insightful book, especially those interested in psychology and its relationship to sales and marketing fields. Very useful for what Robert calls “compliance practitioners” a.k.a. salespeople or those within a company who are seeking to influence prospects into making a buying decision. A great look of the automatic scripts and habits and their triggers that make people want to say “yes,” but also how to spot and avoid them. Definitely a good book to expand your horizons on how these fields work and the underlying principles that make them successful.

Nutshell: Principles of influence on the marketplace and how to identify and apply them in your own life, business, and/or career.

Rating: 4/5

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9 thoughts on “Book notes: Influence by Robert Cialdini”

    1. Yes absolutely!! The psychology of influence is so fascinating but also very applicable to everyone. A lot of these studies he references I remember from psych classes, but it’s a great book I think the general public should read


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