Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – My Takeaways

Contrast Concept

  • One hand in hot, the other in cold water – then place both hands into room temperature water.
  • Retail: Present higher priced items first, so when you show over-priced lower items afterward, the odds of the guest buying are increased.
  • Real estate: Show run -down, over-priced properties (with no intent to sell them) before showing properties that you actually want to sell at “better” prices.
  • Example:
    From the Parent of a College Coed Dear Mother and Dad: Since I left for college I have been remiss in writing and I am sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down, okay? Well, then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out the window of my dormitory when it caught on fire shortly after my arrival here is pretty well healed now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those sick headaches once a day. Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory, and my jump, was witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Department and the ambulance. He also visited me in the hospital and since I had nowhere to live because of the burntout dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t got the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.Yes, Mother and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has a minor infection which prevents us from passing our pre-marital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you that there was no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I am not infected, and there is no boyfriend. However, I am getting a “D” in American History, and an “F” in Chemistry and I want you to see those marks in their proper perspective.Your loving daughter, Sharon***Sharon may be failing chemistry, but she gets an “A” in psychology.”
    ― Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Rule of Reciprocation

  • “Much obliged”
  • Buying someone a Coke (when you were going to buy yourself one anyway), then asking them for a favor – buy some raffle tickets. (“Jiu-Jitsu Joe”)
  • Hare Krishna’s free gift (flower, etc.) to passing visitors yielded significantly increased donations.
  • Amway’s “Bug” (assortment of home cleaning and miscellaneous products) was delivered to homes for 24-hours to allow the residence to use the products free-of-charge. Shortly thereafter, many of the residences purchased some of the products.
  • Trench warfare: Soldier was basically captured while in his own trench eating dinner, but offered captor some bread and the captor let him go because of it.
  • Jonestown: Turned down Kool-aid to refuse the feeling of indebtedness.

Mutual Concession

  • Example: Boy Scout – $5 ticket to $1 candy bar sequence.
  • Rejection, then retreat.

Combating The Rule of Reciprocation

  • Recognize tricks, if possible.

Rule for Consistency

  • People who commit to even the smallest thing are way more likely to commit even further – in order to be consistent with that initial commitment.
  • Behavior is validated after action is taken.
  • Horse Track: Visitors were more assured their horse would win after actually placing a bet on a horse vs. before.
  • Towel / Theft of radio: “Can you watch my stuff?” – “Yes.” – the agreement stands.
  • Transcendental Meditation:  Reason and logic against thought and consistency.
  • World War 2: China’s POWs (started with small concessions then bigger and bigger concessions led to internal changes of the POWs – which led to the POWs needing to stay consistent with their actions) vs. North Koreans (brutality)
  • Essay contests for a product: “Why I like (Product X)…” – Consistency is a natural trait. The more public a stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it.
  • Written commitments (even in secret) are way more influential to one’s self than verbal. Written commitments shown to others are even more powerful. This is due to the internal consistency that it takes to follow-through with these commitments.


  • Hazing is actually a group survival mechanism. Initiating, indoctrination, commitments, 
    • The harder, more painful, and more you have to work for something, the more it means to you. (This is one reason hazing, initiations, etc. have to be hard – it’s also a rite of passage and builds camaraderie.)


  • Teaching children not to do something and following through – It has to come from the inside. In other words, you have to convince them that it’s wrong to do that activity. Punishment will only work for short periods of time when the punisher is around.
  • Car dealership “lowballing” method: Offers a car at $400 below competitor prices (no intent to actually sell that car at that price) only to convince the buyer to make the decision to buy the car from the dealer. Then, the $400 difference gets added to the price by some sort of “miscalculation” at the end of the transaction – the “lowballing” victims still stuck to their decision to buy the car.
  • “Lowballed”: When offered publicity for their lowering of usage of gas to heat their homes, Iowa homeowners took it upon themselves to lower their usage. After the publicity fell through, the homeowners basically doubled-down on their lowering of usage of gas to heat their homes in the following months.

Defense against Rule of consistency

Recognize (if possible) then you may have to literally to call out the exploiter and respond logically. Avoid “foolish consistency.” Avoid the commitment and consistency schemes.

Social Proof


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *