In the previous instalment, we covered the first three of Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion. These were Reciprocity, Scarcity and Authority. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Today we will finish off the series by covering the remaining three heuristics (mental shortcuts) that our brains use to make decisions, these are Consistency, Liking and Social Proof.
Consistency – Humans like to do the things they say they are going to do; most don’t like it when the to-do list still has items come the end of the day. We enjoy when our beliefs are consistent with our values. Consistency can be moderated through commitment, it has been found that when we have publicly committed to doing something such as going to the gym tomorrow, we are then much more likely to deliver on it. This commitment aligns with our self-image. We can use this in persuasion, by encouraging customers to commit to something small, which will make them more agreeable when it comes to a larger later commitment, this can be thought of as similar to the foot in the door technique.
Liking – It might not come as a surprise that we are more persuadable from those we like, e.g., when your partner asks you to move your car vs. your nightmare neighbour next door. Liking is based on sharing similar interests, superficial or not. This is why we are seeing more and more companies with an ‘About Us’ page on their websites, that shows the human side of their employees and how they are similar to you.
Social Proof – Finally we arrive at the sixth pillar. Put simply, this is doing what you see others doing. If a restaurant is full of busy customers, you can take that as proof that it’s a good place to eat and join in on the trend. Furthermore, this pillar is amplified if an individual is unsure of themselves and/or if the people we observe are similar to us. We can use this in messaging, such as ‘75% of pregnant women have had their first Covid-19 vaccine, have you?”. It has been shown that small messaging changes like this can have a dramatic impact on human behaviour, in fact social proof might be the strongest persuasion technique of them all.
To conclude in Cialdini’s own words: “So there we have it. Scientifically validated Principles of Persuasion that provide for small, practical, often costless changes that can lead to big differences in your ability to influence and persuade others in an entirely ethical way. They are the secrets from the science of persuasion.”
This article was written by Ethan McQuaid, Behavioural Data Analyst at Lynn PR.