Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Chapter 1 – Weapons of Influence

  • They (ethologists) have begun to identify regular, blindly, mechanical patterns of action in a wide variety of species…Called fixed-action patterns, they can involve intricate sequences of behavior…
  • A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor, we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
  • “expensive = good” stereotype
  • In fact, automatic, stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving, and in other cases, it is simply necessary. You and I exist in an extraordinarily complicated stimulus environment, easily the most rapidly moving and complex that has ever existed on this planet. To deal with it, we need shortcuts.
  • It is odd that despite their current widespread use and looming future importance, most of us know very little about automatic behavior patterns.
  • Unlike the mostly instinctive response sequences of non-humans, our automatic tapes usually developed from psychological principles or stereotypes we have learned to accept.
  • There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is.


Chapter 2 – Reciprocation

  • The rule (of reciprocation) says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. If a woman does us a favor, we should do her one and return; if a man sends us a birthday present, we should remember his birthday with a gift of our own; If a couple invites us to a party, we should be sure to invite them to one of ours. By virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.
  • Cultural anthropologist Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox view this “web of indebtedness” as a unique adaptive mechanism of human beings, allowing for the division of labor, the exchange of diverse services (making it possible for experts to develop), and the creation of a cluster of interdependencies that bind individuals together into highly efficient units.
  • Another person can trigger a feeling of indebtedness by doing us an uninvited favor.
  • French anthropologist, Marcel Mauss, in describing the social pressures surrounding the gift-giving process in human culture, can state, There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay.”
  • A person who violates the reciprocity rule by accepting without attempting to return the good act of others is actively disliked by the social group … There is a genuine distaste for individuals who fail to conform to the dictates of the reciprocity rule.
  • Another consequence of the rule, however, is an obligation to make a concession to someone who is made a concession to us.
  • It is in the interests of any human group to have its members working together toward the achievement of common goals. However, in many social interactions, the participants begin with requirements and demands that are unacceptable to one another. Thus, a society must arrange to have these initial, incompatible desires set aside for the sake of socially beneficial cooperation. This is accomplished through procedures that promote compromise.
  • After all, if there were no social obligation to reciprocate a concession, who would want to make the first sacrifice? To do so would be to risk giving up something and getting nothing back.
  • The rejection-then-retreat technique shows that if the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. In such cases, the party who is made the extreme first request is not seen to be bargaining in good faith.
  • Strangely enough, then, it seems that the rejection-then-retreat tactic spurs people not only to agree to the desired request but actually carry out the request and, finally, to volunteer to perform further requests.
  • The requester’s concession within the technique not only cause his targets to say “yes” more often, it also causes them to feel more responsible for having dictated the final agreement… A person who feels responsible for the terms of a contract will be more likely to live up to that contract.
  • Since the tactic uses a concession to bring about compliance, the victim is likely to feel more satisfied with the arrangement as a result. Then it stands to reason that people who are satisfied with the given arrangement are more likely to be willing to agree to further such arrangements.
  • Once we have determined that this initial offer was not a favor but a compliance tactic, we need only to react to it accordingly to be free of its influence. As long as we perceive and define his action as a compliance device instead of a favor, he no longer has the reciprocation rule as an ally: the rule says that favors are to be met with favors; It does not require the tricks be met with favors.
  • … The reciprocity rule asserts that if justice is to be done, exploitation attempts should be exploited.


Chapter 3 – Commitment and Consistency

  • It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.
  • Indeed, we all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.
  • 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 interest.
  • Inconsistency is commonly thought to be an undesirable personality trait. The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don’t match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill. On the other side, a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. It is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty.
  • Once we have made up our minds about an issue, stubborn consistency allows us a very appealing luxury: We really don’t have to think hard about the issue anymore…Instead, all we have to do when confronted with the issue is to turn on our consistency tape, click, whirr, and we know just what to believe, say, or do.
  • Sometimes it is the cursedly clear and unwelcome set of answers provided by straight thinking that makes us mental slackers. There are certain disturbing things that we simply would rather not realize. Because it is a pre-programmed and mindless method of responding, automatic consistency can supply a safe hiding place from those troubling realizations. Sealed within the fortress walls of rigid consistency, we can be impervious to the sieges of reason.
  • For the exploiters, whose interest will be served by an unthinking, mechanical reaction to their requests, our tendency for automatic consistency is a goldmine.
  • If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with the earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.
  • The tactic of starting with a little request in order to gain eventual compliance with related larger requests has a name: the foot-in-the-door technique.
  • …be very careful about agreeing to trivial requests.
  • …What those around us think is true of us is enormously important in determining what we ourselves think is true.
  • Once an active commitment is made, then, self-image is squeezed from both sides by consistency pressures. From the inside, there is a pressure to bring self-image into line with action. From the outside, there is a sneakier pressure – the tendency to adjust this image according to the way others perceive us.
  • Public commitments need to be lasting commitments.
  • It appears that commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behavior when they are active, public, and effortful.
  • Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the act. Consequently, we won’t feel committed to it. The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.
  • … we should never heavily bribe or threaten our children to do things we want them to truly believe in. Pressures will probably produce temporary compliance with our wishes. However, if we want more than just that, if we want children to believe in the correctness of what they have done, if we want them to continue to perform the desired behavior when we are not present to apply those outside pressures, we must somehow arrange for them to accept any responsibility for the actions we want them to take.
  • … compliance professionals love commitments that produce inner change. First, that change is not just specific to the situation where it first occurred; it covers a whole range of related situations, too. Second, the effects of the change are lasting. So, once a man has been induced to take action that shifts his self-image to that of, let’s say, a public-spirited citizen, he is likely to be public-spirited in a variety of other circumstances where his compliance may also be desired, and he is likely to continue his public-spirited behavior for as long as his new self-image holds.
  • There is yet another attraction and commitments that lead to inner change – they grow their own legs. There is no need for the compliance professional to undertake a costly and continuing effort to reinforce the change; the pressure for consistency will take care of all that.


Chapter 4 – Social Proof

  • It (the principle of social proof) states That 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 behavior.
  • As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it.
  • … Our preference for shortcuts, our tendency to react automatically on the basis of partial evidence. They know that their tapes will cue our tapes. Click, whirr.
  • “Since 95% of the people are imitators and only 5% initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.” – Cavett Robert
  • The principle of social proof says so: the greater the number of people who find an idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.
  • In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct … In the process of examining the reactions of other people to resolve our uncertainty, however, we are likely to overlook a subtle but important fact. Those people are probably examining the social evidence too. Especially in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon called “pluralistic ignorance.”
  • In times of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues. We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency…The fascinating upshot of Latane’ and Darley’s reasoning is that, for the emergency victim, the idea of “safety in numbers” may often be completely wrong. It might be that someone in need of emergency aid would have a better chance of survival if a single bystander rather than a crowd, was present.
  • Without question, when people are uncertain, they are more likely to use other’s actions to decide how they themselves should act. But, in addition, there is another important working condition: similarity. The principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us. It is the conduct of such people that gives us the greatest insight into what constitutes correct behavior for ourselves. Therefore, we are more inclined to follow the lead of a similar individual than a dissimilar one.
  • The difficulty is compounded by the realization that most of the time, we don’t want to guard against information that social proof provides. The evidence it offers about how we should act is usually valid and valuable.
  • If we can become sensitive to situations where the social proof automatic pilot is working with inaccurate information, we can disengage the mechanism and grasp the controls when we need to.
  • There are two types of situations in which incorrect data causes the principle of social proof to give us poor counsel. The first occurs when social evidence has been purposely falsified. Invariably these situations are manufactured by exploiters intent on creating the impression – reality be damned – that a multitude is performing the way the exploiters want us to perform.
  • Because automatic pilots can be engaged and disengaged at will, we can cruise along trusting in the course steered by the principle of social proof until we recognize that a piece of inaccurate data is being used. Then we can take the controls, make the necessary correction for the misinformation, then reset the automatic pilot.
  • In addition to the times when social evidence is deliberately faked, there is another time when the principle of social proof will regulate steer us wrong. In such an instance, and innocent, natural error will produce snowballing social proof that pushes us to the incorrect decision. The pluralist ignorance phenomenon, in which everyone had an emergency sees no cause for alarm, is one example of this process.
  • We need to check the machine from time to time to be sure that it hasn’t worked itself out of sync with the other sources of evidence in the situation – the objective facts, our prior experiences, and our own judgments. Fortunately, this precaution requires neither much effort nor much time. A quick glance around is all that is needed…


Chapter 5 – Liking

  • Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we must prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with the requests.
  • Although it is generally acknowledged that good looking people have an advantage in social interaction, recent findings indicate that we may have sorely underestimated the size and reach of that advantage. There seems to be a click, whirr response to attractive people…The response itself falls into a category that social scientists call “halo effects.” A halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others.
  • We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area opinions, personality traits, background, or lifestyle. Consequently, those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in any of a wide variety of ways.
  • Many sales training programs now urge trainers to “mirror and match” the customer’s body posture, mood, and verbal style, as similarities along each of these dimensions have been shown to lead to positive results.
  • The information that someone fancies us can be a bewitchingly effective device for producing return liking and willing compliance. So, often in terms of flattery or simple claims of affinity, we hear positive estimation from people who want something from us.
  • Although there are limits to our gullibility – especially when we can be sure that the flatterer is trying to manipulate us – we tend, as a rule, to believe praise and to like those who provided it, oftentimes but it is clearly false.
  • For the most part, we like things that are familiar to us.
  • Often, we don’t realize that our attitude towards something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.
  • Research shows that becoming familiar with something through repeated contact doesn’t necessarily cause greater liking. In fact, continued exposure to a person or object under unpleasant conditions such as frustration, conflict, or competition needs to less liking.
  • … Although the familiarity produced by contact usually leads to greater liking, the opposite occurs if the contact carries distasteful experiences with it. The evidence that team-oriented learning is an antidote to this disorder may tell us about the heavy impact of cooperation on the liking process.
  • Compliance professionals of forever attempting to establish that we and they are working for the same goals, that we must “pull together” for mutual benefit, that they are, in essence, our teammates.
  • There is a natural human tendency to dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information, even when that person did not cause the bad news. The simple association with it is enough to stimulate our dislike.
  • People do assume that we have the same personality traits as our friends.
  • A lot of strange behavior can be explained by the fact that people understand the association principle well enough to strive to link themselves to positive events and separate themselves from negative events – even when they have not caused the events.
  • As distinguished author Isaac Asimov put it in describing our reactions to the contests we view, “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality… and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for a represents you; and when he wins, you
  • … we purposefully manipulate the visibility of our connections with winners and losers in order to make ourselves look good to anyone who could view these connections. By showcasing the positive associations and burying the negative ones, we are trying to get observers to think more highly of us and to like us more.
  • If it is true that, to make ourselves look good, we try to bask in the reflected glory of the successes we are even remotely associated with, a provocative implication emerges: we will be most likely to use this approach when we feel that we don’t look so good. Whenever our public image is damaged, we will experience an increased desire to restore that image by trumpeting our ties to successful others. At the same time, we will most scrupulously avoid publicizing our ties to failing others.
  • Rather than trying to recognize and prevent the action of liking factors before they have a chance to work on us, we might be well advised to let them work. Our vigilance should be directed not toward the things that may produce undue liking for a compliance practitioner, but toward the fact that undue liking has been produced. The time to react protectively is when we feel ourselves liking the practitioner more than we should under the circumstances.
  • Of course, and making a compliance decision, it is always a good idea to keep separate our feelings about the requester and the request. But once immersed in even brief personal and social contact with the requester, that distinction is easy to forget. In those instances when we don’t care one way or the other about a requester, forgetting to make the distinction won’t steer us very wrong. The big mistakes are likely to come when we are fond of the person making a request.


Chapter 6 – Authority

  • … We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. The essential message fills the parental lessons, the schoolhouse rhymes, stories, and songs of our childhood and is carried forward in the legal, military, and political systems we encounter as adults. Notions of submission and loyalty to legitimate rule are accorded much value in each.
  • We rarely agonized to such a degree over the pros and cons of authority’s demands. In fact, our obedience frequently takes place in a click, whirr fashion, with little or no conscious deliberation. Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.
  • … once we realized that obedience to authority is mostly rewarding, it is easy to allow ourselves the convenience of automatic obedience. The simultaneous blessing and bane of such blind obedience is its mechanical character. We don’t have to think; therefore, we don’t. Although such mindless obedience leads us to appropriate action in the great majority of cases, there will be conspicuous exceptions- because we are reacting rather than thinking.
  • The worrisome possibility arises, then, that when a physician makes a clear error, no one lower in the hierarchy will think to question it – precisely because, once legitimate authority has given an order, subordinates stop thinking in the situation and start reacting.
  • Titles are simultaneously the most difficult and the easiest symbols of authority to acquire. To earn one normally takes years of work and achievement. Yet it is possible for somebody who has put in none of this effort to adopt the mere label and receive a kind of automatic deference.
  • Because we see size and status as related, it is possible for certain individuals to benefit by substituting the former for the latter.
  • The outward signs of power and authority frequently may be counterfeited with the flimsiest of materials.
  • A second kind of authority symbol that can trigger our mechanical compliance is clothing. Though more tangible than a title, the cloak of authority is every bit as fakeable.
  • Aside from its function in uniforms, clothing can symbolize the more generalized type of authority when it serves an ornamental purpose. Finely styled and expensive clothes carry an aura of status and position, as do trapping such as jewelry and cars.
  • A better understanding of the workings of authority influence should help us resist it. Yet there is a perverse complication – the familiar one inherent in all weapons of influence: we shouldn’t want to resist altogether, or even most of the time. Generally, authority figures know what they’re talking about.
  • Posing two questions to ourselves can help enormously to accomplish this trick. The first is to ask when we are confronted with what appears to be an authority figure’s influence attempt, “Is this authority truly an expert?”
  • Suppose, though, we are confronted with an authority we determine is a relevant expert. Before submitting to authority influence, it would be wise to ask a simple second question:” How truthful can we expect the expert to be here?
  • We allow ourselves to be much more swayed by experts who seem to be impartial then by those who have something to gain by convincing us; and this has been shown by resources to be true around the world.


Chapter 7 – Scarcity

  • … The scarcity principle – that opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited…
  • The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision-making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.
  • Probably the most straightforward use of the scarcity principle occurs in the “limited-number” tactic, when the customer is informed that a certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long.
  • Related to a limited-number technique is the “deadline” tactic, in which some official time it is placed on the customer’s opportunity to get what the compliance professional is offering.
  • In the instance of the scarcity principle, the power comes from two major sources. The first is familiar. Like the other weapons of influence, the scarcity principle trades on our weakness for shortcuts… In addition, there is a unique, secondary source of power within the scarcity principle: as opportunities become less available, we lose freedoms; and we hate to lose freedoms we already have.
  • Child psychologists have traced the tendency back to the start of the third year of life – a year independently identified as a problem by parents and widely known to them as the “terrible twos period.” Most parents can attest to the development of a decidedly more contrary style in the children around this period. Two-year-olds seem masters of the art of resistance to outside, especially parental, pressure: Tell them one thing, they do the opposite; Give them one toy, they want another; Pick them up against their will, they wriggle and squirm to be put down, Put them down against the will they claw and struggled to be carried.
  • Why should psychological reactance emerge at the age of two? Perhaps the answer has to do with the crucial change that most children go through around this time. It is then that they first come to a full recognition of themselves as individuals. No longer do they view themselves as mere extensions of the social milieu but rather as identifiable, singular, and separate.
  • When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it. However, we rarely recognized that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want
  • The irony is that for such people – members of fringe political groups, for example – the most effective strategy may not be to publicize their unpopular views, but to get those views officially censored and then the publicize the censorship.
  • …developmental psychologists reported that as a general style, the desire to oppose adult control begins quite soon in adolescence, around the start of teenage years. Non-scientific observers have also noted that the early rise of these strong oppositional tendencies.
  • The realization that we have limited information allows us to apply the scarcity principle to realms beyond material commodities. The principle works for messages, communications, and knowledge, too. Taking this perspective, we can see that information may not have to be censored for us to value it more; it need only be scarce.
  • …Social scientists have determined that such scarcity is a primary cause of political turmoil and violence. Perhaps the most prominent proponent this argument is James C Davies, who states that we are most likely to find revolutions where a period of improving economic and social conditions is followed by a short, sharp reversal in those conditions. Thus, it is not the traditionally most downtrodden people – who have come to see their deprivations as part of the natural order of things – who are especially liable to revolt. Instead, revolutionaries are more likely to be those who have been given at least some taste of a better life.
  • We should not be surprised, then, when research shows that parents who enforce discipline inconsistently produce generally rebellious children.
  • Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we were are in competition for it.
  • As a general rule, whenever the dust settles and we find losers looking and speaking like winners (and vice-versa), we should be especially wary of the conditions that kicked up the dust – in the present case, open competition for a scarce resource.
  • Knowing that causes and workings of scarcity pressures may not be sufficient to protect us from them because knowing is a cognitive thing, and cognitive processes are suppressed by our emotional reaction to scarcity. In fact, this may be the reason for the great effectiveness of scarcity tactics.
  • The joy is not in experiencing a scarce commodity but in possessing It is important that we not confuse the two. Whenever we confront the scarcity pressure surrounding some item, we must also confront the question of what it is we want from the item. If the answer is that we want the thing for the social, economic, or psychological benefits of possessing something rare, then, fine; scarcely pressures will give us a good indication of how much we would want to pay for it – the less available it is, the more valuable to us it will be. But very often we don’t want a thing purely for the sake of owning it. We want it, instead for its utility value; We want to eat it or drink it or touch it or hear it or drive it or otherwise use it. In such cases, it is vital to remember that scarce things do not taste or feel or sound or ride or work any better because of their limited availability.
  • We need to calm ourselves and regain a rational perspective. Once that is done, we can move to the second stage by asking ourselves why we want the item under consideration. If the answer is that we want it primarily for the purpose of owning it, then we should use its availability to help gauge how much we want to spend for it. However, if the answer is that we want it primarily for its function (that is we want something good to drive, drink, eat, etc.), then we must remember that the item under consideration will function equally well whether scarce or plentiful.



  • Despite the susceptibility to stupid decisions that accompanies a reliance on a single feature of the available data, the pace of modern life demands that we frequently use this shortcut.
  • Where we are rushed, stressed, uncertain, indifferent, distracted, or fatigued, we tend to focus on less of the information available to us. When making decisions under these circumstances, we often revert to the rather primitive but necessary single piece of good evidence approach. All this leads to a jarring insight: With the sophisticated mental apparatus we have used to build world eminence as a species, we have created an environment so complex, fast-paced, and information-laden that we must increasingly deal with it in the fashion of the animals we long ago transcended.
  • Because technology can evolve much faster than we can, our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate to handle the surfeit of change, choice, and challenge that is characteristic of modern life. More and more frequently, we will find ourselves in the position of the lower animals – with a mental apparatus that is unequipped to deal thoroughly with the intricacy and richness of the outside environment. Unlike the animals, whose cognitive powers have always been relatively deficient, we have created our own deficiency by constructing a radically more complex world. But the consequences of our new deficiency are the same as that of the animal’s long-standing one. When making a decision, we will less frequently enjoy the luxury of fully considered analysis of the total situation but will revert increasingly to focus on a single, usually reliable feature of it…When those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with the shortcut approach of narrowed attention and automatic response to a particular piece of information. The problem comes when something causes the normally trustworthy cues to counsel us poorly, to lead us to erroneous actions and wrongheaded decisions.
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