(Cialdini 1984) Influence


Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: how and why people agree to things. 1st ed. New York: Morrow; 1984.

Social psychologist Robert Cialdini surveys the methods used to persuade the public to comply with requests. In securing compliance, the full capacity of human cognition tends to be bypassed in favor of automatic responses triggered by isolated features of the situation. Cialdini identifies six basic “weapons of influence” used pervasively:

  1. Reciprocation (of favorable actions toward ourselves).
  2. Commitment and consistency (we like to finish what we have started; among other applications, this is the basis for hazing).
  3. Social proof (looking to others for examples to emulate).
  4. Liking (for those requesting compliance).
  5. Authority (of those requesting compliance).
  6. Scarcity (we will make sacrifices to obtain something scarce).

Cialdini believes that the pace of modern life makes reliance on automatic responses necessary and appropriate, as a rule; we simply don’t have time to apply our full capacity for weighing evidence when we’re making routine decisions, and automatic responses are not necessarily irrational or incorrect. But for that very reason, Cialdini also believes that we are in a “war” with those who would subvert those automatic responses by supplying them with fraudulent and deceptive triggers. He recommends a special application of reciprocation for such cases: “if justice is to be done, exploitation attempts should be exploited” (page 65, at the end of chapter 2).

 

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Last revision: April 2, 2013