Saturday, August 14, 2010

Programs of Persuasion

Psychologist Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University has spent his entire career observing influence techniques not just in the lab but also in the real world. Cialdini has published his conclusions in a book, Influence: Science and Practice, fifth edition (Allyn & Bacon, 2008), where he identifies six core principles of social influence—all of which, he argues, have evolutionary underpinnings reaching far back into our ancestral history.

These core principles are as follows:

1. Reciprocity—we feel obligated to return favors.

2. Liking—we have a tendency to say yes to people whom we like.

3. Scarcity—we place more value on things that are in short supply.

4. Social proof—we look at what others are doing when we’re not sure what to do ourselves.

5. Authority—we listen to experts and those in positions of power.

6. Commitment and consistency—we like to be true to our word and finish what we’ve started.

All of these principles tap (somewhat self-evidently given their evolutionary origins), one way or another, into issues of primeval survival—issues that in the 21st century are perhaps recapitulated a little more often than we think. What will happen if I don’t fill up with gas? we mutter to ourselves in a fuel crisis (scarcity). Or at dinner: everyone else is using that funny-shaped spoon with the hook, so it’s got to be right. Right? (Social proof.) Because of this evolutionary lineage and of the strategies’ explicit connection to ostensibly individual reward systems, they are all subsumed within the supersuasion model under the broader, more generic principle of perceived self-interest.

Source of Information : Scientific American Mind March-April 2010

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