Very few, if any of our decisions
are made without some form of influence from others and/or our environment.
Though we walk around every day with the illusion of free-will, we are
constantly barraged by stimuli that nudges our behavior, in one way or another.
Everywhere you go, someone is trying to influence. From the lady in the
supermarket urging you to sample her freshly grilled sausage with onions, so
that you can buy that specific brand of sausage, to the real estate agent
trying to gain a commission through the sale of a house, to the politicians
that campaign for elections every few years. Persuasion and influence are
things none of us can shy away from, unless we decide to become hermits and
live in some far away secluded cave. Everyone, everywhere, is working to us. But
in the same breath, we also go through life as individuals trying to influence
others in our favour. From
the kid negotiating a higher allowance with their parents, to the office worker
that decides to start coming to work earlier in order to have leverage to ask
for a raise. Influence and persuasion are all around us. In the following
paper, I will discuss the works of Dr Robert Cialdini, looking at
the 6 Principles of persuasion and how these principles fit into the compliance
techniques and how to use pre-suasion to influence the behaviour of others as well as the
different social nudges that are used.
Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his
entire career researching the science of influence earning him an international
reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and
negotiation. Having written ‘Influence: Science and Practice’ as well as
his latest book ‘Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary way to Influence and Persuade’,
his works have set the foundation for this track of psychology.
In his foremost work, Dr Cialdini discusses how there are 6
Principles which guide how we are persuaded. Althoguh the brain is in most
situations presented with as much information as possible, it seems that in
order for the brain to be able to make decisions in the most efficient way,
with the least friction, certain rules are, by default, made to guide our
decision making. These principles are:
These principles make it possible to influence
people in an ethical manner, avoiding all forms of manipulation.
The first principle of influence is reciprocity. Reciprocity
is basically the obligation people have to return that which has been given to
them, like if a person does one a favour, the other is obligated to return the
favour later. If a friend gives you an invite to a party then you we them an
invite to your party later. In Cialdini’s experiment, it was found that
bringing restaurant patrons sweets/mints in a situation that felt genuine led
patrons to leave a higher tip than if they we’re not given the mint.
The best example of reciprocity comes from numerous
studies conducted in restaurants. The next time you go to the restaurant, it is
very likely that the waiter or waitress will give you a present and probably at
the same time or they will give you your note for dinner.
The question is: does having a mint candy influence
you on the amount of tip you leave?
Most people answer NO , but this mint candy can
make a surprising difference.
According to an experiment, when you give a single
mint candy after the meal, the tip percentage left by patrons increased by 3%, but,
if at the end of a meal, we give two candy mint, tip percentage increases by
14%. On top of that; if the waiter gives you a mint candy and before moving
away from the table, he says to the customers ‘only for you who are good
customers’, the amount of the tip will explode! You can expect up to 23%
increase in tips and only because a gift has been given in a personal manner.
Thus, for reciprocity to work in your favour
remember to give first and make sure its personalised
The second universal principle is the Scarcity
This principle can be defined as one where people
want more of those things that are not available in copious quantities. In
2003, British Airways announced that it was no longer flying in Concorde London
– USA because it was no longer profitable, the sale for its same flights surged.
Nothing had changed compared to the Concorde before, it did not fly faster and
the service was always the same, and the ticket had not dropped. But it had
simply become a resource that was going to be scarce and so the result was that
people wanted more.
Effectively convincing others to use the principle
of scarcity Lack, the science is clear, it’s not always easy to tell people the
benefits they will have if they opt for your product and service but you will
also have to tell them what is unique in what you propose and what they risk
losing if they do not consider your proposal. This principle is observed during
auctions, or during sales with the rush to have the precious garment, the
desire for something scarce influences our behaviours
in some very strange ways.
The third universal principle is that of
‘authority’. The idea is that people will follow informed and credible experts.
Physiotherapists, for example, can convince their patients to
submit to recommended exercise programs by displaying their degrees on the wall
of their surgeries.
People are more likely to make the exact change for
a parking meter if this request was made by someone wearing a uniform rather
than a civilian. What studies tell us is that it is important to signal to
others your authority, competence and credibility before trying to influence
A group of real estate agency could increase some
evaluation of their properties as well as the contracts they had by setting up
a telephone service – customer service that responds to complaints and any
other information that customers would like to have by calling on his
expertise. Instead of just putting them in touch with a salesperson, they
valued these and their experience. Thus, if a customer is interested in a
rental, he will offer the services of “Sandra” who has more than
fifteen years of experience and who deals with his region, and if a customer
wishes to have information on sales of properties, they will put him in touch
with “Peter” the sales manager who has more than twenty years of
experiences in this field.
This valuation of staff (even unverifiable) has a
direct and positive impact on the number of appointments and contracts signed,
20% and 15% increase respectively! This slight change is both an ethical method
and does not cost anything …
The next principle is ‘consistency’, which means that people
like to stay consistent in the things they say or do. Consistency starts from
the moment you make a commitment or a decision or position. The researchers
found, not surprisingly, in a well-known study that few people would agree to
have a “drive cautiously” sign to support a road safety campaign in
their neighbourhood. However, in a similar neighbourhood, almost four times
more homeowners have agreed to have this campaign ‘drive carefully’ poster on a
sign. WHY? Just because ten days ago residents of this neighbourhood agreed to
place a map on the front window of their homes that shows they support the
campaign of ‘driving cautiously’, and this little map was the initial
commitment made by its inhabitants who take us to its 400% increases on a
larger scale but always in a consistent way. So, when one seeks to influence
when using the principle of coherence, the influence sensor seeks
‘volunteering, energy and public commitment’ … The most powerful being to
have a written commitment. for example, a recent study tells us how to reduce
appointment cancellations by 18% simply by asking the patient himself to fill
in his form for the date and time of the appointment instead of the secretary
or a member of staff who do it for him.
The fifth principle, that of affection, is since
people prefer to say yes to the people they like. But what makes one person like
another? Persuasion experiments show us that there are three very important
– we like people who look like us,
– we like people who compliments us,
– we like people who have the same goals as us and
Nowadays, most of the interactions we have are
online and influence can also apply to online sales. For example, on Amazon you
have product suggestions, exclusive offers, free shipping, which sends you by
email products that interest you …
Another example is in everyday life with
negotiations between two groups of MBA students from two different business
One of the groups is told that time is money and
that you should stay focused on business.
In this same group, 55% of them have reached
In a second group, they were told that before
starting any negotiations, it was necessary above all to exchange information,
to find similarities with each other and it is only from then on, that the
negotiations could begin. In this “socialized” group, nearly 90% have
reached an agreement, which represents 80% more success.
So, to honor this principle of liking – one must first look for similarities with the
other and give a real compliment.
The last principle is that of the consensus that is
defined especially when people will look, observe the attitude of others to
determine their actions and their behaviors. In most bathrooms in hotels, you
will find words that encourage customers to reuse towels or sheets. But for
what purpose? The reason they do this is that they want to draw the attention
of their guests to the benefits that reuse can have on protecting our
environment. And it turns out that it is an effective strategy that brings us
to an ecological behavior of nearly 35%. But there is an even more effective
way to encourage people to reuse towels. The purpose is to mention on cards and
messages in the bathroom and say that more than 75% of our guests reuse their
towels, thank you for doing the same. In this case the proportion of reuse is
then up 26%. Simply by showing them the normal behavior of “others”. Science
shows us that instead of relying solely on our abilities to convince others, we
can take as an example what the crowd does …
So, we have seen the six principles of persuasion
that have been scientifically proven, that lead us to small practical changes
that often cost nothing, but that greatly increase our ability to convince
The foot in
the door is a compliance technique described by social psychologists. It
consists of making an inexpensive request that will likely be accepted,
followed by a more expensive request. This second request will be more likely
to be accepted if it has been preceded by the acceptance of the first, which
creates a sort of landing and a phenomenon of commitment.
The phenomenon was highlighted in 1966 by Freedman
and Fraser. They contacted more than a hundred people over the phone to ask if
they agreed to the researchers coming home to take inventory of their
possessions. Some of them had been contacted three days earlier by the same
person to answer a questionnaire about the soap they used. Those who answered
the questionnaire (small request) were much more likely to accept the inventory
(large demand) than those who were not contacted.
In social psychology, the door in the face or door
to the nose is an inverse variant of the persuasion technique foot in the door.
It is to precede a request of expensive behavior by a request much more expensive,
basically an over the top request.
Previously known in the field of sales and prospecting, this technique was officially unveiled in 1975 during an experiment in which Robert Cialdini and his collaborators (Vincent, Lewis, Catalan, Wheeler and Darby, 1975) asked students to sponsor a juvenile detention centre for two hours a week for two years. Once this very expensive request was refused, the authors then proposed to the students previously solicited, a single two hours outing during which they would sponsor one of the boys of the detention centre. To precede this last request, the expensive solicitation, made it possible to triple the number of acceptances of sponsorship for the single exit, compared to a control group of students to whom only this single exit was proposed. The speaker asks someone to lend him his car for a week. He has a logical refusal, which he expected because he never really wanted to borrow the car for a week. He then makes a cheaper request, lend him his car for a day. By contrast effect, perceived concession (he sacrificed himself in relation to his initial request) and guilt in the person to handle (I could not satisfy his request and therefore wants to buy me) this technique greatly increases the chances of acceptance of said person. The feeling of guilt works all the better that the person to handle feels close to the speaker and therefore does not want to lose his friendship. Following the first of these experiments, Cialdini was able to show:
that the first
request must necessarily be much more expensive than the second;
that the same
person must proceed with the two requests, so that the technique is effective.
In the case where these conditions are not
respected, the probability of acceptance of the least expensive request is not
significantly higher than when it is presented alone.