Saturday, January 28, 2006

**** Psychology of Influence by Robert Cialdini

Psychology of Influence by Robert Cialdini

Very illuminating book about how we are influenced. The methods described in the book can be used by us to influence others, or can help us to avoid being influenced. The most chilling item of note has to do with the studies of famous suicides. Unbelievably scary.

When asking someone for a favor always make sure to use the word ‘because’ in justifying the request. The reason doesn’t even have to be very good one, but the wording is critical. 94% of those asked heeded ‘Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine because I’m in a rush?’… only 60% granted this wish when the last clause with ‘because’ was dropped… To prove this point, a 3rd variation was tried; ‘Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine because I have to make some copies’. This produced a 93% compliance. So the key is use the word ‘because’ and not to worry much about the reason. P4

Girls, don’t let your lover see all the pretty ladies…
College students rated a picture of an avg-looking member of the opposite sex as less attractive if they had first looked through the ads in some popular magazines. In another study, male college students rated the photo of a potential blind date. Those who did so while watching an episode of the Charlie’s Angels viewed the blind date as a less attractive woman than those who rated her while watching a different show. P12

Don’t believe in the contrast principle? Try this at home.
Each student takes a turn sitting in front of 3 pails of water – cold, room temp, and hot. After placing one hand each in the cold and the hot, the student is told to place both in the lukewarm water simultaneously… Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that has been in the cold water feels as if it is now in hot water, while the one that was in the hot water feels as if it is now in cold water. P12

Always check out the cheapest possible option - first
It is much more profitable for salespeople to present the expensive item first, not only because to fail to do so will lose the influence of the contrast principle; to fail to do so will also cause the principle to work actively against them. Presenting an inexpensive product first, and following it with an expensive one will cause the expensive item to seem even more costly as a result. P13

But make sure it is a viable option as well.
The [Real Estate] company maintained a run down house or 2 on its list of inflated prices. These houses were not intended to be sold but to be shown to them, so that the genuine properties would benefit from the comparison. P14

Tit for tat – it is in our genes.
The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us… By virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, etc… A term like ‘Much obliged’ has become a synonym for ‘thank you’ not only in English but other languages as well… It [the rule] is so widespread that after intensive study, sociologists can report that there is no human society that does not subscribe to the rule. And within each society it seems pervasive also; it permeates exchanges of every kind. P18

Beware of those offering gifts
To understand how the rule of reciprocation can be exploited by one who recognizes it as the source of influence… we might closely examine an experiment [which I will paraphrase here. In some cases, a person (an unknown experimenter posing as a fellow subject) performs a small, unsolicited favor – in this case, getting the subject a Coke. In other cases, no favor is performed. Later, at the end of a staged experiment, the unknown experimenter asks the subject for a favor – can you purchase some raffle tickets from me? The major finding of the study concerned the number of tix purchased under the 2 conditions… Apparently feeling they owed him something, the subjects [who received the Coke] bought twice as many raffle tix as the subjects who had not been given prior favor… To measure how liking toward the experimenter affected the subject’s decisions to buy raffle tix, the experimenter had the subjects fill out several rating scales indicating how much they liked the person in the study with them… There was a significant tendency for subjects to buy more tix if they liked him… The interesting thing however is that the relationship between liking and compliance was completely wiped out in the condition under which subjects had been given a Coke. For those who owed him a favor, it made no difference whether they like him or not; they felt a sense of obligation to repay him, and they did. P20-1… There was not a single person who refused the Coke. It is easy to see why it would have been awkward to turn down raffle ticket purchase favor: the money for the Coke had already been spent; a soft drink was an appropriate favor in the situation, especially since the experimenter had one as well; it would have been impolite to reject the thoughtful action. Nevertheless the receipt of the Coke produced an indebtedness that manifested itself clearly when the experimenter announced his desire to sell some raffle tickets. Notice the important asymmetry here – all the genuine free choices were not the subjects. They didn’t choose the form of the initial favor [the Coke], or the return favor [raffle tickets]. Of course, one could have rejected the initial offer for the Coke, or the latter favor of buying a ticket after receiving the Coke, but those would have required the subject to go against the natural cultural forces favoring reciprocation. P31

A skeptic, requiring direct evidence of the quid pro quo expected by political contributors, might look to the remarkably bald-faced admission by Charles Keating [of S&L infamy]. Addressing the question of whether a connection existed between the $1.3M he had contributed to the campaigns of 5 US senators and their subsequent actions in his behalf against federal regulators, he asserted ‘I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.’ P26

There is no such thing as a free lunch.
The beauty of the free sample, however, is that it is also a gift and , as such, can engage the reciprocity rule… Many people find it difficult to accept a sample from the always smiling attendant, return only a toothpick, and walk away [I had that happen today, and felt obliged as well. Taking a package, only later to remove it out of the sight of the attendant.]… A highly effective variation on this marketing procedure is illustrated by an Indiana supermarket operator who sold an astounding 1000 lbs of cheese in a few hours one day by putting out the cheese and inviting customers to cut off slivers for themselves as free samples [by making the potential customer actively determine the size of the gift, the obligation increased tremendously]. P27

Amway instructs its salepersons to leave a set of complete cleaning products (called a BUG) with a customer for 24, 48, or 72 hours, at no cost or obligation to her… At the end of the trial period, the Amway rep returns to pick up orders for those products the customer wishes to purchase. P28

The Disabled American Veterans org reports that its simple mail appeal for donations produces a response rate of 18%. But when the mailing includes an unsolicited gift (individualized address labels), the success rate doubles to 35%. P30

The Hari Krishna Society came up with a better method of raising funds then their old game of dressing up like freaks and singing songs no one could understand. The Krishna solicitor steps in front of a business in an airport and hands him a flower. The man, reacting with surprise, takes it. Almost immediately, he tries to give it back saying that he does not want the flower. The Krishna member responds that it is a gift, and that it is his to keep, however, a donation would be welcomed. Again the target protests, ‘I don’t want this flower. Take it!’ And again the solicitor refuses. ‘It’s our gift to you.’… He leans away from his benefactor, only to be drawn back again by the pull of the rule… With a nod of resignation he comes up with a dollar. Now he can walk away freely until he encounters a waste container – where he throws the flower… One the solicitor’s companions went from trash can to trash can and would retrieve all of the flowers… She then returned so they could be distributed profitably through the reciprocation process once more. P32

Woman: I no longer let a guy I meet in club buy my drinks because I don’t want either of us to feel that I am obligated sexually. Research suggests that there is basis for her concern. P36

Boy Scout Bars
Hey mister! Want to buy a circus ticket for $5? No, how about buying a chocolate bar for only $1 then? Hard to resist, right? Why? The Boy Scout had made a concession. You feel like making a concession of your own as well… The reciprocation rule brings about mutual concession in 2 ways. First, it pressures the recipient of an already made concession to respond in kind. Second, the obligation to reciprocate a concession encourages the creation of socially desirable arrangements by ensuring that anyone seeking to start such an arrangement will not exploited. After all, if there were no social obligation to reciprocate a concession, who would want to make the first sacrifice? P37-8

When you only want a small favor, ask for a big favor first.
College students were asked to chaperon troubled kids to the zoo. When asked without any prompting, 83% refused. Another group was asked first to spend 2 hours a week for a minimum of 2 years. It was only after they refused this extreme request, as all did, that the small request of taking these same kids to zoo was asked. This time 50% accepted. P40

But don’t initially ask for an arm or leg.
Research on the rejection-then-retreat technique shows that if the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen 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. Any subsequent retreat is not viewed as a genuine concession and thus is not reciprocated. P40

Always give someone the chance to haggle or save face in a negotiation.
Strangely enough, it seems that the reject-then-retreat tactic spurs people not only to agree to a desired request, but actually to carry the request, and finally, to volunteer to perform further requests. What could there about the technique that makes people who have been duped into compliance so bewilderingly likely to continue to comply?… There were 3 important findings in this experiment to help us understand why this technique is so effective. 1st, compared to the 2 other approaches [asking for an extreme demand and making no concessions or asking for a moderate demand but again making no concessions], the strategy of starting with an extreme demand and then retreating to the more moderate one produced the best result. 2nd, Those subjects facing the opponent who used the retreating strategy felt most responsible for the final deal… Of course, we know that they hadn’t done any such thing… But it appeared to these subjects that they had made the opponent change. The result was that they felt more responsible for the final outcome of the negotiations… A person who feels responsible for the terms of the contract will be more likely to live up to that contract… 3rd, It also appears that an agreement that has been forged through the concessions of one’s opponent is quite satisfying… And it stands to reason that people who are satisfied with a given arrangement are more likely to be willing to agree to further such arrangements. P50


What to do? How not to be sucker.
Accept the desirable first offer of others but accept those offers only for what they fundamentally are, not for what they are represented to be. If person offers us a nice favor, we might well accept, recognizing that we have obligated ourselves to return a favor sometime in the future. To engage in this sort of arrangement with another is not to be exploited… Quite the contrary, it is to participate fairly in the ‘honored network of obligation’ that has served us so well from the dawn of humanity. However, if the initial favor turns out to be a device, a trick, an artifice designed specifically to stimulate our compliance with a larger return favor, that is a different story. Here our partner is not a benefactor but a profiteer… As long as we perceive and define his action as a compliance device instead of a favor, he no longer has the reciprocation rule as an ally. P53

Beach blanket Babylon
A researcher put a beach blanket down 5 feet from a randomly chosen individual. After a couple minutes on the blanket listening to a portable radio, the accomplice would stand up and stroll down the beach. A few minutes later, a 2nd researcher, pretending to be a thief, would approach, grab the radio and hurry away with it… Only 4 out of 20 people challenged the thief. But when the same process was repeated with a twist the results were drastically different. In these incidents, the first researcher would simply ask ‘watch my things’ which each of them agreed to do. Now propelled by the rule of consistency, 19 of the 20 become virtual vigilantes. P60

The first puzzle comes from the refusal of fraternity chapters to allow public-service activities to be part of their initiation ceremonies. Why? If an effortful commitment is what fraternities are after in their initiation rites, surely they could structure enough distasteful and strenuous civic activities for their pledges. Besides, community spirited endeavors would do much to improve the highly unfavorable public and media image of fraternity hell week rites… They wanted the pledges to own what they had done. No excuses, no ways out were allowed. A man who suffered through an arduous hazing could not be given the chance to believe he did so for charitable purposes… 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 may get us to perform a certain action, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the act. The same is true of a strong threat. P93 This is normally called ‘buy in’ as we mere mortals have experienced it.

All this has important implications for rearing children. It suggests that we should never heavily bribe or threaten our children to do the things we want them truly to believe in. An experiment gives some hints about what to do and what not to do. The experimenter had a set of 5 toys, and wanted the boys to avoid playing with the most interesting toy (a robot). His first approach was to issue a clear threat. “It is wrong to play with the robot. If you play with the robot, I’ll be very angry and will have to do something about it.” 21 of the 22 boys didn’t touch the robot during the first session. On a second group of boys, a second approach was tried. This time all that was told to the boys was ‘It is wrong to play with the robot.’ Again, 21 of the 22 (different) boys didn’t touch the robot. The real difference among these boys came a 6 weeks later, when they had a chance to play with the toys without the initial experimenter around. 33% of the boys who had been spared the strong threat played with the forbidden toy the second time around. However, for the first group, not having the person wielding the threat present, gave them a free hand with the toys. A whopping 77% played with the robot. The lesson? If you want your kids to comply while you’re not around, threats will not internalize the desire for them to adhere. p94

Sometimes you just gotta believe in yourself.
Iowans given the challenge of saving energy were told that they would be lauded in a local newspaper for their achievements. The effect was immediate. One month later, each had saved on average 422 cubic feet of natural gas. Then, part way through the experiment, they were told no public notification would take place. Rather than falling back to their old, wasteful habits, their savings increased by another 15.5% over the coming months. This same experiment was repeated in the summer months in an effort to curtail air conditioning usage. A similar 41.6% increase in further savings was noted. What is motivating these people to make such sacrifices? Any of a number of interpretations could be offered for that still stronger effort, but I have a favorite. In a way, the opportunity to receive newspaper publicity had prevented the homeowners from fully owning their commitment to conservation. Of all the reasons supporting the decision to try to save, it was the only one that had come from the outside; it was the only that was preventing the homeowners from thinking that they were conserving gas because they believed in it. P102

Don’t be a victim
There is a famous story of a woman who was assaulted and murdered in NYC in March of 1964. Her assailant had chased and attacked her in the street 3 times over 35 minutes before his knife finally silenced her cries for help. Incredibly 38 of her neighbors watched the events without lifing a finger to call the police. How can something like this happen? The first reason is with several potential helpers around, the personal responsibility of each individual is reduced: ‘Perhaps some else will give or call for aid’. So with everyone thinking that someone else will help, no one does. The second reason is founded on the principle of social proof… In times of uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues. What is easy to forget is that everyboby else observing is likely to be looking for social evidence too. And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly with brief camouflaged glances at those around us… Meanwhile the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react. Data bear this out. A student who appeared to be having an epiletic seizure received help 85% of the time when there was a single bystander present but only 31% of the time with 5 bystanders. Another experiment confirms this as well. 75% of lone individuals who observed smoke coming from under an apartment door reported it, while a 3 person group reported the smoke only 38% of the time. Similarily, 90% of individual bystanders provided emergency aid, whereas 16% did when the bystander was in the presence of 2 others who remained passive. P132-5 What should you do if you need help in a public circumstance? Single a person out of the crowd, and ask for their help in no uncertain terms. Tell them to ask others to help them as well.

We’re all closet conformers
An experimenter dropped a wallet and a note from a good samaritan in a stamped, addressed envelope on a NYC sidewalk (giving the appearance that a good samaritan was mailing the wallet and dropped the letter on their way to the post office) and observed what happened. Only 33% of the wallets were returned (ie. Placed into the mailbox rather than pocketed) when the good samaritan was seen as dissimilar, but fully 70% were returned when he was thought to be similar.

Reading the paper every day can shave years off (or add years to) your life
It has been shown that immediately following certain kinds of highly publicized suicide stories, the number of people who die in commerical airline crashes increases 1000% (10 fold!). Even more alarming: the increase is not limited to airplane deaths. The number of automobile fatalities shoots up as well… Newspaper stories reporting suicide victims who died alone produce an increase in the frequency of single fatality wrecks only, whereas stories reporting on suicide plus murder incidents produce an increase in multiple fatality wrecks only. What could possibly be responsible? …Certain troubled people who read of another’s self inflicted death kill themselves in imitation. In a morbid illustration of the principle of social proof, these people decide how they should act on the basis of how some other troubled person has acted. P144-6

Between 1947-68, researchers found that within 2 months after every front page suicide story, an avg of 58 more people than usual killed themselves. In a sense, each suicide story killed 58 people who otherwise would have gone on living. P146

For several reasons, many people don’t want to appear to have killed themselves. They would rather seem to have died accidentally. So purposely, but furtively, they cause the wreck of a car or a plane they are operating or are simply riding in. p146

Don’t believe it? Not only does this theory explain the existing facts, it also allows us to predict new facts that had never been uncovered before. For example, people trying to kill themselves will likely arrange for the impact to be as lethal as possible. The consequence should be a quick and sure death. When examining the records, the average number of people killed in a crash was 3 times greater if the crash happened 1 week after a front page suicide story than if it happened before (plus the frequency of crashes goes up as well, and each crash is is 3 times more lethal!)… If social proof is the behind the phenomenon, there should be some clear similarity between the victim of the highly publicized suicide and those who cause subsequent wrecks. Comparing the age, the predictions were strikingly accurate. When newspapers detailed the suicide of a young person, it was young drivers who then piled their cars into trees, poles and embankments; but when the news story concerned an older person’s suicide, older drivers died in such crashes. P149

Homocides have a stimulated, copycat character after highly publicized acts of violence… When a heavyweight championship fight is lost by a black fighter, the homocide rate during the 10 days after the fight rose significantly for young black males but not young white males. On the other hand, when a white fighter lost a match, it was young white men but not young black men who were killed more frequently. P151

It’s not who you are, but how you look.
Attractive political candidates received more than 2.5 times as many votes as unattractive candidates… 73% of voters surveyed denied in the strongest possible terms that their votes had been influenced by physical appearance. A similar affect has been found in hiring situations. Good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favorable hiring decisions… Good looking people are likely to receive highly favorable treatment in the legal system… Attractive defendants were twice as likely to avoid jail as the unattractive ones… In civil case, when the defendant is more attractive than the victim, the defendants were assessed an average of $5,623 in damages; but when the victim was more attractive, the average compenstation nearly doubled to $10,051. p172

Raise your hand if you know the answer to this question: How do teachers help create dumb kids?
The teacher stands in front of the class and asks a question. 6 to 10 children strain in their seats and wave their hand and show how smart they are. Several others sit quietly trying to be invisible. When the teach calls on one child, the others who had raised hands become disappointed by missing a chance to get the teacher’s approval; and you will see relief on their faces if the chosen one doesn’t know the answer… If you were called on and failed, or if you didn’t even raise your hand to compete, you probably envied and resented your classmates who knew the answer. Children who fail in this system become jealous and resentful of the successes, putting them down as teacher’s pets or even resorting to violence against them in the school yard. The successful students often hold the unsuccessful children in contempt, calling them dumb or stupid. This competitive process doesn’t encourage anyone to look benevolently and happily upon his fellow students. P178

‘The nature of bad news infects the teller’ – Shakespeare
There is a natural human tendency to dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information, even when that person did not cause the bad news. Weathermen know this all to well. A weatherman from Little Rock, AK was accosted in a bar by a patron who stated ‘You’re the one that sent that tornado and tore up my house… I’m going to take your head off.’ The weatherman looked for a bouncer, couldn’t spot him and replied ‘That’s right about the tornado, and I’ll tell you something else, I’ll send another one if you don’t back off.’ P190

When the news was positive, the tellers were sure to mention that feature: ‘You just got a phone call with great news!’. But when the news was unfavorable, they kept themselves apart from it: ‘You got a phone call.’. Obviously the subjects had previously learned that, to be liked, they should connect themselves to good news, but not to bad news. P195

If you’re a loser at life, make sure you’re a Yankees fan.
Students at ASU were given a rigged test so that some would fail badly while others would do quite well… The students who failed were asked to describe either a recent ASU football win or loss (depending the on the week of experiment). After a defeat only 17% used the pronoun ‘we’. However, when asked to describe a win, 41% said ‘we’. For those students who did well on the test, they used ‘we’ equally (25% for victory, and 24% for defeat)… This finding tells me that when prestige is low, we will be intent upon using successes of associated others to help restore image. P201

Can you hear me now?
A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering from an ear infection. But instead of writing ‘right ear’ on the perscription, the doctor abbreviated it to ‘R ear’. Upon receiving the perscription, the duty nurse put the required number of drops into the patient’s anus. P220

22 separate nurse’s stations were given a test, unbeknownst to them. A researched called in and identified himself as a hospital physician and directed the answering nurse to give 20mg of a drug (Astrogen) to a specific ward patient. There were 4 excellent reasons for the nurse to refuse this perscription 1) the perscription was transmitted by phone, in violation of hospital policy 2) The medication itself was unauthorized; the medicene was not cleared nor in stock for this ward 3) The dosage was twice the maximum daily allowed 4) The physician was someone the nurse had never heard of before, let alone met before. Yet, in 95% of the instances, the nurse went straight away to the medicene cabinet, secured the requested dosage, and started to the patient’s room before being stopped. P225

Short? Just add status and you could become 2.5 inches taller.
A visiting speaker from Cambridge University in England was presented to 5 different classes. First as a student, then a demonstrator, then as a lecturer, a Sr. Lecturer, and finally as a Professor. After he left the room, the class was asked to estimate his height. It would found that with each increase in status, the same man grew in perceived height by an avg of ½ inch, so that professor was seen as 2.5 inches taller than a student. P223

The terrible twos explained.
Why should psychological reactance emerge at age 2? It is then that children first come to a full recognition of themselves as individuals. No longer do they view themselves as mere extensions of the social milieu but rather as identifiable and separate. This developing autonomy brings with it the concept of freedom… The tendency to fight for every liberty and against every restriction might be best understood as a quest for information. By testing severely the limits of their freedoms, the children are discovering where in their worlds they can expect to be controlled and where they can expect to be in control… The wise parent provides highly consistent information. P247

Along with the terrible teens.
The parent who grants privileges and enforces rules erratically invites rebelliousness by unwittingly establishing freedoms for the child… We should not be surprised then, when research shows that parents who enforce discipline inconsistently produce generally rebellious children. P261

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Anonymous said...

Do you have soft copy of this book ?

Saylan said...

Fantastic reading, off to the shop to buy a copy.

Thanks,

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