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Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion

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A pretty young girl stops man on a sidewalk. She has a sheaf of papers, and wants to ask him a few questions about food and drink. The man exaggerates about how much he goes out to restaurants etc.. The girl then makes her pitch for a dine-out card. The card makes sense if he does go out as much as he claims. The man is embarrassed. He might even buy, to avoid admitting he exaggerated. If he does, he has been "influenced" by something other than rationality.

Cialdini's book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" recounts various methods used to influence people (e.g. by the use of similarity, or by the use of authority figures). Cialdini presents a wide range of examples. He explains why the Chinese had such "great" results with American POWs, with the minimal use of violence. He analyses the good-cop/bad-cop routine. He summarizes many sociology experiments. Using all these examples, he classifies the "influences" into major categories, and provides suggestions about how to deal with them.

Unlike some other authors, Cialdini does not take a cynical attitude. He does not use the various experiments (e.g. the famous Milgram electric shock experiment) to bold a thesis about the irrationality of man. He simply makes the case that people can and do act irrationally at times, and that others take advantage of this. He postulates that many of the irrational habits have their roots in useful habits (e.g. authority figures are often right), and that mostly we need to simply be aware of the potential traps, and have some pre-planned ways to deal with them.

Not an earth-shattering book if one has read similar ones (say, about sales-techniques). If one has not, then this is a good place to start.

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A pretty young girl stops man on a sidewalk. She has a sheaf of papers, and wants to ask him a few questions about food and drink.

I read this several years ago and give it a very strong second. Very helpful to realize when marketing and sales techniques are being used on you and why. A bit of 'psychological self-defense,' of sorts.

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