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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition

Dedication

book is organized around these six principles, one to a chapter. The principles—consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity

Chapter 01 : Weapons of Influence

They 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, such as entire courtship or mating rituals. A fundamental characteristic of these patterns is that the behaviors that compose them occur in virtually the same fashion and in the same order every time

the trigger feature. Often the trigger feature will be just one tiny aspect of the totality that is the approaching intruder. Sometimes a shade of color is the trigger feature. The experiments of ethologists have shown, for instance, that a male robin, acting as if a rival robin had entered its territory, will vigorously attack nothing more than a clump of robin-redbreast feathers placed there

Just as the “cheep-cheep” sound of turkey chicks triggered an automatic mothering response from maternal turkeys—even when it emanated from a stuffed polecat—so, too, did the word “because” trigger an automatic compliance response from Langer’s subjects, even when they were given no subsequent reason to comply. Click, whirr!4

These were people who had been brought up on the rule “You get what you pay for” and who had seen that rule borne out over and over in their lives. Before long, they had translated the rule to mean “expensive = good.” The “expensive = good” stereotype had worked quite well for them in the past, since normally the price of an item increases along with its worth; a higher price typically reflects higher quality. So when they found themselves in the position of wanting good turquoise jewelry without much knowledge of turquoise, they understandably relied on the old standby feature of cost to determine the jewelry’s merits

Not only do we expect them to save us money, we also expect them to save us the time and mental energy required to think about how to do it

They behave in accordance with what the contrast principle would suggest: Sell the suit first, because when it comes time to look at sweaters, even expensive ones, their prices will not seem as high in comparison. A man might balk at the idea of spending $95 for a sweater, but if he has just bought a $495 suit, a $95 sweater does not seem excessive

Chapter 02 : Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take . . . and Take

While small in scope, this study nicely shows the action of one of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us—the rule for reciprocation

A widely shared and strongly held feeling of future obligation made an enormous difference in human social evolution, because it meant that one person could give something (for example, food, energy, care) to another with confidence that it was not being lost

For those who owed him a favor, it made no difference whether they liked him or not; they felt a sense of obligation to repay him, and they did. The subjects in that condition who indicated that they disliked Joe bought just as many of his tickets as did those who indicated that they liked him. The rule for reciprocity was so strong that it simply overwhelmed the influence of a factor—liking for the requester—that normally affects the decision to comply

The beauty of the free sample, however, is that it is also a gift and, as such, can engage the reciprocity rule

For instance, the Disabled American Veterans organization reports that its simple mail appeal for donations produces a response rate of about 18 percent. But when the mailing also includes an unsolicited gift (gummed, individualized address labels), the success rate nearly doubles to 35 percent

He chose the form of the initial favor, and he chose the form of the return favor. Of course, one could say that the subject had the choice of saying no to both of Joe’s offers. But those would have been tough choices. To have said no at either point would have required the subject to go against the natural cultural forces favoring reciprocation arrangements that Jujitsu Joe had aligned himself with.

The ability of uninvited gifts to produce feelings of obligation is recognized by a variety of organizations besides the Krishnas

A small initial favor can produce a sense of obligation to agree to a substantially larger return favor. Since, as we have already seen, the rule allows one person to choose the nature of the indebting first favor and the nature of the debt-canceling return favor, we could easily be manipulated into an unfair exchange by those who might wish to exploit the rule.

We have already seen that one consequence of the rule is an obligation to repay favors we have received. Another consequence of the rule, however, is an obligation to make a concession to someone who has made a concession to us

Because the rule for reciprocation governs the compromise process, it is possible to use an initial concession as part of a highly effective compliance technique. The technique is a simple one that we can call the rejection-then-retreat technique. Suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, I should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own, the only one I would have immediately open to me—compliance with your second request.

one. If I want you to lend me five dollars, I can make it seem like a smaller request by first asking you to lend me ten dollars. One of the beauties of this tactic is that by first requesting ten dollars and then retreating to five dollars, I will have simultaneously engaged the force of the reciprocity rule and the contrast principle

Even for future favors, the rejection-then-retreat strategy proved superior.22

Responsibility. Those subjects facing the opponent who used the retreating strategy felt most responsible for the final deal. Much more than the subjects who faced a nonchanging negotiation opponent, these subjects reported that they had successfully influenced the opponent to take less money for himself

The requester’s concession within the technique not only causes targets to say yes more often, it also causes them to feel more responsible for having “dictated” the final agreement

Satisfaction. Even though, on the average, they gave the most money to the opponent who used the concessions strategy, the subjects who were the targets of this strategy were the most satisfied with the final arrangement. It appears that an agreement that has been forged through the concessions of one’s opponent is quite satisfying. With this in mind, we can begin to explain the second previously puzzling feature of the rejection-then-retreat tactic—the ability to prompt its victims to agree to further requests

It advises us to accept the desirable first offers of others but to accept those offers only for what they fundamentally are, not for what they are represented to be. If a person offers us a nice favor, let’s say, we might well accept, recognizing that we have obligated ourselves to a return favor sometime in the future

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 that tricks be met with favors.

Merely define whatever you have received from the inspector—extinguisher, safety information, hazard inspection—not as gifts, but as sales devices, and you will be free to decline (or accept) his purchase offer without even a tug from the reciprocity rule: A favor rightly follows a favor—not a piece of sales strategy

Chapter 03 : Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind

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.

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.

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.

If, as it appears, automatic consistency functions as a shield against thought, it should not be surprising that such consistency can also be exploited by those who would prefer that we not think too much in response to their requests for our compliance

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 that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand

The theory behind this tactic is that people who have just asserted that they are doing/feeling fine—even as a routine part of a sociable exchange—will consequently find it awkward to appear stingy in the context of their own admittedly favored circumstances.

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.

What the Freedman and Fraser findings tell us, then, is to be very careful about agreeing to trivial requests. Such an agreement can not only increase our compliance with very similar, much larger requests, it can also make us more willing to perform a variety of larger favors that are only remotely connected to the little one we did earlier. It’s this second, general kind of influence concealed within small commitments that scares me

You can use small commitments to manipulate a person’s self-image; you can use them to turn citizens into “public servants,” prospects into “customers,” prisoners into “collaborators.” And once you’ve got a man’s self-image where you want it, he should comply naturally with a whole range of your requests that are consistent with this view of himself.

Observers trying to decide what a man is like look closely at his actions. What the Chinese have discovered is that the man himself uses this same evidence to decide what he is like

People have a natural tendency to think that a statement reflects the true attitude of the person who made it. What is surprising is that they continue to think so even when they know that the person did not freely choose to make the statement

Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, observers automatically assume that someone who makes such a statement means it.

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—a tendency to adjust this image according to the way others perceive us

Public commitments tend to be lasting commitments.

They wanted the men to own what they had done. No excuses, no ways out were allowed. A man who suffered through an arduous hazing could not be given the chance to believe he did so for charitable purposes. A prisoner who salted his political essay with a few anti-American comments could not be permitted to shrug it off as motivated by a big reward

The important thing is to use a reason that will initially produce the desired behavior and will, at the same time, allow a child to take personal responsibility for that behavior. Thus, the less detectable outside pressure such a reason contains, the better. Selecting just the right reason is not an easy task for parents. But the effort should pay off. It is likely to mean the difference between short-lived compliance and long-term commitment.

Because we build new struts to undergird choices we have committed ourselves to, an exploitative individual can offer us an inducement for making such a choice, and after the decision has been made, can remove that inducement, knowing that our decision will probably stand on its own newly created legs. New-car dealers frequently try to benefit from this process through a trick they call “throwing a lowball.”

An advantage is offered that induces a favorable purchase decision; then, sometime after the decision has been made but before the bargain is sealed, the original purchase advantage is deftly removed.

Whenever my stomach tells me I would be a sucker to comply with a request merely because doing so would be consistent with some prior commitment I was tricked into, I relay that message to the requester

Chapter 04 : Social Proof: Truths Are Us

We have become so accustomed to taking the humorous reactions of others as evidence of what deserves laughter that we, too, can be made to respond to the sound and not to the substance of the real thing

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.” A thorough understanding of the pluralistic ignorance phenomenon helps immeasurably to explain a regular occurrence in our country that has been termed both a riddle and a national disgrace: the failure of entire groups of bystanders to aid victims in agonizing need of help.

With several potential helpers around, the personal responsibility of each individual is reduced

It seems that the pluralistic ignorance effect is strongest among strangers: Because we like to look poised and sophisticated in public and because we are unfamiliar with the reactions of those we do not know, we are unlikely to give off or correctly read expressions of concern when in a grouping of strangers. Therefore, a possible emergency becomes viewed as a nonemergency, and the victim suffers.56 A close look at this set of research findings reveals an enlightening pattern. All the conditions that decrease an emergency victim’s chances for bystander aid exist normally and innocently in the city: (1) In contrast to rural areas, cities are more clamorous, distracting, rapidly changing places where it is difficult to be certain of the nature of the events one encounters. (2) Urban environments are more populous, by their nature; consequently, people are more likely to be with others when witnessing a potential emergency situation. (3) City dwellers know a much smaller percentage of fellow residents than do people who live in small towns; therefore, city dwellers are more likely to find themselves in a group of strangers when observing an emergency.

After drivers entering the intersection from the other direction saw cars stopping for me, they stopped and began tending to the other victim. The principle of social proof was working for us now. The trick had been to get the ball rolling in the direction of aid.

Without question, when people are uncertain, they are more likely to use others’ actions to decide how they themselves should act

all explained by the principle of social proof. How can we expect to defend ourselves against a weapon of influence that pervades such a vast range of behavior? The difficulty is compounded by the realization that most of the time, we don’t want to guard against the information that social proof provides. The evidence it offers about how we should act is usually valid and valuable. With it we can cruise confidently through a myriad of decisions without personally having to investigate the detailed pros and cons of each.

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.

The pluralist ignorance phenomenon, in which everyone at an emergency sees no cause for alarm, is one example of this process

Especially when we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd. Second, quite frequently the crowd is mistaken because they are not acting on the basis of any superior information but are reacting, themselves, to the principle of social proof.

Once again we can see that social proof is most powerful for those who feel unfamiliar or unsure in a specific situation and who, consequently, must look outside of themselves for evidence of how best to behave there.

Chapter 05: Liking: The Friendly Thief

For all his success, the formula he employed was surprisingly simple. It consisted of offering people just two things: a fair price and someone they liked to buy from. “And that’s it,” he claimed in an interview. “Finding the salesman they like, plus the price; put them both together, and you get a deal

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 provide it, oftentimes when it is clearly false.

On the basis of evidence that we are more favorable toward the things we have had contact with, some people have recommended a “contact” approach to improving race relations

They constructed a series of situations in which competition between the groups would have harmed everyone’s interests, in which cooperation was necessary for mutual benefit

Conjoint efforts toward common goals steadily bridged the rancorous rift between the groups

The crucial procedure was the experimenters’ imposition of common goals on the groups. It was the cooperation required to achieve these goals that finally allowed the rival group members to experience one another as reasonable fellows, valued helpers, and friends.

First, although the familiarity produced by contact usually leads to greater liking, the opposite occurs if the contact carries distasteful experiences with it

Do compliance practitioners systematically use cooperation to get us to like them so we will say yes to their requests? Do they point it out when it exists naturally in a situation? Do they try to amplify it when it exists only weakly? And, most instructive of all, do they manufacture it when it is absent

Most are familiar, like the new-car salesman who takes our side and “does battle” with his boss to secure us a good deal.81

Shakespeare, who captured the essence of it with one vivid line. “The nature of bad news,” he said, “infects the teller.

Notice, too, that at the typical fund-raising dinner the speeches, the appeals for further contributions and heightened effort never come before the meal is served, only during or after. The advantages to this pairing of the affairs of the table with those of the state are several: For example, time is saved and the reciprocity rule is engaged. The least recognized benefit, however, may be the one uncovered in research conducted in the 1930s by the distinguished psychologist Gregory Razran.

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 represents you; and when he wins, you win.“88

All this tells me that 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

Unless I miss my guess, they are not merely great sports aficionados; they are individuals with a hidden personality flaw—a poor self-concept.

We don’t attempt to restrain the influence of the factors that cause liking. Quite the contrary. We allow these factors to exert their force, and then we use that force in our campaign against them. The stronger the force, the more conspicuous it becomes and, consequently, the more subject to our alerted defenses.

“In the twenty-five minutes I’ve known this guy, have I come to like him more than I would have expected?” If the answer is yes, we might want to reflect upon whether Dan behaved during those few minutes in ways that we know affect liking. We might recall that he had fed us (coffee and doughnuts) before launching into his pitch, that he had complimented us on our choice of options and color combinations, that he had made us laugh, that he had cooperated with us against the sales manager to get us a better deal.

Chapter 06 : Authority: Directed Deference

From the first time I saw it, the most intriguing feature for me in the Robert Young Sanka commercial was its ability to use the influence of the authority principle without ever providing a real authority. The appearance of authority was enough. This tells us something important about unthinking reactions to authority figures. When in a click, whirr mode, we are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance.

his title if he knew that, besides making strangers more accommodating, it also makes them see him as taller. Studies investigating the way in which authority status affects perceptions of size have found that prestigious titles lead to height distortions.

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?” The question is helpful because it focuses our attention on a pair of crucial pieces of information: the authority’s credentials and the relevance of those credentials to the topic at hand. By orienting in this simple way toward the evidence for authority status, we can avoid the major pitfalls of automatic deference. An illustration or two is in order.

Before submitting to authority influence, it would be wise to ask a second simple question: “How truthful can we expect the expert to be here?” Authorities, even the best informed, may not present their information honestly to us

Chapter 07: Scarcity: The Rule of the Few

In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save

Therein lies the beauty of the technique. In accord with the scarcity principle, the customers are asked to commit to buying the appliance when it looks least available—and therefore most desirable

The weakness is, as before, an enlightened one. In this case, because we know that the things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.

However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want it. Still, we need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire. After all, it is natural to suppose that if one feels drawn to something, it is because of the merit of the thing.

This raises the worrisome possibility that especially clever individuals holding a weak or unpopular position can get us to agree with that position by arranging to have their message restricted.

Do we value more those things that have recently become less available to us, or those things that have always been scarce? In the cookie experiment, the answer was plain. The drop from abundance to scarcity produced a decidedly more positive reaction to the cookies than did constant scarcity.

Staying with the newly scarce cookies now, there was a certain cookie that was the highest rated of all: those that became less available because of a demand for them.

The feeling of being in competition for scarce resources has powerfully motivating properties. The

By learning to flag the experience of heightening arousal in a compliance situation, we can alert ourselves to the possibility of scarcity tactics there and to the need for caution.

Epilogue

Very often in making a decision about someone or something, we don’t use all the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single, highly representative piece of the total. And an isolated piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes—mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse

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

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

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