An Introduction to Cialdini’s ‘Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion’ (part 1)

Almost 40 years ago, in 1984, the now world-renowned researcher Robert Cialdini published his book ‘Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion’. This is the book in which he first presented his six principles of persuasion:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Liking
  6. Social Proof

According to Cialdini, our brains use these six heuristics (mental shortcuts) to make decisions. In Cialdini’s words, shortcuts which make people ‘say yes.’ In this blog post, we’ll look at the first three principles of persuasion.

Reciprocity – Giving a little to get a little.
Humans are programmed to return favours, pay back debts (think House of Lannister from GOT…) and treat others as they have been treated themselves. In fact, being indebted to others causes most humans psychological stress and harm, so reciprocity can be harnessed to your advantage. Think about why waiters leave you those little sweets before you pay the bill or the way you feel when a friend gives you a Christmas gift (we must return the favour!). Cialdini states “the key to using the principle of reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalised and unexpected”.

Scarcity – When it’s gone, it’s gone!
Humans want more of the things that are hard to get, that are small or diminishing in supply. Remember the psychological impact on your behaviour when Amazon says, “Only 3 left!”. You know you feel a little rush to buy that product as quickly as possible! Cialdini states “It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.”

Authority – Yes, Sir!
Humans like law and order, we fall in line and do as society, or those in power, tell us to do. This was famously evidenced in the Milgram experiments. Science tells us that it’s important to signal to others your status and your credibility before you aim to influence them.

This article was written by Ethan McQuaid, Behavioural Data Analyst at Lynn.

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