Home Psychology Influence

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Learn the key ideas of the book by Robert Cialdini


How the human mechanisms of conditioning and persuasion work

In a world which is becoming more complex by the day, and is brimming with stimuli, our brain is forced to make shortcuts to work quickly, but these constant automatic responses expose us to risk. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion teaches us to recognise the most widespread mechanisms of persuading and influencing, to help us avoid the pitfalls, and even to be able to gain the advantage.

Read in 11 min.
Listen in 14 min.

All animals, including humans, let themselves be fooled by their instincts

Female turkeys are excellent mothers…as long as their little ones keep chirping. If they don’t make this sound, the chicks are treated badly and sometimes even killed. To prove this, scientists hid a voice recorder inside a stuffed skunk (a turkey’s arch enemy) that made the same “cheep” sound that turkey chicks make, and the mother turkey looked after it. To us, it probably seems utterly ridiculous to be fooled by a sound! Yet we humans also have our own fixed patterns: our world is bursting with stimuli and we need our mental shortcuts to be able to cope with them. Obviously, stereotypes don’t always work; but the mistakes that we make because of them are widely accepted, because the benefits of using them seem to be greater than not using them.

The problem with automatic behaviour is not so much the lack of accuracy, as our pervasive ignorance, which makes us vulnerable to anyone who understands how it works. So we need to learn to recognise our basic behaviour patterns, to avoid being tricked, and maybe even learning to use them to our advantage.


The key ideas of "Influence"

All animals, including humans, let themselves be fooled by their instincts
The rules of exchange: our obligation to receive information forces us to accumulate a debt we had no intention of taking on
Commitment and consistency: the obsession with sticking to one’s point, even when it is not useful
Social proof: the effect when a greater number of people agree with an idea, the more that idea is perceived as right
We must not let ourselves be fooled by the power of beauty and being nice: stay focussed on the advantages and disadvantages
Blind obedience: the system used by the authorities, which offers great advantages but can also create monsters
The scarcity rule: the less things are available, the more those things are in demand
Take-home message
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