We tend to focus on a single piece of information when making choices.
Most of the time this helps. Here’s how.
Recently, on a flight from Singapore to the US, I was eating sushi with my brother in the Tokyo airport. I’ve never had saké before and wanted to try. However, when the waitress placed a box and chilled shot glass in front of me and filled both the glass and the box with alcohol, my enthusiasm waned. I realized I had no idea of the “right” way to drink saké.
I cast searching glances at every patron in sight but no one had a box of liquid in front of them.
Divorced from the internet because of airplane mode, I had no one to model proper drinking technique. Finally, I turned to the well-dressed businessman next to me at the bar and confessed,
“Hi sir, I’m a dumb American, how am I supposed to drink this? Right out of the box?”
He assured me that I was on the right track and I enjoyed the cold saké out of the box and munched the Narita roll with my brother before our flight.
We often use “social proof” (the actions of those around us) to figure out the right way to act in uncertain situations. This allowed me to enjoy saké in a foreign airport….but there are ways to hack these systems to influence. Imagine if I had seen someone pouring the box back into the shot glass, I would have blindly followed suit, assuming it was correct.
This book is about the six most powerful ways in which humans tend to develop automatic responses. Dr. Robert Cialdini, a cognitive psychologist, has spent his life exploring and testing these tactics. He’s even gone undercover into organizations that cleverly use our human nature to gain compliance from us.
Again, most of the time these mostly automatic responses are beneficial, like looking around to figure out how to eat foreign foods. Yet sometimes others exploit these tactics to get us to bend to their will in ways that we may not realize.
As I said in my video on this topic, “[read this book] if for nothing else than to understand how to withstand some of these tactics.” Please remember though all of the compliance tactics discussed in the book or this post can be employed for good or for evil, depending on the motives of the person using them.
Here’s the list of six and a .gif to help you understand each.
Reciprocity.. Free samples at the supermarket are a subtle favor for passers-by and often individuals will buy even if they didn’t like the sample. We are compelled to respond in kind to favors and concessions we receive from others.
Of course, Vice President Biden munching Costco samples is always relevant.
Consistency. We have an almost obsessive desire to act and appear consistent with what we have already done. Our self-image is one of the most reliable factors we can look to when making decisions.Writing something down can help change the way we view ourselves.
Remember Bart writing line after line.
Social Proof. Especially when in uncertain situations, we look to the actions of those like us to figure out how to act. This was the saké situation or the BBQ Stingray I referenced in the video.
Those cats are as much affected by each other’s reactions as they are startled by the moving paper bag.
Liking. All things being equal, we do more for those people we like. All things aren’t equal, but we still do more for those people we like. We also tend to like attractive people, people who seem similar to us, and those people who like us back.
President Obama has both likability as well as an every-man quality that many find appealing. Plus he takes selfies..
Authority. If a man in a police uniform came up and berated you for jaywalking, it wouldn’t likely occur to you to ask for his badge number. The appearance of authority is often enough cue for us to comply. Even if the appearance is just a well tailored business suit.
Leonardo DiCaprio could convince anyone with that pilot’s uniform.
Scarcity. You remember wanting the last cookie just because your brother wanted it, right? Even if you were full, the value of the cookie went up because other people might take it. We often act like grabby kids.
Think Black Friday shopping.
Thanks for checking out what I can almost 100% guarantee is the only blog post explaining Cialdini’s influence tactics with .gifs
Here’s a mildly academic takeaway from John Stuart Mill to make you feel smart because of your access to the internet.
John Stuart Mill, the British economist, political thinker, and philosopher of science, died more than a hundred years ago. The year of his death (1873) is important because he is reputed to have been the last man to know everything there was to know in the world. Today, the notion that one of us could be aware of all known facts is only laughable.
Influence, pg. 207
Keep reading Friends!
Until next time (I’m switching to every other week with the blog, due to other projects taking off). Follow along on twitter! @jondelange