Influence – Cialdini

Cialdini has produced the most comprehensive and quiet honestly useful textbook on the forces of influence. I intentionally do not call it a book because I do not think it one.

Although extremely informative, Cialdini's form of writing is bland, detached and borderline narcissistic. He completely lacks the humbling, enlightening voice of a similar author Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational).

That being said, Influence The Psychology of Persuasion is a good read that has much to give.

Should I read it?
If you have patience for textbook style books and want to understand how we as humans are persuaded and influenced: yes.


  • We use trigger features – iconic features of an external object – to decide how to act towards it.
  • The Reciprocal Law (Law of Concessions) states that as social animals we are obliged to return a gesture from another member.
    • When someone helps you out, you feel obliged to help them out in return.
    • The "choice" is always in the hands of the initiator (first giver) as there is not only an obligation to repay but also to receive.
    • The difficulty lies in calculating an equal reciprocation. This is where exploitation lies.
    • This enables a small gift to be invested for a larger return.
    • "Benefactor-before-beggar" strategy is giving someone something small first, to then invoke the law of reciprocity to gain a bigger return.
  • Law of Compliance states that due to the Law of Concession, when a first request is rejected (honestly) there is a concession given to the requester which can then be used to gain a second smaller proposal.
    • When making a request that might appear large, first proceed it by an even larger request that will get refused. Then rely upon the law of concession for your second "smaller" (original) request to be granted.
    • When failing to get main objective, use law of concession to get an alternative benefit. e.g. miss the sale, get a referral.
  • Rejection-then-Retreat technique is based on the reciprocity rule. Get a larger request rejected, then gain your smaller request.
  • Law of Consistency states that we compulsively want to be consistent. Our opinions are greatly biased to be in accordance with our past actions.
    • Consistency is a mental power saving exercise. After making the decision once we use consistency to stick to our past decision & not think about it again. But this consistency goes further and influences our future choices.
    • We only choose to act consistently with a previous decision when we feel inner responsibility for making the previous choice. If an external influence during the decision making process was too large, then we don't commit to our past "influenced" behaviour as we don't feel responsible for it.
  • Law of Required Effort states that the more effort we put into achieve something the more we value it.
    • Hence group initiations processes that are more difficult imply that group group is more valuable to be in.
  • Law of Liking states that we are more likely to say "yes"to someone we like.
    • Factors that influence liking are:
      • Attractiveness
      • Similarity to us
      • compliments us
      • cooperation (shared goal/fate)
  • Perceptual Contrast Principle states that we view the world relatively.
    • A hand in cold water will feel colder when in a hot room.
  • Association Principle states that we are influence to believe that good goes with good and bad with bad. A super-model next to a car her beauty and desirability to the car, even though there is no relationship.
  • The Authority Rule states that authority or even the symbols of authority have a great sway over our actions and decisions.
    • We have a deep rooted respect for authority from childhood.
  • The Scarcity Law states that 1) something in high demand is assumed to be high quality 2) high demand threatens our potential for freedom/choice which often results in reactance.
  • Reactance is any action taken as a preventive measure of loosing freedom/choice. We act because if we do not, we will loose the ability to act in this way.
    • Reactance is rebelling against dwindling choices/freedom.


  • "We are human because our ancestors learened to share and their skills in an honored network of obligation" – Some Scientist
  • "Once you've got a man's self-image where you wnat it, he should comply naturally with a whole range of your requets that are consistent with this view of himself."
  • "The purpose behind the testimonial contests is the same as the purpose behind the political essay contests of the Chinese Communists. In both instances, the aim is to get as many people as possible to go on record as liking the product. In Korea, the product was a brand of Chinese communism; in the United States, it might be a brand of cuticle remover. The type of product doesn't matter; the process is the same. Participants voluntarily write essays for attractive prizes that they have only a small chance to win. But they know that for an essay to have any chance of winning at all, it must include praise for the product. So they find praiseworthy features of the product and describe them in their essays. The result is hundreds of men in Korea or hundreds of thousands of people in America who testify in writing to the product's appeal and who, consequently, experience that "magical" pull to believe what they have written."
  • "Social scientists have determined that 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 is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won't get us to accept inner responsibility for the act."
  • "Principle of Social Proof states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct."
  • "The principle of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct."
  • "We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event 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. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a nonemergency."
  • "A halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. And the evidence is now clear that physical attractiveness is often such a characteristic."
  • "At this point, it was evident to Sherif that the recipe for disharmony was quick and easy: Just separate the participants into groups and let sit for a while in their own juices. Then mix together over the flame of continued competition. And there you have it: Cross-group hatred at a rolling boil."
  • "All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality... and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person.Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win."
  • "It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that constitutes the chief finding of the study."
  • "the most remarkable aspect of the incident, the train crew filed suit against him, requesting punitive damages for the "humiliation, mental anguish, and physical stress" they suffered because he hadn't allowed them to carry out their orders without cutting off his legs."
  • "Whenever we are faced with so potent a motivator of human action, it is natural to expect that good reasons exist for the motivation. In the case of obedience to authority, even a brief consideration of human social organization offers justification aplenty. A multilayered and widely accepted system of authority confers an immense advantage upon a society. It allows the development of sophisticated structures for resource production, trade, defense, expansion, and social control that would otherwise be impossible."
  • "The simultaneous blessing and bane of such blind obedience is its mechanical character. We don't have to think; therefore, we don't."
  • "The irony is that for such people—members of fringe political groups, for example—the most effective strategy may not be to publicize their unpopular views, but to get those views officially censored and then to publicize the censorship."
  • "When it comes to freedoms, it is more dangerous to have given for a while than never to have given at all."
  • "Freedoms once granted will not be relinquished without a fight."
  • "Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we are in competition for it."



Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on

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