Influence – by Robert Cialdini

Influence – by Robert Cialdini

‘The Psychology of Persuasion’

A well-respected book that breaks down some of the ways in which we are easily influence. Cialdini highlights some of the triggers of our ‘primitive automaticity’ and shows us some ways in which we are being influenced without even realising it: reciprocity, commitments and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

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Here is a dot point summary of the book!



  • I have always found myself in possession of unwanted subscriptions or tickets to sanitation workers ball
  • Long standing sucker accounts for my interest in the study of compliance
  • Book is about, what are the factors that cause one person to say yes to another person?
  • Book is around six principles, consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, linking and scarcity



Ch1 – Weapons of Influence

  • The exploiters can commission the power of these weapons for use against their targets while exerting little personal enormous additional benefit



  • When you are presented with two things in succession, what you experience two things in succession, your perception of the second is influenced by the first
  • The secret lies in the structure of the requests
  • g sell the suit first then the sweaters wont seem expensive in comparison
  • Real estate agents have set up properties. They take the client to a run down house for inflated prices


Message to mum and dad

Since I left college

  • I recently jumped out the window and fractured my skull
  • I only spent two weeks in hospital and get only a few headaches each day
  • I got pregnant with a 40 year old
  • We are getting married, but he is getting tested for blood disease
  • By the way I am not pregnant, not engaged,  I am not infected and there is no boyfriend. However, I got a D in American History and F in Chemistry


Chapter 2 – Reciprocation

We should try to repay, in kind to what someone else has provided to us

  • By virtue of the reciprocity rule, we are obligated in the future
  • No one gives out resources without actually giving them away


A study of Joe selling raffle tickets

  • Found that if Joe went out and brought a few bottles of coke beforehand he sells more raffle tickets


Free sample is a marketing technique


Amway – The ‘BUG’ free samples

  • Amway distributors appear to be bewildered by the startling power of the BUG
  • Give free samples out and come over a few days later and expect something back


The rule enforces uninvited debts

  • There is an obligation to give, to receive and to repay
  • Obligation to receive reduces our ability to choose whom we wish to be indebted to and puts the power in the hands of others



  • It is highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation. It weighs heavily on us and demands to be removed. It is difficult to trace the source of this feeling


Guys at a bar buying drinks

  • When a guy buys your drinks all night he may be unconsciously trying to get you obligated to get your pants off


Rejection then retreat technique – Contrast and reciprocity combine for a powerful force

  • Offer ambitious demands , retreat with seeming concessions designed to draw real concessions from the opposite side


Contrast and reciprocity combine for a powerful force

  • Boy scout was selling tickets to the annual circus on the Saturday night for 20$
  • He then proceeded to say, but will you buy my 2$ candy bars
  • They both conceded. Robert viewed his retreat as a concession



Asking to give blood

  • People were asked to give every 6 weeks for a minimum of 3 years
  • People were then asked if they could give one pint as a one off


Why is rejection then retreat effective?

Responsibility – Those using the retreat strategy felt most responsible for the final deal


How to say no

  • Prevent its activation. Nothing is a gift. Be careful
  • We will encounter authentic generous individuals as well as many people who try to play by the reciprocity rule and try to exploit it
  • Define them not as gifts but as sales devices. A favor follows a favor


Ch 3 – Commitment and consistency

  • It is quite simple, our nearly obsessive desire to be and to appear consistent with what we have already done
  • Once we make a choice or a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to justify our earlier decision


Tim and Sarah

  • Sarah wanted to break up with Tim, he was a big drinker and smoker
  • Sarah went off and got engaged to another guy
  • Tim came back and said he will stop drinking and smoking. Sarah broke the engagement
  • Tim said no , he doesn’t really need to quit he doesn’t think
  • Two years later Sarah is still with him. He stills drinks… But Sarah is more devoted than ever
  • Being forced to choose made her believe that Tim is really number one


Reason 1 (it works)

Once we have made up our minds about an issue, stubborn consistency allows us a very appealing luxury, we don’t have to think hard about the issue anymore


Reason 2

There are certain disturbing things we would rather not realize. Because it is a preprogramed and mindless method of responding, automatic consistency can supply a safe hiding place from those troubling realizations. Sealed within the fortress walls of rigid consistency, we can be impervious to the sieges of reason


E.g Rob goes to a TM lecture with a friend specializing in statistics and symbolic logic

  • He was getting very restless during the whole sales presentation
  • In less than two minutes, he tore the guy who did the sales presentation apart
  • However, even after, people sprinted down to buy the tickets
  • Sales people were bewildered, after a seemingly collapse of their presentation, somehow it was a great success


  • These were people with real problems. They were seekers who, if our discussion leaders were to believe had found a potential solution in TM. Driven by their needs, they wanted to believe TM was their answer



Toy Companies

  • Advertise one kind of toy. Parents promise their kids they will buy it for them
  • Before Christmas they don’t offer it, saying sold out
  • In Jan and Feb when it was previously quiet, they release it. Parents already made their commitments now have to buy it


Start small and build (communists)

  • Generate a tiny commitment
  • Communists used to make prisoners say something slightly precommunist, but seem inconsequential
  • Get them to say something like ‘United States’ is not perfect
  • This will build
  • Foot in the door technique


Commitment of fraternities .. 

  • Exposure to cold
  • Thirst
  • Alcohol
  • Eating of unsavoury foods
  • Punishment
  • Threats of death


An individual who goes through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimal effort


Car Salesman

  • Good deal is offered for a car
  • Let them make the decision. Then say last second, oh wait I forgot the cost of the air con


Ch 4 – Social Proof


“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much” – Walter Lippman

Canned Laughter

  • What makes canned laughter so appealing?
  • Experiments have found that the canned merriment causes the audience to laugh longer and more often when humorous material is presented
  • It is the most effective for poor jokes
  • It is so blatantly obvious, transparent forgery that actually works on us



  • Waiters leave some money at a tip jar at the beginning of h shift
  • Charities spend a lot of the time showing how other viewers have made contributions.
  • Commercials hire actors for commercials


  • As 95% of people are imitators and 5% are initiators, people are more persuaded by the actions of others than any other proof
  • The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct


Pluralistic Ignorance

  • When we are unsure of ourselves and the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are more likely to look and accept the actions of others as correct
  • But those people are probably examining the social evidence too, especially in an ambiguous situation
  • The tendency for everyone to look at what everyone else is doing can lead to the fascinating phenomenon called pluralistic ignorance
  • It can lead to entire groups of bystanders not aid victims in agonizing need of help
  • g Flinders street Bum… Everyone just looked and due to social proof it wasn’t seen as an emergency


If your on the receiving end, you need to be specific

  • ‘You sir, in the blue jacket, I need help”


Monkey me monkey do

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


Study of suicide rates after a story in the paper

  • More plane crashes would go up
  • People would be vindicated of that decision


Ch 5 – Liking

“Main job of a trial attorney is to make a jury like his client” Clarence Darrow


Tupperware party has various weapons of influence

  • Reciprocity, games at the start where everyone receives a gift
  • Commitment, each person is urged to describe publicly the uses and benefits of the products
  • Social proof, once the buying begins, similar people want the product, therefore it must be good
  • People have to feel like they need to buy something, as they like the host


Halo effect of good looking people

  • A lot of sales people are attractive because it works
  • We associate good looks with other positive characteristics, and tend to like them more
  • Study shows handsome men get lesser sentences



  • We like people who are similar to us
  • Claiming backgrounds and interests similar is one way to increase liking
  • One political candidate won by changing his surname to Brown


Good cop bad cop

  • Bad cop slaps up the villain
  • Good cop tells bad cop to buy everyone a coffee out of his own money
  • Reciprocity rule says a favour should come in return
  • Makes villain think someone is working with him and is a saviour
  • Becomes a trusted person to confess to


Conditioning and Association

  • Bad news infects the teller
  • Human tendency to dislike the person who brings unpleasant information
  • Weatherman get death threats and pelted with snowballs


Celebrities advertising products

  • Important thing is to establish a positive connection with the product, doesn’t need to be a logical one


Ch6 – Authority


Study of Milgram

  • People were asked to participate in a study, where someone would do a test and get electric shocks for the wrong answer. Guy was in a lab coat
  • At the start a little bit of pain
  • Progressed where person getting punished asked everything to end, the person in the lab coat said proceed
  • The people kept proceeding to the point the person was crying and screaming. They were willing to give as much pain as possible
  • Even when people said they had heart problems, 65% of the subjects carried out to the maximum shocks
  • Milgrims conclusion, they aren’t just like you and me. They are you and me. What makes us do such things? We have a deep seated sense of duty to authority within us



  • This study tells us the sheer strength of authority on our behaviour. This can be in any form of authority, government to extract frightening levels of obedience from ordinary citizens



From birth

  • From the start we are taught obedience to authority is right and disobedience is wrong
  • The message fills parental lessons, school rhymes, stories, songs and is carried through legal, military and political systems we encounter
  • The very first book of the bible tells of how to the failure to obey the ultimate authority produced the loss of paradise for Adam and Eve
  • Abraham was willing to put a dagger through the heart of his fav son for God


Doctor prescribes for medicine in “right ear”, but wrote R ear

  • Nurse stuck the medicine up the patients anus for an ear infection



  • Titles are the most difficult and easiest symbols of authority to acquire



  • The well tailored business suit, can evoke telling form of deference from total strangers


Vincent earning tips

  • When someone ordered something, he told them it is not that good tonight, but xyz (slightly cheaper) is much better tonight and is the best option
  • He positioned himself as an authority. People thought they owed reciprocity as he offered something cheaper and better
  • As he was an authority, he asked “may I suggest you some wines?”. They thought, sure you know what is good here. Tell us what to get
  • He had power to manoeuvre the ordering, people spent more and left greater tips as they liked him
  • This was a combo of reciprocity and authority in an incredible manoeuvre


Ch7 – Scarcity

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost”

  • People value things more if it could be made unavailable



  • Imperfections that make for rubbish make for prized possessions when they bring along an abiding scarcity
  • Someone bought a one dollar bill for 400$, as it was erroneously printed with no serial numbers or government seals, making it far more valuable than he paid
  • The limited number tactic is the most common, stating that it is in short supply and it isn’t guaranteed to last long
  • Because of its lost availability, it suddenly jumps in attractiveness


  • We have the tendency to want what has been banned


A cookie study

  • Found that when something abundant then becomes scarce through social demand has more impact than something that has been scarce all along


2200 words








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