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The psychology of persuation

Kirjoitettu 13.12.17
Esseen kirjoittaja: Stiina Lampinen
Kirjapisteet: 3
Kirja: Influence: The Psychology of Persuation
Kirjan kirjoittaja: Robert B. Cialdini
Kategoriat: 6. Markkinointi, 6.1. Asiakkuuden työkalut

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Influence is a book on persuasion. It explains the psychology of why people say ”yes” – and how to apply these understandings on selling, advertising, and so on. In this book the author Robert B. Cialdini explains the six universal principles on persuasion, how to use them to become a skilled persuader – and how to defend yourself against them.


Principle number 1: Our shortcuts in judgment can be used against us

We tend to use psychological shortcuts while making decisions. We simply must, because the world is a complex place. It is impossible for us to deliberate the details of every decision we make. Thus, we take shortcuts, and mostly they serve us well, too. Advertisers, salesmen (and so on) can fool us into using these shortcuts against our own interests, such as to buy a product. Commonly used is the “price indicates quality”-shortcut. People usually assume that high-price products are of higher quality than cheap ones. Businesses can use this for example to sell unpopular items by raising their prices.


Principle number 2: Humans have an overpowering need to reciprocate favours

The “rule of reciprocation” signifies that we feel a duty to repay others for whatever they have provided to us. If someone does us a favor and we do not return it, we feel we are in debt. We feel bad, and fear being labelled as ingrates. Several experiments have also shown that people will perform much larger favors in return for small ones. The Krishna organization used this tactic of reciprocation when they gifted flowers to passers-by on the street. Though generally annoyed, people often made donations to Krishna to satisfy their need to reciprocate the flower.


Principle number 3: Rejection-then-retreat is a devious tactic because it evokes reciprocation and the principle of contrast

If a girl scout first asks you to buy a five-dollar raffle ticket, but then retreats to requesting you only buy a one-dollar sweet, you are likely to buy the sweet to match her concession, even if you are not hungry. The rejection-then-retreat strategy is astonishingly powerful in gaining compliance, because we feel obligated to match concessions in negotiations. In additions to our desire to concessions, it also evokes the contrast principle: when two items are presented to us one after another, the difference of the second to the first is magnified. The sweet of the girl scout seems veritably cheap after the five-dollar raffle ticket.


Principle number 4: When opportunities become scare, we desire them more

Scarcity has a powerful influence in our decision-making, since we hate losing opportunities. This is well-known by advertisers and is obvious in their use of “For a limited time only!” and “Last chance!”. Scarcity becomes a powerful influencer under two conditions: First, we tend to want something more if its availability has decreased recently, rather than if it has been low all the time. Second, competition always sets our hearts racing. The thought of losing something to competitor often turns us over-ambitious. This “principle of scarcity” is often used by real estate agents when they mention to buyers that several other bidders are also interested in given house.


Principle number 5: Banned items and information are seen as more desirable

When something is banned or forbidden, it is likely to seem even more desirable. This rebellious phenomenon is often observed by parents in their children: any toy will become far more attractive if a child is expressly forbidden to play with it. Principle is also known as “Romeo and Juliet” effect, and it stems from the fact that humans hate losing opportunities. This poses interesting problems with censorship, since banned information is also considered to be more valuable than freely available information. Rumour has it.


Principle number 6: We are near-obsessed with being and appearing consistent in our words and actions

We have a built-in desire to be consistent with what we have said. An experiment was made, where people on a beach witnessed a staged theft of a radio from a neighbouring towel: only 20 percent reacted. But if the owner of the towel first asked people to “please watch my things”, 95 percent of them reacted, some even chasing down the thief and forcefully grabbing back the radio. Their desire to be consistent with what they had said even made them forget their personal safety.

But what determinates consistency? The answer is simple: commitment. Once we commit to something with words or actions, we wish to be consistent with it. Research shows that public commitment is the most powerful driver of all.


Other fascinating understandings from the book:


When uncertain, we look for social proof. The principle of social proof states that we often determine what to do by looking what others are doing. This is the same reason why, for example, companies seek to get many followers on their social media accounts, or when church ushers fill the collection baskets with a few coins to make it seem like everyone else is making donations. Especially observing people similar to us can greatly influence our choices.


Things we associate with people are very important for likeability. Weathermen, for example, have gotten death threats for accurately predicting poor weather, simply because they associate with this dull matter. On the other hand, giving delicious food to one while telling them about something makes them to associate the matter in question with the positive feelings elicited by the food.


Some people like advertisers, con-artists and salesmen tend to take advantage of these natural tendencies and “reprogrammed” responses of humans. Since we cannot stop using these shortcuts we must be aware of them in order to defend against manipulators who would abuse them.

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