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Book Notes: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Read On: Aug 2016
Reading Time: 8 hours
Rating: 10/10

Summary

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”, and how to apply these understandings. You’ll learn the six universal principles, how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and how to defend yourself against them.

Notes

  • When we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason.
  • The Contrast Principle affects the way we see the difference between the things that are presented one after another. If the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is.
  • We try to repay in kind what another person has provided us.
  • People we might ordinarily dislike can greatly increase the chance that we will do what they wish merely by providing us with a small favor prior to their request.
  • We feel an obligation to make a concession to somebody who has made a concession for us. This can be the basis of a highly effective compliance technique. To make me agree to a certain request you can start with a larger request, one that 1 will most likely turn down. Then after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, l should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own, the only one I would have immediately open to me- compliance with your second request,
    • If the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. In such cases, the party who has made the extreme first request is not seen to be bargaining in good faith.
  • We have an obsessive desire to be (and appear) consistent with what we have already done.
  • Foot-in-Door technique: Starting with a little request in order to gain eventual compliance with related larger request.
  • Whenever one takes a stand that is visible to others, there arises a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person.
  • Written commitments are more effective than verbal ones because they require more work. The more the effort that goes into a commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it.
  • Commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self image when they are active, public and effortful. We accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. A large reward or a strong threat are examples of such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the act.
    • This has important implications for raising children. We should never heavily threaten or bribe our children to do the things we want them to truly believe in.
  • When consistency is being used against us, there are two types of signals from our body that can warn us:
    • The first occurs right in the pit of our stomach.
    • The second can be called our heart of hearts. We experience our feelings towards something before we intellectualize about it: A good question to ask yourself at this time - “Knowing what you know now, would you make the same choice again?”.
  • Principle of Social Proof- One means we use to determine what is correct is to find what other people think is correct. This works best when the proof is provided by the actions of a lot of other people.
  • The principle of social proof works best when the situation is unclear or ambiguos, when we are unsure of ourselves.
  • Your best strategy when in need of emergency help is to reduce the uncertainties of those around you concerning your condition and their responsibilities.
  • We will use the actions of others to determine proper behavior for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves
  • We prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.
  • Physical attractivenss has a halo effect, and we automatically assign to good looking people such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty and intelligence.. Good looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently helped, and seen as possessing better personality traits and intellectual capacities.
  • We like people who are similar to us. Those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us.
  • We are suckers for flattery. We tend to believe praise and like those who provide it.
  • We like things that are familiar to us. Often, we don’t realize that our attitude towards something has been influenced by number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.
  • Having students of different races/ethniciies studying together in school increases prejudice between them rather than decrease it. This is mostly due to the continued competitive environment when students are competing against each other. This can be resolved by imposing common goals on the groups. The task is not to eliminate academic competition but lo break its monopoly in the classroom by introducing regular cooperative successes that include members of all ethnic groups.
  • Compliance practitioners systematically use cooperation to get us to like them so we will say yes to their requests. For e.g. the “new car” salesman who takes our side and battles his boss to get us a good deal.
  • We manipulate the visiblity of our connections with winners and losers in order to make ourselves look good to anyone who could view these connections. By showcasing the positive associations and burying he negative ones. we are trying to get observers to think more highly of us and to like us more.
  • It is not when we have a strong feeling of recognized personal accomplishment that we will seek to bask in reflected glory. Instead, it will be when prestige is low that we will be intent upon using the successes of associated others to help restore image.
  • A general approach to neutralise the unwelcome influence of liking related factors on our compliance decisions is to be sensitive to only one thing: the feeling that we have come to like the practitioner more quickly or more deeply then we would have expected. Once we notice this feeling, we will have been tipped off that there is probably some tactic being used, and we can start taking the necessary countermeasures.
  • We have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority.
  • Titles (For e.g a doctor), clothes and trappings can reliably trigger our compliance in the absence of genuine substance of authority.
  • Two ways to prevent being fooled by authority:
    • Ask if the authority is truly an expert.
    • Ask how truthful can we expect the expert to be here.
  • A commonly used tactic to establish trustworthiness is to mention a small shortcoming in the person’s position or product. The drawback will be a secondary one that is easily overcome by more significant advantages. By establishing their basic truthfulness on minor issues, the compliance professionals who use this ploy can then be more believable when stressing the important aspects of their argument.
  • People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.
  • Clever individuals holding a weak or unpopular position can get us to agree with that position by arranging to have their message restricted.
  • A less available item is more desired and valued.
  • The drop from abundance to scarcity produces a decidedly bigger reaction than constant scarcity.
  • Knowing he causes and workings of scarcity pressure may not be sufficient to protect us from them because knowing is a cognitive thing, and cognitive processes are suppressed by our emotional reaction to scarcity. Rather than relying on a considered cognitive analysis of the entire situation, we might simply tune ourselves to the internal, visceral sweep for our warning. Remember that the joy is usually not in experiencing a scarce commodity, but in possessing it. If we want to buy something for its utility, it is not going to be more useful because it is scarce.

Thoughts

This was a great read, and certainly made me more aware of my blind spots. It would be nice to know when somebody is using these skills on you. The hard thing would be to make the knowledge in this book a part of my thinking process, so I’ll probably have to reread these notes regularly.

P.S More Book Notes here.

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