Influence by Robert Cialdini

Cialdini writes about 6 “weapons of influence” that all seem obvious when first explained. However, once he lays out examples, I found myself guilty of falling victim to all of them at some point in life.

The weapons all prey on our evolutionary or cultural tendency to take cognitive shortcuts when making decisions, often using only one piece of the total information available. Although this practice is very efficient most of the time (it has played a major part in our dominance as a species), it also allows us to make bad decisions, many times ones that are exploited by and caused by “compliance practitioners”.

The Weapons of Influence

Reciprocation

We should repay, in kind, what another person has done for us. This is engrained in us by society. The society as a whole benefits when everyone is cooperating.

Commitment and Consistency

We are nearly obsessive in our desire to be and appear consistent with what we have already done. It is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty. Also, this saves us time – we don’t have to rethink decisions that we have already made, we just remain consistent.

Social Proof

“We are all alike, no one thinks very much” – Walter Lippman. One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. Usually, we are correct in assuming that if many people are doing something or thinking in a certain way, we will be better off doing the same. This is a strength that can also be a weakness in cognition – and is exploited in many ways.

Liking

We prefer to say yes to the requests of someone that we know and like. This is used by strangers to get us to comply.

Authority

We have an inability to defy the wishes of the boss. This comes from the benefits that we got from parents and teachers and obeying their wishes. We get in trouble when this obedience turns into a mechanical behavior.

Scarcity

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost” G.K Chesterton. Homeowners told how much money they could lose are more likely to install insulation than those who are told how much they can save.