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The Psychology of Persuasion Book Summary and Review

Summary of “The Psychology of Persuasion” By Robert Cialdini


Influence book is one of the most important skills in the world. To prove that, one can count the figures who had influenced others and changed their life either for the best or for the worst. The prophets and the inspirational persons depended on this skill to persuade their people to be good persons. On the other hand, many military leaders like those who were in the World War I and II convinced their people that these wars were beneficial for humanity, however many people were killed, tortured and dishoused. Therefore, this skill, which is influence, is a double-edged skill that can be misused. Many researches were made on this skill. 

However, the practical side stays the most significant side in the matter. The world has its principles that are not written in the books. Understanding the meaning and the reasons of compliance would help in the matter. That is because influence can happen either through the freewill of the person or through forcing him to a certain action. The leaders who are not able to make their people say the word yes would fail. That is why the survival of the fittest law was made to give the people the feeling that many of them are a burden and they should accept to live at any circumstances. 

The people who accept this give the influential leaders a green light to do whatever they want to do. To notice this and to know the reasons for influence at people, the author of the book tended to study the behavior of influence practitioners and their used and applied method on people. To do this, many interviews were made and many professionals were asked. There are many people automatically programed to compliance and influence. They say yes for everything without thinking about and without verifying the authenticity of the action, they are ordered to do. Hence, automatic influence should be studied well to know the reasons of this kind of unthinkingness. The book of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” is written by Robert Cialdini in 2006. Here is the summary of the book:


Things That Influence Others

Favor is the first thing the influences people and their directions. That is because all people aim at embracing any enemy that has the same interests or tendencies. Appearance also plays an important role in the matter. Some animals like turkeys go for imitating other birds that are going with the same steps with them. The goes for humans who likes the people who have the same hobbies and hat other who do not have them. Therefore, the first reason for influencing others and making them obeying the practitioners is giving them the feeling of the same interests and hobbies. This would turn others to have an automatic and blind way of obedience and thus influencing them and affecting their thoughts. There is an important pattern of influence called the fixed-action pattern and this theory includes all the rituals and courtships. This pattern says that the followers of other persons follow the without even realizing that they are following them. This behavior is prevalent between many humans as many people follow it as it is necessary for them and other people follow it because they see it the best method of behaving. Follow and imitating others is the best way at some people to have a good life as they think. The fact is that the directors of this method have a high rate of hypocrisy. That is because they give their followers the feeling that they are one hand and they are very similar. However they are unlike a different and the directors do that to influence other people and make them their followers. 

The second reason that make people influenced by others and follow them is that they have no choice. The third and most important motif for the automatic influence is the principles that one has learned in an early age. The reality is that in many cases the human does things automatically because of the customs and traditions he had learned in an early age. The blindness that the victims have make them think that they behave according to natural forces instead of planned steps by somebody. The order principle can affect the way that one see things. If one carries a light thing then a little bit heavier thing, he will see the second thing as not a very heavy thing. 

However, if one carries the second thing without carrying the first, he will see it a very heavy thing. Therefore, gradation and order can change the way that one see things. Another example can be seen in the clothes shops. If the seller showed the customer the expensive things and then showed him the inexpensive things, he will surely see the inexpensive things as cheap things and he would buy them. However, the second things may be expensive for other people.


Reciprocation and Peoples’ Indebtedness

This chapter starts with a real experience of the author of the book. He says that he sent many Christmas cards to people that he does not know and the result was that many of them sent him these cards back although, they also do not know him. This made the author realize a new method of influencing others. There is an important rule, which says that people tend to send back favors to the persons who did favors to them. If one bough a present for the birthday of another person, the second one would be very aware to do the same thing in the first’s birthday. This is called in psychology reciprocity and it happens in favors, invitations and gifts. There is an important example that proves this theory of reciprocity. In 1985, Ethiopia had very bad economic and social circumstance that there was a civil war, drought, poverty and lack of food. Mexico decided to send five thousand dollars to Ethiopia. 

Afterwards, there was a big earthquake in Mexico and the Ethiopian Red Cross decided and insisted to pay back the five thousand dollars to Mexico. The certain amount of the money would prove the theory of reciprocity. The power of reciprocation can generate an automatic yes response at the people just because they feel the indebtedness. As a result one can say that there are two kinds of people in reciprocation. The first one in just sustain to pay back the favor that has been done to him and the second type like to exaggerate by increasing it. This reciprocity can be in both good and bad things. Liking is a very important factor in the matter of influences is liking. This feeling has the effect of magic as liking for somebody makes him accepts any request from the person who showed him this feeling. The reason that someone hates others is that they do him small favors in return of big requests.

Furthermore, one may totally hate the demanding people who always demand things from others without providing them anything in return. The matter becomes very dangerous when the people use this kind of gifts in politics to direct them towards certain decision. The gifts that are given to the presidents, vice presidents, ministers, officials and any human in general make them adopt some sayings and actions as a kind of reciprocation. This also happens through corporations and individuals who present some gifts to the legislative officials and these gifts are legally restricted and banned. The given gifts and favors are like magic that makes people do the required things without hesitation thinking that the persons who gave them these gifts are good persons and deserve serving. The gifts are not given under the name of bribes, but they are given as presents and favors. That is why, it is not allowed in many countries that any official accept any kind of presents from people in the range of his work. The first uninvited first aid makes the persons pays back this debt without the fear that he might lose something. This first aid creates a kind of obligation to the self to behave according to the person who made the favor without any demand. The author tells that flexibility is required and very essential.


Consistency in Promises and Decisions

No doubt that the consistency plays an important role in the matter of influence and commitment. The people who bet in the horses’ races are more considerably having hopes and certainty to win the race before betting for the horses they have chosen. The place they are betting in is the same and the horses are the same but the difference and the change happened to the minds of the people who paid money. That is because they would like to feel with stability and consistency after making the decision of betting. Every human is influenced by the decisions he makes and he always try to prove to others that he made the best decisions to avoid any blame from others. Justification is the key of the personalities that made any decisions. The human likes justification by nature and he tends to persuade them with his point of view. The problem happens when people try to persuade others with things that are wrong on purpose. Many people do this and they tend to direct others towards things that they know of their harm. This is called self-delusion and it can cause human many problems while he persuades himself that he is right and was not mistaken at his decisions. 

The author gives an example of an American girl and her boyfriend. The girl is called Sara and the boy is called Tim. The boy is a heavy drinker of alcohol and this is the reason that made the girl to break off. After this breaking off, Tim started to change himself, but started to know another man and they agreed to get married. At this time, Tim started to call Sara to relent her, and she believed him and returned to him and agreed to get married. Tim came back to his old habits of alcohol and the marriage was delayed for two years. Meanwhile, Sara started to tell people that the freedom of selection made her more tied to Tim, but the fact is that she made a wrong decision to back to a heavy drinker who is not able or even willing to take any responsibility. Sara was always trying to persuade herself that she is happier than before. This principle is called in psychology consistency and it have a great effect on the human actions and preferences.

The reason is that people always get afraid to back in their decisions even that they saw that these decisions are wrong. When one makes a decision he like to consistent and tries to give himself the hope that everything will be right because of the decision he made. The fact might be different as many persons discover that they are wrong after doing something or saying it. One should get rid of this and kill the feeling of consistency when he discovers that he was wrong at his decisions. Many politicians and people in responsibility denies that and they hold this rule in their minds and their hearts. The reality and the common favor supposes that one should change the things and decisions he has made after discovering their falsehood. He can do that without saying frankly that he was wrong in order to avoid blame and do the best thing in the same time. Doing this would make the world better and cause people to avoid many problems in their lives. One thing that make people tend to this rule of consistency in their decisions is that most of the cultures appreciate the persons who are reasonable and consistent at their decisions. Depending on these facts, one can say that stubborn is the basic cause of many problems in the world. People try to keep their decisions as they see them as an image of them and if they said something and did another thing, it would be a big problem. Over time, this consistency becomes automatic and one automatically behaves according to his old decisions and words. Moreover, people tend to adopt this consistency in order to have a safe haven away from the new realizations and facts that require other decisions and ways of treatment with anything. This matter is interrelated and complicated and it creates a case of mindless automatic way of response.

There is a very important example about the toys sales during the Christmas period. The children’s parents spend much money on the toys during this period of celebration to make their children happy. This makes the toys companies make many high profits and they gain a period of boom in their industry. The problem is that after the Christmas, all the sales of the toys go down sharply as never before and the same companies suffer from a big slack period. The parents’ whose children have birthdays in a near period tend not to buy expensive toys, as they are not in the toys mood. Besides, they have spent much money on the Christmas period and they have ran out on toys’ money. To solve this problem, many toys companies go for the propaganda solution through increasing the number of the advertisements for their products. Other companies go for offers and they make big deals in order to attract a big number of customers. Both solutions do not work and the only solution that would help in that is searching for a good and active mean of influencing. This mean happens through media but by a very cunning way. The toys’ companies make many advertisements about many amazing toys that would be available in the Christmas. In Christmas, they supply the stores with very low numbers of these toys, so the market and clients would be eager to them. Consequently, to raise the number of sales, they offer these amazing toys with big numbers in January and February. To illustrate this trick on the psychology of the customers, one can say that the toys’ companies psychologically affects the customers that they would get great toys in the Christmas. In addition, when they offer a small number of toys that are all sold out in the Christmas, the clients tend to buy other toys. The parents, who promised their children to buy such toys, find themselves in front of the wished toys in January and February, so they have to buy them.


The Principle of Majorities’ Feeling

Canned laughter and any canned influence has a great effect on the people minds. This mean is so effective and it attracts many people and make them laugh hysterically. The reason for this is that people tend to cope with each other. When somebody watches a movie or a series or even a funny program while listening to its canned laughter, it encourages him to laugh to cope with the people. This mean of influencing gives the people that they should accept the matter as it is without any discussion or thinking. The movies music also plays a vital rule in this regard. In some sad and tragic movies, the music can make the audience cry. On the other hand, in funny movies and series, the music can make people laugh more than the events of the movie or series themselves. The reality is that people always accept things as they are automatically. In this way, people let others to get inside them and affect their feelings. Another power that affects people and make them obey each other is the power of liking. When somebody shows an admiration for another person, he grabs his heart and mind. Furthermore, admiration has the biggest influence on people. 

For example, if there is somebody stands in a line to finish something from an authority. In this case, one can find two kinds of people. The first kind is the people who start to shout and raise their voices, because of the long line, claiming that the employees do not do their jobs perfectly and there should be a solution for such matters. The second kind of people are the people who start to show falsely admiration to the employees and ask the angry persons to put themselves in the employees’ places. This basis of reciprocity says that the employees would feel sympathy with the persons who defended them and they try to do the any favors in return. The employees would help their defendants through facilitating services for them or advising them with very important things that would help them to finish their papers fast. On the other side, the employees would back the negative effect to the people who were not kind with them. This would happen through law application on them. If there is a single missing paper at these angry people or a stamp or even a signature, the process would stop the papers would not pass by. There are many means of likings. The first one is admiration of the physical attractiveness. The second means is admiration through similarity with other famous and amazing people. The third one is admiration through the compliments.


Authorities That Affect Human Actions

Authorities plays a very important role in influencing people. Many people obey some effectors because they only have an authority over them. The first authority that influence people and they should obey it is the authority of the country. This authority is assembled in the officials, government, laws and legislatives. People need to organize their lives, but they are able to do this by themselves. Hence, they decided to choose a president or a king, a government, a prime minister, ministers, parliament’s nominee and governmental employees to achieve the common interest of the country they are living in. Therefore, each one feels that he is committed and obligated to obey these authorities in the country. 

The second and most important authority that has a dramatic effect in the lives of the people is the religion. Most of the people do not deny the importance of religions and they instinctively tend to obey the orders of religions and avoid their preventions. This matter is very important as many provisions that are in the laws are extracted from the religions. Religion is very important in the life of the people and it may contain things that cannot be punished for in the laws but they not allowed in religions like the lying. Hence, the religion influences peoples’ actions and behaviors and directs them to certain things in their lives. All of us know the famous story of Adams and Eve who were dismissed from the paradise only because they did not obey a sing order of God. People tell such stories to their children and such stories affect the minds and intellects of children and make them obedient to religions when they get older. 

The third important determiner of influence is the traditions and norms. These traditions and norms make people do things and refuse other things only because of the traditions. Moreover, when people travel from a country to another country they should put in their consideration the norms and traditions of the destination countries. This is to avoid any kind of unfamiliarity with the people one would visit and to show them that one respects their norms and traditions. To respect the norms and traditions of people would make people very close to each other and would generate and promote the feeling of amity between them then they can influence each other. The norms and traditions can be in clothes, the using of some words and some certain manners and behaviors. 

The fourth determiner of influence is the education that directs the actions and deeds of people. The level of education determines the behavior that one would go through in some problems or situations. Another extremely significant thing that influences people in their lives is the friends. The friends of each one directs him towards things, which can be bad or good. All friends almost have the same preferences and dislikes. If one of these friends does not like something, which the others like, they try to persuade him of the thing and create a motivation at him for it.


Scarcity and the Fear of Loss

Scarcity principle can change the minds of people. Scarcity means that there are not many choices in front of the person, who is willing to make a decision in something. For example, one has to stop a conversation with another one sitting with him in order to answer a phone call. That is because the call receiver does not have any choices except answering the phone call. This scarcity directed the first person to hold the conversation in order to answer a phone call, drink, eat or do any other thing. 

Scarcity can be in time. This happens when one does not have much time for many things and he has to choose the urgent thing to do and stop all other things. It also can be in money and this can direct person to take a bus instead of a taxi or to buy some goods from a cheap store because he does not have enough money for the expensive ones. This principle supports the principle of choice at the man, which means that one should choose between many other things and he determine the best thing for him. The main cause and motivation for preferring something over another thing is the fear of loss. Many of the companies and factories use the principle of scarcity in order to be the bestsellers. They try to convince the customers that specific goods are going be sold out all, hence the customers feels with the principle of loss and they decide to buy the goods.


Summary

To sum up, people do favors for each other and they expect the same thing, however the same favor is not returned to them with the same level. This shows the importance of flexibility in the matter of influencing. On the other side, the favor is returned more than it is mad in some cases. For example, someone has given to another person money and he refused to take them back. Another example that the writer says to prove his point of view is that when he could not operate his car and a passerby helped him to operate it while the owner of the car told him to ask for help anytime he needs it. After two months, the guy knocked the door of the owner of the car and wanted to borrow it. The owner felt with obligation and uncertainty at same time. The man gave the guy, who was underage, the car and this caused a problem to the owner of the car afterwards. Away from the people who feel with obligation towards favors and gifts, there is another sort of people who like the feeling of indebtedness. The reason of this is that none likes to be owed to another one. This is enough to make him get rid of any feeling of indebtedness. As a result, the one who denies the principle of reciprocity and refuses to pay it back is hated by the most of the people in his society unless he is prevented from paying back by the specific circumstances. The matter is common and wide between the most of the people and they all know its importance.



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