Influence – the psychology of persuasion

Kirjoittaja: Oona Korhonen

7 joulukuun, 2020


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I can be very impressionable when it comes to influences around me, especially when someone is trying to sell me something. When I go for a walk, I could easily come back home with two new memberships to different charities, as if I don’t have enough of them already. I feel like I just can’t help it – something about the way they interact with me makes me think I definitely need to do whatever they’re telling me to do. I couldn’t help but wonder, what are the ways I’m influenced and persuaded in my life, and could I learn them too? That is why I picked up Robert B. Cialdini’s book Influence – the psychology of persuasion and started to investigate how we actually respond to these tactics of persuasion.


According to Cialdini there are six principles of persuasion:


  1. Reciprocity


If you give somebody something, they’re going be inclined to return the favor. We as humans feel like if someone gives us something, we’re indebted to them. Usually even a small thing can lead to people giving you back something valuable. We’ve all seen this somewhere, think about a trade fare – people give out candy or other goods on their stand and we feel like if we take from them, we should at least give them our time and listen to what they have to say. This idea that if I give you something, I will likely get something in return is comforting and allows us to have mutual trust with others. On the other hand, this can be exploited very easily. It makes me think are others actually being genuine when offering a favor or is their motive to just get something in return.


  1. Commitment and consistency


We need to be consistent with our words and actions. Usually we tend to keep our commitments, especially if we have made them out loud or if they’re written down. Nobody likes someone flaky, and we don’t want to be perceived that way. It is good to follow through with your promises, of course, but people can also be too stubborn. We have to remember it is okay to educate ourselves and change our beliefs, even if we have stated something completely opposite publicly before.




  1. Scarcity


People always want what they can’t have. Opportunities seem more valuable to us when we know they don’t come around every day. The fear of losing something or missing out on something can be a greater motivator than gaining something equally valuable. I can definitely see this in my life, if I think about doing something it might not be enough to think about what I would gain from it. But when I think about how I would feel in the future if I didn’t do it, if I would regret not doing it, it usually makes me want to do it. I don’t want to wonder in the future if I could’ve had something great but didn’t because I didn’t take the opportunity.


  1. Social proof


People are influenced by what others do. If in a big group most of the people are doing something, we are likely to do the same. Think about someone busking – if they hop on a bus and give a performance and collect money from everyone else, you’re not going to be the only one who’s not paying. Same thing applies to donations in other places, like churches. We did kind of a similar thing during the summer in Tilkku, we had a tip cup at the counter and put money in it ourselves, so people would be more likely to give us tips, seeing other people have done it as well.


  1. Authority


People want to listen to those who know about the subject in question. It is important to at least appear credible when trying to influence someone. A great example of this would be Hackathon. This was a competition where we had to develop something new to Jyväskylä’s market square, and since we had been there this summer running our café, we had actual experience of what it was like and what we could do to make it better. I feel like that might have made us look more credible compared to others, and we ended up placing second.


  1. Liking


This is pretty self-explanatory. We are likely to say yes to people we like, people who give us compliments, people who we have something in common with. Likeability can come down to what you look like, it can be even the sign or pattern of your logo.




It can be easy to persuade someone if you know how, and it is also incredibly easy to fall into this trap if you don’t recognize and understand how we are reprogrammed to react and respond to these tactics of persuasion. It was pretty eerie to realize how familiar some of these tactics were, and I started to question how many of the interactions I experience are honest and normal, and how many times I’ve been tricked to believe that they were. Maybe I will be a little bit wiser going forward, and not be as easily persuaded as I have been in the past.




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