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Influence - The Psychology of persuasion || Summary

 Chapter 1 - Weapons of Influence

Turkey mothers are wonderful parents: loving, protective and nurturing of their young.

           However, look a little more closely and you’ll see that this tenderness hangs by a single thread. If a chick emits the distinctive “cheep-cheep” sound, the mother will care for it lovingly. But if the chick does not, the mother will ignore or even kill it!

The “cheep-cheep” sound is so persuasive that even a replica of the turkey’s arch-nemesis, the polecat, will elicit tender care from the mother turkey as long as it cheeps loudly.

For the mother turkey, the sound is a simple shortcut that allows her to quickly and, in most cases, reliably identify its chicks, triggering its maternal instincts.

We humans like to think of ourselves as clever, which is why the mother turkey’s shortcut can seem quite foolish to us.

But the fact is that we use very similar psychological shortcuts as well.

This is due to simple necessity: the world is a complex place where it’s impossible for us to reflect upon the details of every decision we make. Thus, we use quick shortcuts, and most of the time they serve us well.

One example of such a shortcut is that we’re much more willing to do people a favor if they provide us with a reason – any reason.

In an experiment to study this phenomenon, a researcher asked people queueing up to use a copy machine whether she could skip the line. She found that if she gave a reason – “May I skip the line because I’m in a rush?” – 94 percent of people complied with her request.

If she gave no reason, only 60 percent complied.

But, fascinatingly, if she gave a nonsensical reason – “May I skip the line because I need to make copies” – 93 percent still complied. Apparently, people have a mental shortcut that deems any reason at all sufficient to grant a favor!

More worryingly, just as scientists can trick a turkey into mothering a stuffed polecat, so-called compliance professionals like advertisers, salesmen and con artists can fool us into using our shortcuts against our own interests. They usually do this to get us to comply with their demands, for example, to buy a product.

One example is the commonly abused “price indicates quality” shortcut. People usually assume expensive items are of higher quality than cheap ones, and while this shortcut is often at least partially accurate, a wily salesman might well use it against us. For example, did you know that souvenir shops often sell unpopular goods by raising rather than lowering their prices?         

Chapter 2 - Reciprocation

The Old Give and Take.

           Has anyone ever given you something on the street, like a flower or a free sample of something? Do waiters at restaurants occasionally bring complimentary sweets along with your bill?

As innocent as these gestures may seem, they are actually relatively simple tricks to influence your behavior. You see, the first psychological principle of persuasion is the rule of reciprocation: we feel obliged to return favors.

if someone does us a favor and we do not return it, we feel a psychological burden. This is partially because, as a society, we are disdainful of those who do not reciprocate favors; we label them as moochers or ingrates and fear being labeled as such ourselves.

How intense is the desire to reciprocate, you ask?

Well, it can even be seen in the long-term relations between countries. Consider that in 1985, Ethiopia was probably one of the worst-off countries in the world, ravaged by poverty, starvation and disease. And yet, in that year, the country’s Red Cross sent 5,000 dollars to aid earthquake victims in Mexico City.

Why would this desperately impoverished country send money to another faraway land?

Simple: in 1935, when Italy had invaded Ethiopia, Mexico had sent aid to the country, and this was an opportunity to return the favor.

For example, in a 1971 study by psychologist Dennis Regan, a researcher, “Joe,” masqueraded as a fellow participant and bought test subjects a ten-cent Coke as an unbidden favor. Later on, it turned out that Joe needed a favor: he was trying to sell as many raffle tickets as possible to win a prize. Would the subjects help him out by buying some?

On average, the subjects who had received the unbidden Coke reciprocated by purchasing 50 cents’ worth of tickets – twice the amount compared to if no Coke was given. The feeling of indebtedness even seemed to outweigh likeability: some of the participants bought Joe’s raffle tickets even though they said they did not like him.

So how can you fight back?

Start by getting into the habit of asking yourself if the favors you receive are really genuine, or if they could be attempts to manipulate you. Think about whether you actually want to donate your money to that nonprofit organization, or if you only feel obliged because they handed you a gift on the street.

And don’t worry about not reciprocating “favors” that are really manipulation attempts in disguise; favors warrant favors in return, but tricks do not.         

Chapter 3 - Commitment and Consistency

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end. - LEONARDO DA VINCI

Commitment and Consistency. This means we usually want to be consistent with what we have done and said in the past. Unfortunately, this human tendency can lead us down the path of foolish consistency. If someone can make us do a small action, then we’ll be more likely to do larger actions consistent with it in the future.

For example, one study found that if people agreed to put a small 3-inch “Drive carefully” sticker in their home window, then two weeks later they were more than 4 times more likely to agree to put a large sign with the same message in their front lawn! Agreeing with the small request made them feel an obligation to agree to the much larger request two weeks later. This study was done in the 1960s by psychologists Freedman and Frasier.

This principle of consistency is used (consciously or accidentally) in many organizations:

Weight loss clinics. People wanting to lose weight are encouraged to write down their goals and share them with everyone. It’s a form of public commitment, and clinics say this often helps their clients stick to the diet when willpower alone would have failed.

Door-to-door sales. Companies that sold door-to-door reduced their refunds dramatically simply by having the customer fill out the sales agreement, instead of the salesperson. This act of personally committing to the sale greatly reduced future buyer’s remorse.

A pair of young researchers, Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills, decided to test their observation that “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.”

When we make a public commitment, then we feel pressure to appear consistent to it. For example, weight loss clinics tell clients to make their goals public because this helps them stick to the diet.     

Chapter 4 - Social Proof

    The principle of social proof. It states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.

The tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it normally works quite well. As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it. Usually, when a lot of people are doing something, it is the right thing to do. This feature of the principle of social proof is simultaneously its major strength and its major weakness. Like the other weapons of influence, it provides a convenient shortcut for determining how to behave but, at the same time, makes one who uses the shortcut vulnerable to the attacks of profiteers who lie in wait along its path.

Some Examples of Social Proof

Bartenders often “salt” their tip jars with a few dollar bills at the beginning of the evening to simulate tips left by prior customers and thereby to give the impression that tipping with folding money is proper barroom behavior.

Advertisers love to inform us when a product is the “fastest-growing” or “largest-selling” because they don’t have to convince us directly that the product is good, they need only say that many others think so, which seems proof enough.

The producers of charity telethons devote inordinate amounts of time to the incessant listing of viewers who have already pledged contributions. The message being communicated to the holdouts is clear: “Look at all the people who have decided to give. It must be the correct thing to do.”

Salesmen are taught to spice their pitches with numerous accounts of individuals who have purchased the product. Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert captures the principle nicely in his advice to sales trainees: “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”         

Chapter 5 - Liking

           Few people would be surprised to learn that, As a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests.

Network marketing or multi-level marketing companies are successful because of this principle. In network marketing, people sell products from companies like Tupperware of Amway directly to their network of friends and associates. It is much easier to say no to an anonymous salesperson than your longtime friend. In fact, people are twice as likely to purchase Tupperware because they want to support their friend than because they like the product itself, according to consumer researchers Frenzer and Davis.

Factors that increase liking include

Similarity - We like people who are like us. This is why salespeople often try to create rapport by finding any hobbies and interests they have in common with their prospect.

Familiarity - We tend to trust people more when we’ve seen them many times. Joe Girard was recognized as one of the world’s greatest car salesmen. He said the secret to his success was sending out greeting cards every month to 13,000 of his former customers.

If you are building a business, you can make yourself more familiar to your prospects through a consistent email newsletter or Youtube channel.

Halo effect - A halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. And the evidence is now clear that physical attractiveness is often such a characteristic. For example, many studies have found that physical attractiveness makes us assume someone is more intelligent.         

Chapter 6 - Authority

Follow an Expert - VIRGIL

           We are all conditioned (to varying degrees) to obey figures of authority. However, it’s relatively easy to others to trigger our compliance through symbols of authority like titles, clothing and other status symbols.

Some Examples of Authority are:

Titles - In one experiment, 22 nurses in a hospital were phoned by someone claiming to be doctor, who told the nurses to give a patient some medicine. The problem was that the man was not a doctor and the dose of medication he prescribed was deadly! Yet 95% of the nurses went to follow the directions. On their way to the patient, they were stopped by another researcher who informed them of the experiment. This demonstrates the power of automatic obedience to a title.

Clothes - We often judge someone’s position by the clothes or uniform they wear. Some medical ads take advantage of this by hiring actors who play doctors on TV shows. They are not medically trained, but they wear the white coat that subconsciously conveys medical authority.

Specialization - We all assign more authority to the specialist. If you have strange feelings in your chest, would you prefer to see a General Practitioner or a Heart Specialist?         

Chapter 7 - Scarcity

           The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save.

Some examples of Scarcity are

Limited Quantity - when the customer is informed that a certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long. For this reason alone, special editions usually command a higher price.

Limited time - Only selling a product up to a deadline. Most sales promotions use a variation of this to motivate people to come into stores.

Auction - The high pressure environment, like an auction can lead an item being sold for an elevated price as the buyers fear losing out to another person.         

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