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Influence: How And Why People Agree To Things
by Robert Cialdini
Influence: How and Why People Agree To Things by Robert Cialdini teaches us the basics of how people are influenced. It breaks influence into six key factors:
Each of the above points is detailed in a chapter. Academic studies and examples are given in a very engaging fashion. Some of the studies are for the birds. For example, mother turkeys, who are known to be caring parents (as far as birds go), tend to respond only to the "cheep-cheep" sound of their chicks.
Hearing the cheep-cheep, the mother turkey coddles and cares for the young turkey chick. It is a short-cut response that nature has given turkeys to know how to behave. It tends to work well in nature. But, tricky scientists recorded the cheep-cheep sound and placed the recording into a stuffed Polecat, the natural enemy of the turkey, and found that the mother turkeys adopted the stuffed polecat. Coddled it and cared for it.
That was quite amazing, as the usual response of a mother turkey to a stuffed Polecat without the cheep-cheep recording is an outright assault on the Polecat. This reflexive behavior tends to work most of the time, but sometimes is inappropriate. The mother turkey is responding in what Cialdini refers to as a "click, whir" method. Once some reactor sets off a signal (click), the mother turkey plays its own internal tape (whir) which signifies the appropriate response.
Only, sometimes, the response is not appropriate. And, some predators have learned the mimic strategy to trick their prey. Now, this may be useful if your goal is to be adopted by a turkey (or maybe its something that could protect you from a wild turkey attack!), you say, but how does this apply to me?
The answer is that people themselves have "click, whir" behavior. Because people wish to avoid the work of making decisions, they have internal tapes they run which tell them how to respond under various conditions. Most of the time our internal tapes are appropriate. But, sometimes, they are not. And some human predators have learned to exploit our "click, whir" behavior. Often, these predators come in the form of salespeople.
Cialdini discusses how to say "No" to each of these six influence factors by being aware of how influence works and reading your internal gut feeling.
This book is excellent reading for anyone who wants to learn how to influence others. Job hunters, managers, and marketers will benefit from reading this book. Although we do not suggest you try to use this knowledge in a devious way, knowing how to approach asking for a request is useful. Investors can benefit also.
For example, "social proof" states that we often look to others to determine what is correct behavior in a situation. We most look to others to deem what is correct in times of uncertainty. This can lead to "pluralistic ignorance." Everyone is assuming that the other guy knows what he is doing and we follow. Manias and gross overvaluation of publicly-traded stocks come to mind.
In an attempt to avoid the hard work of thinking, we follow the herd off the cliff, blindly assuming where everyone else is going must be safe. As stated in Influence 95% of people are followers and only 5% of people are leaders.
Often, we are most likely to follow "experts." This is the authority factor above. We tend to believe and follow anyone who we assume is an expert. However, following experts can also lead to problems.
Influence points out that about 10% of medication administered by hospitals may be in error. This is a serious problem and can obviously lead to death.
Why is it that hospitals have such a problem with errors in medication? Despite the training and knowledge of R.N.'s, they tend to unquestioningly follow the instructions of the doctors. Even if the instructions don't make sense.
Cialdini tells the story of a man who complained of an earache. He had an ear infection and the doctor prescribed eardrops for him. On the prescription, the doctor wrote, "Place drops in R ear." As the doctor was in a hurry, he abbreviated "Right" with R.
Sure enough, the trained nurse obediently followed the instructions and placed the required number of drops in the patient's anus. Neither the patient nor the nurse questioned the instructions, as they came from an authority.
Read Cialdini's Influence: How And Why People Agree To Things.
Even if you never feel the need to be adopted by a mother turkey, maybe it will keep eardrops out of your anus, help keep you from buying things you later regret, and help you understand how influence works. We highly recommend this book.
How And Why People Agree To Things