Robert B. Cialdini


The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert B. Cialdini, 592 pages

Finished on 6th of February, 2022
🛒 Buy here
🎧 Listen to the podcast


How do humans make decisions? We are all influenced by a variety of things we can’t control and don’t know our subconscious thinks are important. Cialdini explains how our behaviors work and why that is the case. This helps us understand ourselves better.

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. There are psychologically hardwired systems which make us susceptible to making decisions we wouldn’t when thinking about them longer.
  2. Every person will be influenced subconsciously even if they are certain it won’t happen to them.
  3. We can learn how these behaviors work and spot them around us in order to improve our decision making but also use them to our own (ethical) advantage.

🎨 Impressions

This book creates awareness about how the human mind works to make decisions. Why do we do some things and not others? What are the triggers that trick us into doing things we wish we wouldn’t have? To me, having this new knowledge about decision making is a great benefit and already made it into my day-to-day life.

🍀 How the Book Changed Me

  • Paying closer attention to what tactic is used in advertising and realizing how ethical it’s done helps me not to fall for it.
  • Asking questions like: Am I doing something just because I see myself as someone who is consistent and true to a commitment but actually don’t want to / won’t get anything valuable out of it?
  • I learned that my opinions are influenced by the source of information which I use for them. Do I like the person who taught me something? Then I would be inclined to believe them more.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

  1. When making a decision, we will less frequently engage in a fully considered analysis of the total situation.
  2. With the sophisticated mental apparatus we have used to build world eminence as a species, we have created an environment so complex, fast-paced, and information-laden that we must increasingly deal with it in the fashion of the animals we long ago transcended.
  3. The blitz of modern daily life demands that we have faithful shortcuts, sound rules of thumb in order to handle it all. These are no longer luxuries; they are out-and-out necessities.

📔 Summary & Notes

  • We humans have our preset programs running in our minds, which usually work to our advantage, but the trigger features which activate them can dupe us into running the right programs at the wrong times.
  • People in a study who were given a drink said to boost problem-solving ability solves more problems when they paid more for the drink.
  • Simplified thinking includes the “expensive = good” rule, which works well most of the time, but leaves us open to occasional costly mistakes.
  • It is in the interest of any human group to have its members working together toward the achievement of common goals.
  • In certain fields of science alone (physics, for example), knowledge is said to double every eight years.
  • Because technology can evolve much faster than we can, our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate to handle the abundance of change, choice, and challenge that is characteristic of modern life.
  • We should boycott brands found to be planting phony reviews on product-rating sites—and spread the word on social media.
  • The use of these levers by practitioners is not necessarily exploitative. It only becomes so when the lever is not a natural feature of the situation but is fabricated by the practitioner.

1. Reciprocation

Summary: Pressures surrounding the gift-giving process says there is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay.

  • “There’s nothing more expensive than that which comes for free.”
  • A gift to my child is a gift to me.
  • Problem-free may not feel as good to people as problem-freed.
  • A person can trigger a feeling of indebtedness by doing us an uninvited favor.
  • As long as we perceive and define the action as a compliance device instead of a favor, the giver no longer has the reciprocation rule as an ally.
  • If you’re getting gifts from a salesperson, define them not as gifts but as sales devices, and you will be free to decline (or accept) the purchase offer without even a tug from the reciprocity rule.

2. Liking

Summary: When presented with an opportunity to make a decision by a person we like, our decision will be influenced by that fact.

  • The greatest salesman of the USA offered the people just two things: a fair price and someone they liked to buy from.
  • We automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, agreeableness, trustworthiness, and intelligence.
  • Because even small similarities can produce liking and because a veneer of similarity can be so easily manufactured, I would advice special caution in the presence of requesters who claim to be “just like you”.
  • Research tells us that a bargainer who initiates a handshake at the start of a negotiation signals their cooperative intent upfront, which then leads to better financial outcomes for all parties.
  • “The nature of the news infects the teller.” There is a natural human tendency to dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information.
  • Before any decision is made, we should ask ourselves the crucial question, “In the forty-five minutes I’ve known this guy, have I come to like him more than I would have expected?”

3. Social Proof

Summary: We seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t and will follow suit.

  • We view an action as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.
  • When something is in “high demand”, we value it more.
  • When uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to accept the actions of others.
  • When “shopping carts” in grocery stores were first invented, nobody used them. Only after people were hired to use them in order to show off how it works, the concept of “social proof” made the other shoppers adapt the new way.
  • We respond to social proof without cognitive direction.
  • “If one person says you have a tail, you laugh it off as stupid; but, if three people say it, you turn around.”
  • Our twin needs to foster social acceptance and to escape social rejection help explain why cults can be so effective in recruiting and retaining members.
  • “Homes just like yours managed to reduce their energy use by 10%” – just reading that drove householders to lower their energy consumption.
  • Simply get some members moving in the desired direction and the others – responding not so much to the lead animal as to those immediately surrounding them – will peacefully and mechanically follow.
  • Research indicates people are regionally similar on attitudes, values, and personality traits – probably due to the “social proof” concept.
  • Backfires sometimes: After an education program in which several young women described their eating disorders, participants came to show increased disorder symptoms themselves.

4. Authority

Summary: Trusting and relying on authority has been our method of learning behavior from birth on, but we must be aware that blindly following authority can be problematic.

  • We are trained from birth to believe that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong.
  • From the start, parents, teachers, etc., knew more than we did, and we found taking their advice beneficial – partly because of their greater wisdom.
  • Ask “is this authority truly an expert?”
  • A communicator who references a weakness early on is seen as more honest.
  • We shouldn’t assume we are too smart to be tricked by mere symbols of authority. Those symbols operate automatically on us.
  • The strength of the tendency to obey legitimate authorities comes from systematic socialization practices designed to instill in members of society the perception that such obedience constitutes correct conduct.
  • When reacting to authority in an automatic fashion, people have a tendency to do so in response to mere symbols of authority rather than to its substance. Three kinds of symbols effective in this regard are titles, clothing, and trappings such as automobiles.

5. Scarcity

Summary: Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, but we want it most when we are in competition for it.

  • Under conditions of risk and uncertainty, people are intensely motivated to make choices designed to avoid losing something of value—to a much greater extent than choices designed to obtain that thing.
  • Assigning to his/her clients possession of something they wanted by stating “We have a deal,” which they would lose if they failed to compromise.
  • A popular sales tactic: “keep the prospects from taking the time to think the deal over by scaring them into believing they can’t have it later, which makes them want it now.”
  • Students who learned of the age restriction wanted to read the book more and believed they would like it more than did those who thought their access to the book was unfettered.
  • Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, but we want it most when we are in competition for it.
  • Extreme caution is advised whenever we encounter the devilish construction of scarcity plus rivalry.
  • If the majority of our in-group favors a brand of an item we are likely to do the same—while simultaneously differentiating ourselves along a visible dimension, such as the item’s color.
  • By learning to flag the experience of heightening arousal in a compliance situation, we can alert ourselves to the possibility of scarcity tactics there and to the need for caution.
  • We must remember that the item under consideration will function equally well whether scarce or plentiful.
  • In defense, we might try to be alert to a rush of arousal in situations involving scarcity. Once alerted, we can take steps to calm the arousal.

6. Commitment & Consistency

Summary: It is our desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already said or done.

  • A high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. It is the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty.
  • Beware of this reaction in your brain: “Panic! Something must be done at once before logic takes its toll and leaves them without hope once again. Quickly, quickly, walls against reason are needed, and it doesn’t matter that the fortress to be erected is a foolish one.”
  • For the salesperson, the strategy is to obtain a large purchase by starting with a small one. Almost any small sale will do because the purpose of that small transaction is not profit, it’s commitment.
  • Petitioners collecting signatures: but often they don’t do anything with them, as the principal purpose of the petition may simply be to get the signers committed to the group’s position and, consequently, more willing to take future steps that are aligned with it. It scares me enough that I am rarely willing to sign a petition anymore, even for a position I support. The action has the potential to influence not only my future behavior but also my self-image in ways I may not want.
  • What those around us think is true of us importantly determines what we ourselves think.
  • People who testify in writing to the products’ appeal and who, consequently, experience the magical pull to believe what they have written.
  • Public commitments tend to be lasting commitments.
  • He told his receptionists to stop saying, “Please call us if you change your plans,” and to start asking, “Will you please call us if you change your plans?” and to wait for a response. His no-show rate immediately went from 30 percent to 10 percent. That’s a 67 percent drop.
  • Initiation rituals (in tribes and fraternities, e.g.)
    • “persons who go 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 minimum of effort.”
    • The more electric shock a woman received as part of the initiation ceremony, the more she later persuaded herself that her new group and its activities were interesting, intelligent, and desirable.
    • They are acts of group survival. They function, oddly enough, to spur future society members to find the group more attractive and worthwhile.
  • Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressure.
  • “He who agrees against his will / Is of the same opinion still.”
  • The researchers simply placed distinctive signs above examination-room soap and gel dispensers that announced “Hand hygiene protects patients from catching diseases.” Those reminder signs increased soap and gel usage by 45 percent. (Because personell committed to protect patients)
  • Compared to consumers who had previously performed pro-environmental actions but were not reminded of them, those who did receive such reminders came to see themselves as more environmentally minded and then became uniquely more likely to purchase environmentally friendly versions of products.
  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
  • Psychological research indicates that we experience our feelings toward something a split second before we can intellectualize about it.
  • Commitments are most effective when they are active, public, effortful, and viewed as internally motivated (voluntary), because each of these elements changes self-image.

7. Unity

Summary: People tend to see themselves as part of a group and are inclined to say yes to someone they consider one of them.

  • Neuroscientists have offered an explanation for the confusion: asking someone to imagine the self or a close other of the group ones feels a part of engages the same brain circuitry.
  • “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality . . . and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents you; and when he [or she] wins, you win.”
  • By referencing shared feelings and time together or by simply using the pronouns we, our, and us—in such statements as “You know, we’ve been together for a long time, and we care for one another; I’d appreciate it if you’d do this for me”—only these persuaders obtained the change they desired.
  • For instance, it’s common to hear people include their dogs within the boundaries of family, with comments such as “I’m the parent of three kids and a Scottish Terrier.” – The findings were clear-cut: cross-species contagious yawning did emerge, but only between dogs and their owners.
  • When people act in unison, they not only see themselves as more alike but also evaluate one another more positively afterward.
  • When later, the children had an opportunity for benevolence, those who had sung and walked together in time with music were over three times more likely to help their partner than were those who did not have a joint musical experience.
  • These findings suggest that it is not despite our distress that we are more united after a terrorist attack, but it is precisely because of our shared distress that our bonds become stronger and our society adapts to face the next threat.”
  • “We all admire the wisdom of those who have come to us for advice.”
  • Fortunately, there’s a factor that can bolster their strength and stability. It is attentional focus—an action that can greatly enable favored beliefs, values, and choices.
  • People say yes to someone they consider one of them. The experience of “we”-ness (unity) with others is about shared identities—tribe-like categories that individuals use to define themselves and their groups, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and family, as well as political and religious affiliations.
  • In deciding whether to say yes or no to a requester, we frequently pay attention to a single unit of the relevant information in the situation.
  • Either way, cross-group unity should grow.

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