"Psychology of influence." Book in 15 minutes

    We are sharing with you another sammari (brief summary) on Robert Chaldini's classic psychology of influence book. Surely some of the conclusions will seem familiar to you, but this is because of the enormous popularity of the book itself, the ideas and examples from which authors of business literature like to borrow. Interestingly, Robert Cialdini wrote his book with the aim of teaching readers to recognize manipulations and not succumb to them, but they began to use it for the opposite purpose - as a set of effective techniques for persuasion and “dusting the brains”.


    Instruments of influence

    People react to so many things around them in an automatic, stereotypical way. In this we are similar to animals. A brood hen rushes even at a stuffed ferret - his worst enemy. But it’s worth connecting a tape recorder that makes a “chip-chip” sound to this stuffed animal (this is how little turkeys shout), and the turkey will not only not throw at the stuffed ferret, but will also take it for itself.

    Our reactions are in many ways similar to those of animals, although they are much more complex and less predictable. We really need automatic thinking. It allows you to concentrate on primary tasks, giving autopilot secondary. But the problem is that unscrupulous people can use our penchant for automatism against us.

    The automatism of reactions can be expressed in different ways. So, Robert Cialdini gives the following example - once in a jewelry store, buyers instantly bought up jewelry from turquoise after, by mistake, a double price was set for it. Why? Buyers felt that a higher price means higher quality. They did not analyze the situation in order to determine the real value of turquoise. People had enough information that turquoise is of high quality since it is so expensive. The stereotype took effect - expensive means good.

    It is not surprising that, without special knowledge in jewelry, buyers determined the dignity of jewelry at their cost .”

    It will seem surprising to many, but human automatic thinking prevails over conscious reactions.
    No wonder the epigraph to the first chapter of his book, Robert Chaldini chose the words of the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:

    “Civilization is moving forward by increasing the number of operations that we can carry out without thinking about them.”

    In what cases do we respond automatically? Robert Cialdini notes that numerous laboratory studies have shown that people tend to respond meaningfully to information when they have the desire and the ability to carefully analyze it; otherwise, people usually prefer to react like clicks, buzzing.

    Despite all their benefits, stereotyped reactions make us very vulnerable to those who are well versed in how they work. Surprisingly, despite the enormous prevalence of automatic reactions, ordinary people know little about them.

    Take, for example, the principle of contrast, which sellers use every now and then. It works great, but almost no one is aware of its effect. How does he act? When you buy an expensive thing, for example, a car, the seller will certainly offer you to buy aftercare related products - a stereo system or rugs. It is possible that you do not need either a stereo system or rugs, but you are very likely to buy something, because the price of related products against the background of the high price of the car will seem insignificant. And if you buy an expensive suit, the seller will definitely try to palm off a pair of shirts and a tie on top of it. This is the principle of contrast.

    By the way, you can check the effect of the principle of contrast at home. You need to take three containers: with cold water, with hot water and with water at room temperature. One hand should be lowered into a container with cold water, and the other into a container with hot water. After a few seconds, both hands should be lowered into warm water. It will seem to you that the temperature of the water is different - for a hand that was dipped in cold water, the water will feel warmer than for a hand that was dipped in hot water. So you will clearly see that your perception depends on previous events.

    Reciprocal exchange

    The rule of mutual exchange is one of the most powerful instruments of the influence of people on each other. What does it mean? The vast majority of people are guided in their lives by the service-for-service rule. We are trying to repay for the fact that another person has done something for us. This is our biological feature that has helped human society survive.

    Thanks to the rule of mutual exchange, there is a division of labor, trade, the provision of services, and many other integral areas of modern life. This rule has been deeply rooted in our relationship system and has become part of our morality. We abhor and condemn those who only take and share with no one. However, in addition to the obvious advantages, this rule has a downside - thanks to it, we become an easy target for manipulators. A lot of people know how to capitalize on our sense of appreciation.

    An interesting fact is that the influence of the rule of mutual exchange on a person is so great that we can act for the sake of someone we do not like at all.

    “Think of hidden opportunities. People you don’t like — unattractive or intrusive merchants with a heavy character, representatives of strange or unpopular organizations — can force you to do what they want, just by showing you a little courtesy before they come up with their claims. ”

    Robert Cialdini gives an example of the actions of members of the Krishna Society who, before asking a person for a donation, give him a gift - a book, a journal of the Back to Godhead Society, or, most simply and cheaply, a flower. An unsuspecting passerby who suddenly discovers that they put a flower in his hands should never be allowed to return this flower, even if a person claims that he does not need it. “No, this is our gift to you,” says the fundraiser, refusing to take the flower back. Only after a member of the Hare Krishna Society thus enforces the mutual exchange rule, a passerby is asked to make a donation to the Society. This strategy proved to be fantastically effective and brought large-scale profit to the Krishna Society,

    The mutual exchange rule is actively and successfully used in trade. An example that everyone will remember is the distribution of free samples. Even such a seemingly innocent thing releases natural binding force.

    A favorite place to distribute free samples is the supermarket, where customers are often served small pieces of a certain variety of cheese or meat for sample. For many people, it is difficult to take a sample from a constantly smiling representative of the company, returning only a toothpick and going away. Many people buy this product, even if they don’t really like it.

    Anyone can start the mechanism of the rule of mutual exchange, having provided us with an unsolicited service, while waiting for our thanks.

    Of course, the rule of mutual exchange is necessary for the normal development of society, however, what to do when we are forced to acquire what we do not need?

    Manipulation can lead to an unequal exchange due to an artificial sense of appreciation.

    Psychologically, we hate being obligated to someone. This causes discomfort, so we strive to immediately repay our benefactor. And usually we return more than we received.

    “One of my students expressed this quite clearly in her written work:“ Taught by bitter experience, I no longer allow the guy I meet to pay for my drink. I want none of us to feel that I am sexually obligated. ”

    Studies confirm that there are reasons for such concern. If a woman, instead of paying herself, allows a man to buy himself a drink, she automatically begins to be considered (both men and women) more accessible to him sexually. ”

    Another way to use the mutual exchange rule is through mutual concessions. But this is a more sophisticated way.

    To illustrate, Robert Cialdini describes the following example:

    “Once I was walking along the street, and suddenly an eleven or twelve year old boy came up to me. He introduced himself and said that he was selling tickets for the annual Boy Scouts performance this Saturday evening. The boy asked if I wanted to buy some tickets for five dollars apiece. Since the performance of the Boy Scouts was not the kind of event that I would like to attend on Saturday night, I refused.
    “Good,” the boy said, “if you don't want to buy tickets, how about big bars of chocolate?” They are only a dollar apiece. ”
    I bought a couple and immediately realized that something noteworthy had happened because: a) I do not like chocolate; b) I like dollars; c) I was left with two chocolate bars I did not need; d) the boy left with my two dollars. "

    This example demonstrates our tendency to believe that we must give in to someone who is inferior to us. This rule is useful in normal relationships when partners make compromises in order to maintain a relationship. But often this becomes an instrument in the hands of manipulators, turning into a method of obtaining consent in the spirit of “refusal-then-deviation”.

    So, the described technique is often used by persons negotiating in the field of labor relations. These people begin by putting forward extreme requirements, the fulfillment of which they are not at all interested in. Then they supposedly retreat through a series of apparent concessions and thus achieve real concessions from the opposite side. It may seem that the higher the initial requirement, the more effective the procedure, since in this case there are more opportunities for illusory concessions. However, this is true only to a certain extent.

    A study conducted at Bar-Ilan University in Israel showed that if the initial requirements are so difficult to fulfill that they look unfounded, tactics turn against those who use it.

    Despite the fact that people can recognize the manipulation and not get hold of it, this tactic remains very effective, including because after receiving a concession, the victim feels satisfaction, and this leads to further concessions.

    Is there any way to resist this? Robert Cialdini does not recommend categorically rejecting offers of help or concessions to other people. It is not a fact that the people who offer them act out of selfish interests.

    Accept offers, but consider them objectively. If you agree to a service, keep in mind that you have a social obligation to provide a return service in the future.

    If you recognize the trick, then the service should not be answered.

    Commitment and Consistency

    According to one study, people who come to the hippodrome better assess the prospects of the horse after they bet on it.

    The explanation for this phenomenon lies in social influence. We all strive to match what we have already done. Moreover, we support this image of ourselves both in the eyes of others and in our own.

    "As soon as we have made a choice or taken a certain position, we will strive to behave in accordance with our obligations and try to justify the decision we made earlier . "

    Psychologists have known for a long time what a huge role the principle of consistency plays in managing people. A person can so stubbornly maintain his image that he acts contrary to his true interests and needs.

    Why? Robert Cialdini gives the following explanation:

    “A person whose beliefs, words, and deeds diverge from each other, is usually recognized as confused, duplicitous, or even mentally ill. On the other hand, consistency is associated with intelligence, strength, logic, rationality, stability and honesty. As the great English physicist Michael Faraday said, the sequence is sometimes more approved than right. ”

    Of course, consistency is good quality. But the problem is that we are consistent even when it hurts us. Many use our craving for consistency for their own benefit. Example: foot-in-door tactics, when a person is persuaded to make a big purchase after he buys something insignificant.

    The first sale of something insignificant is not necessary for profit, its purpose is to obtain an obligation.

    That is why you need to be very careful when agreeing to other people's claims, despite their apparent insignificance. These insignificant requirements can actually be a tool in a game in which they will try to force you to concede in relation to more serious things, using what you want to be and seem consistent.

    “Such an agreement can not only force us to concede in relation to similar, but much more serious requirements, it can also force us to make various large concessions that are only remotely related to the petty courtesy that we rendered earlier.”

    Have you ever wondered what do those people who ask you (for example, on the street) to sign their petitions do with all the signatures received? Often they do nothing with these signatures, since their main goal is usually to force those who sign up to take on a certain obligation and, accordingly, take a certain position.

    People who signed the petition are likely to take further steps that will be consistent with their position.

    An important conclusion that follows from all of this is that when a person’s opinion of himself becomes the way someone needs it, he will automatically begin to submit to all requirements put forward by the exploiter that are consistent with his idea of ​​himself.

    How to protect yourself from such manipulations?

    In life, we need to be consistent. However, one must be able to distinguish between a normal sequence and its silly version, which forces us to act at our own expense. You should listen to your feelings. When you intuitively feel that you are being manipulated, pay attention to the logic of the sequence and point out its absurdity to someone who is trying to force you into a commitment.

    Social proof

    Another powerful tool of influence is the principle of social proof. According to this principle, we determine what is right by figuring out what other people think is right. We consider our behavior to be correct if we see other people acting the same way.

    This is not just a herd feeling. The tendency to such behavior helps us in social life, but it also makes us vulnerable to manipulators.

    “We are so used to being guided by the reaction of other people in determining what is ridiculous that we can also be made to respond to sound, rather than to the essence of a real phenomenon. Just as the sound of a “chip chip” separated from a real turkey can make a turkey take maternal care, so the recorded “ha ha” separated from a real audience can make us laugh. Television presenters use our addiction to rational methods, our tendency to respond automatically, based on an incomplete set of facts. They know that their recordings will trigger our recordings. Click, buzzing. "

    This feature of ours is also used, for example, by bartenders who put their own money on the table, leaving the appearance of a tip. Seeing that someone has already left a tip, customers are more likely to give them themselves.

    Advertising agents love to let us know that the product is "surprisingly quick to sell." There is no need to convince us that the product is good, just say that many people think so.

    Surprisingly, the principle of social proof also affects a person’s sensation of pain, which is confirmed by experiments in which people reacted less painfully when they saw that others did not react to painful actions.

    The principle of social proof works best in uncertainty.

    “In general, when we are not confident in ourselves, when the situation seems unclear or ambiguous to us, when the uncertainty rules the ball, we tend to look back at others and recognize their actions as correct.”

    However, as Robert Cialdini notes, when we focus on others in an incomprehensible situation, we miss an important fact.

    “These people may also be following our reactions. In ambiguous situations, everyone’s desire to find out what others are doing can lead to the so-called phenomenon of pluralistic ignorance that arouses deep interest of psychologists. ”

    This phenomenon manifests itself, for example, in the inaction of people when they see a person lying on the street, or hear suspicious sounds.

    The problem is what other people think as well.

    What can be done?

    The key is to understand that observers, if there are several, do not help more because they are not sure of the need for assistance, and not because they are callous by nature. People do not help because they do not know whether an emergency is really taking place and whether they should take any action. When people feel responsible for what is happening, they are extremely responsive. Therefore, in difficult situations, be specific, ask for help from specific people. And in situations where they are trying to sell you something, arguing in the spirit of social proof, try to turn off your autopilot and be more vigilant.


    This effect is that we respond more quickly to the requests of those we know. This our feature is also able to make good use of professional manipulators to their advantage. So, in the company Shaklee, specializing in the sale of household goods, agents who go to apartment buildings, is charged with the obligation to ask the client, which of his friends and relatives he could recommend.

    Teamwork usually affects the disappearance of hostility and contribute to the establishment of friendships. Many selfishly take advantage of this, declaring something in the spirit of "We work with you for the same goal" or "We are on the same team." So, for example, the seller can show the buyer that he is supposedly in the same team with him, “knocking out” favorable conditions for the client from the boss. The same principle is used in the well-known film game of the good and the bad cop.


    To illustrate this rule, Robert Cialdini gives an example of a well-known experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram, who demonstrated that even with the presence of crushing authority, adults and sane people are able to perform actions that threaten the life and health of another person. It is not surprising that authoritarian governments seek obedience from their citizens.

    But do not clearly interpret our tendency to subordinate to authorities as a negative quality. The authority of authorities, in contrast to anarchy, gives society significant advantages in the form of the possibility of developing structures that regulate production, trade, defense and the social sphere of life. However, the tendency to obedience may also mean obedience without thought, when they (reflection) are necessary. For example, in medicine, the medical staff too often automatically submits to doctors, which is why many erroneous decisions come to life that could have been avoided through open discussion.

    In addition, very often the principle of authority is used by scammers who pretend to be experts, who in fact are not any authorities. Such people can create around themselves what Robert Cialdini calls the “cloud of authority” in the form of various titles, clothes and other attributes that are usually inherent in real professionals.

    What can be done to protect yourself? To counter the influence of authority, the first thing to do is “remove the element of surprise”, realizing its power. It should be understood that now unscrupulous people can very easily create an image of authority.

    Ask yourself - is this authority an expert in your field? This will help to reflect on the truth of his authority and competence, and not to respond to it automatically. In the same way, one can dispel the illusion of authority of celebrities who advertise goods and services that they are not really versed in.


    The principle of scarcity often brings success to those who apply it because it is built on a common psychological trap - "opportunities seem to us more valuable when their availability is limited." The very idea of ​​a possible loss has a greater impact on a person than the thought of acquiring something.
    Sellers take advantage of this vulnerability when they try to persuade us to buy and talk about a limited supply of goods.

    Robert Cialdini talks about the theory of psychological reactivity developed by psychologist Jack Brehm.

    According to this theory, when something limits our choice or makes it impossible for us to choose, we begin to desire goods and services that will help, as we think, preserve our freedoms. As two-year-olds, we resist prohibitions and restrictions. Moreover, we begin to believe that we need this scarce object and attribute to it non-existent positive qualities. The deficit rule also applies to intangible entities, for example, to information - hard-to-reach information seems to us more valuable.

    In addition, we value more not just what has always been scarce, but what has recently become less accessible. Therefore, it is harder to live in poverty for those who have learned the taste of a better life.

    Even more, we begin to desire scarce goods when we recognize competition. Advertisers often try to use this tendency, urging us to rush until the goods are sold out.

    If we want to derive social, economic or psychological benefits from possessing any rare thing, then everything is fine; the pressure of the deficit principle will help us determine how much it makes sense to pay for this thing - the less affordable it is, the more valuable it will be for us. However, very often we need a thing not only for the sake of possessing it. Then its consumer value is important to us; we may want to eat or drink this thing, touch it, listen to it, control it or use it in some other way. In such cases, it is very important to remember that, becoming rare in our eyes, things don’t make it tastier, they don’t start to sound, look, ride or work better.

    Summary :

    1. A feature of human nature and psychology is that often when making decisions we do not use all the relevant information available. We tend to take into account only some part of the whole, which entails a lot of mistakes.
    2. Our reactions are largely stereotyped and similar to those of animals, albeit much more complex and less predictable. Usually such automatic thinking is helpful. It allows you to concentrate on non-primary tasks, giving autopilot secondary. But the problem is that all kinds of manipulators and other unscrupulous people can use our penchant for automatism against us.
    3. In order not to become a victim of manipulators and other dishonest people, you need to be more conscious of your own reactions and learn to question other people's words and authority.

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