A good book for me is something that you don’t want to stop reading. Something that would keep you up late at night and make you try so hard to keep those eyes from closing. The book is over 300 pages long and I figured out that this book by Robert Cialdini might be a little boring so I decided to read colorful magazines in between chapters just to get me through it. It is a classical book published years ago and there are examples of commercials that I’m not familiar with. No big deal though, it’s not his fault.
I have to admit that on the overall, the book is quite amazing. This classic book on persuasion explains the psychology of why people say “yes” when they could have said “no”. It purports why people comply with requests that do not necessarily benefit them. This book talks about the ways salesmen use social conditioning to influence us to buy. Robet Cialdini, a psychologist at Arizona State University, brings evidence from his field to bear on the techniques used by salesmen, politicians, and others to gain compliance.
The major techniques advertisers use to manufacture desire are all discussed. These include: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. . They may seem a bit unethical at some points but each chapter ends with ways to defend against each type of influence. Each social tactic is explained thoroughly and the author uses a lot of stories, anecdotes as well as his own experiments to back it up. Dr. Cialdini’s research and stories detailed in this book were interesting, applicable in real life situation, and often humorous.
I was flabbergasted to read about the powerful, yet restrained and cunning tactics used by many organizations and the media to influence our thoughts, behaviors and opinions. Most folks will recognize these principles in some way from personal experience such as salespersons, telemarketers, advertisements and the like. One of the great points that I find in this book is that, even after just reading the first few pages, you become very aware and realize that indeed those tactics have been used by people using these psychological tools around you.
The approaches which I have experienced are on reciprocation, commitment and consistency and liking. In my own personal experiences, some individuals whom I’ve accidentally met would insist on paying for my meals in the restaurant and in return would be asking for favors which they think I can perform in my capacity. That’s just fine though; it is creating an obligation and expecting something in return. This is to trigger an innate response for me to give back. Like they say “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.
Now, that is clearly applying reciprocation. On my part, I have to do what the other person requests me to do with the idea of paying off the free payments on my meals just to get even and call it quits; you’ve paid for several meals and now I’m doing you a favor; it’s as if I’ve paid for those meals myself although I should have said ‘no’ on the first place. On commitment and consistency; making a commitment and upholding to that commitment even if something goes against what is expected is quite difficult to do.
However, it is a proven fact that people who have sworn to do something will do his best to be consistent enough and adhere to that commitment. A politician in one of the local polls in my place committed to help his constituents whether he wins or loses. He lost in the local polls but he sustained what he said. He offered livelihood programs to individuals whom he assesses to be in dire need even if it meant getting the funds out of his own pocket. Cialdini’s book covers six weapons of influence.
This book opens people’s eyes to all the psychological tools that people use to influence them. The book tells many stories to illustrate the tools of persuasion, and while reading it you will be thinking of the personal experiences when someone has persuaded you or when you unknowingly used one of these tools to persuade another. Cialdini did not only explain to readers the many ways that these, “6 weapons of influence” are used against us, he also explains how we can avoid falling prey to them, and even turn them against the marketers and individuals who use them.
It is nice to note that securing compliance from people can be greatly increased by doing them a favor, whether they ask for it, like it, or not; the simple act of a gift creates an obligation to comply with the gift giver’s request. Public verbal or written commitments drive intense desires to comply; people tend to determine what is correct, or not, by what other people think is correct; we are inclined to say yes to people we like; people tend to comply to authority figures; and other things seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.
This book may be classical but most folks will recognize these principles in some way from personal experiences. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in cognitive science and applied psychology. It is applicable to our daily lives. Readers can use it to defend themselves from marketers or they can use it to influence others as well.