Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (Collins Business Essentials)

Had I not read "Fast Food Nation" last month, I would have said that this book is by far the best book I have read this year.

Everytimg you have been left wondering and feeling conned, or felt that you were talked into, or otherwise cajoled into buying something or saying yes when you weren't sure or wanted to say "no" or "let me think about it", this is the book to read. Written by an academic, this book is a marketer's nightmare, and strips bare the mechanisms and the techniques that are employed by advertisers, con artists, and what the author calls "compliance professionals".

The author, Robert Cialdini, lists the following principles that people - marketers, fundraisers, con artists - use to persuade other people to buy into whatever they are selling:
1. Contrast
2. Reciprocation
3. Commitment and Consistency
4. Social Proof
5. Liking
6. Authority
7. Scarcity

Each principle, when explained as lucidly as does the author, seems obvious, but only in hindsight. The author explains the reasons why these principles work the way they do, and how people exploit our tendency to react without too much forethought to these stimuli.

In his words:

... The blitz of modern life demands that we have faithful shortcuts, sound rules of thumb to handle it all. These are not luxuries any longer, they are out-and-out necessities that figure to become increasingly vital as the pulse of daily life quickens.
Therefore, it is all the more important that we learn to recognize when someone tries to exploit these "shortcuts", and how to respond.
If you try and judge this book by it cover, it may come across as another "pop-psychology" book that attempts to teach you in a matter of a few minutes how to better your life, make you more assertive, and make you everthing you always aspired to be but could not become.

So, don't judge this book by its cover.

There are more than 25 pages of notes and bibliography for those wanting to delve deeper.
Also, the author has a site http://www.influenceatwork.com/, that tells us that "In the field of influence and persuasion, Dr. Cialdini is the most cited social psychologist in the world today."

I think I first saw this book listed on Joel Spolsky's blog (link to post). I reproduced that list on my blog (link). Then, during one of my frequent visits to Amazon.com, I read more about this book, where the Amazon editorial review described it as "Arguably the best book ever on what is increasingly becoming the science of persuasion.". I finally decided to bite the bullet and ordered it last month, despite having a backlog of a dozen or more books that I have bought and have not read. Oh well - this - book buying - is a weakness that I am perfectly happy to live with.

© 2006, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved. Reposted to this blog Nov 2011