Robert Cialdini is a social psychologist who currently teaches at Arizona State University. There, he is WP Carey Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Regents’ Professor of Psychology. He has also been named Distinguished Graduate Research Professor there.
He has studied and written extensively on human behavior, specifically the reasons why people comply with business requests and requests done in other settings. These books, “Influence: Science and Practice” and “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”, remain top sellers at Amazon.com. Fortune magazine lists these books in their listing of “75 Smartest Business Books”.
His most recent work, “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive”, was co-authored with Steve J. Martin and Dr. Noah Goldstein. It applies his “science of persuasion” so that one can be more effective at influencing others in personal situations and in work situations. As with his other books, it remains a bestseller.
Cialdini may be the most cited psychologist in the field of influence and persuasion today. He got his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and also received postdoctoral training at Columbia.
As to influence, Cialdini says that there are “six weapons of influence,” including:
“Reciprocation,” where people tend to return a favor when they’ve been done one.
“Commitment” and “consistency”, where if people commit in writing or orally to something, they are more likely to follow through. This is even true if the original incentive to a commitment has been removed.
“Social proof” happens when other people mimic what other people are doing simply because they see it happening. For example, if one person looks back over his shoulder, the person next to him will also be likely to do so.
“Authority” is another “weapon of influence”, whereby someone in authority position tends to be obeyed by other people, even if that authority person asks someone to do objectionable tasks. One very famous and tragic instance of this was the My Lai massacre.
“Liking someone” is another; when you like someone, you’re more likely to do what he or she wants just because you like him or her. One very good example of this is so-called “viral marketing”, of which one of the earliest examples was the company Tupperware. If the salesperson is likable to the customer, he or she is much more likely to make a sale than someone who is not as likable. (This includes physical attractiveness, to some extent.)
Finally, the principle of “scarcity” works because perceived scarcity tends to generate demand for something. This is why we so often see “limited time offers” for products, which encourages customers to buy.
Dr. Cialdini’s groundbreaking work continues to help businesses — and people — attain success in the workplace and even in interpersonal relationships. Notably, perhaps, once you have read his works, you also understand the inner workings of the sales process, for example, and can therefore also be a much more informed buyer; this means that his works have benefit not just to businesses, but to consumers, too.