Science of Persuasion


Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin have just created a highly engaging and informative video of the proven “factors that influence us to say yes to the requests of others.” This 12 minute video, which is full of examples, is provided below. Dr. Cialdini is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing, Arizona State University.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to be quoting the authors, to provide you a quick look at the great information covered in the video. I hope you’ll watch the whole thing and are prepared to take notes.

Researchers for over 60 years have been studying persuasion and Cialdini and Martin state that there can be no doubt that is a science to how we are persuaded. And a lot of this science is surprising.

In their research, Cialdini and Martin have identified just six universal rules of thumb or shortcuts that guide human behaviour. These six shortcuts are:

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

Understanding these shortcuts and employing them in an ethical manner can significantly increase the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request.

The first principle is Reciprocity and simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of behaviour, gift or service that they have received first. In the context of a social obligation, people are more likely to say yes to those that they owe! The key to using the principle of reciprocation is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is it is personalized and unexpected.

The second universal principle of persuasion is Scarcity. Simply put, people want more of those things they can have less of. When it comes to successfully persuading others using the scarcity principle, the science is clear. It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they’ll 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.

The third principle of influence is Authority. The idea is that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempts. Of course, this can present problems. You can hardly go around telling potenial customers how brilliant you are. But, you can certainly arrange for someone to do it for you. Surpisingly, the science tells us that it doesn’t seem to matter if the person who introduces you is not only connected to you but also likely to prosper from the introduction themselves. Having a staff member, such as a receptionist, mention the experience or expertise of the staff member to whom they are transferring a call can lead to a significant increase in business. Increased business from implementing a small change informed by persuasion science, that is both ethicial and costless to implement.

For information about the other three principles Cialdini and Martin have identified, please watch the full video.

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