Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion - A Book Summary and Review

The classic book on persuasion, Influence, has been translated into thirty languages and has sold over three million copies.

It's a New York Times Best Seller, and Fortune named it one of the "75 Smartest Business Books" of the year. In 50 Psychology Classics, it is mentioned.

I frequently ask guests to recommend their favorite books, and Influence consistently ranks among the top three.

The book delves into the psychology of why individuals say "yes" and how to put that knowledge to use. Dr. Robert Cialdini is an authority in persuasion and influence. This highly praised book is the culmination of his thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research and a three-year study on what motivates people to alter behavior.

You'll discover the six universal principles of persuasion, how to apply them to become a skilled persuader, and how to protect against them. The concepts of Influence will lead you toward fundamental personal change and work as a driving force for your success, and they are ideal for people from all areas of life.

The following are the six basic principles discussed in this book:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment & Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Authority
  5. Liking
  6. Scarcity



"We should endeavor to repay, in kind, what another person has offered us," says this rule.

The power of reciprocation is one of the reasons it may be used so effectively to obtain another's agreement. The rule has incredible power, frequently resulting in a “yes” response to a request that would have been refused if not for an underlying sense of indebtedness.

When someone buys you lunch, you feel obligated to buy them lunch the next time you see them.

"Free" samples at the supermarket or a warehouse club like Costco support the reciprocity rule by forcing you to buy something you wouldn't have bought otherwise.

If a guy takes you out to a nice dinner, you feel forced to go out with him again, even if you weren't really into him the first time.


This principle refers to our "...want to be (and look) consistent with our previous actions." Once we've made a decision or taken a stand, we'll face personal and interpersonal pressures to follow through on our commitment. We shall respond in ways that justify our earlier judgment as a result of these demands."

Here are several examples:

Maintaining your religious allegiance despite the fact that there isn't a scrap of proof to support your beliefs.

Even if divorce is the wisest option, you stay married since you've made a public pledge "til death do us part."

You've made it clear that you believe President Obama was born in Kenya, and you keep bringing it up, despite the fact that there is compelling proof that he was born in Hawaii.

You announce to everyone that you'll be running your first marathon in three months. The public disclosure, or "forced accountability," will encourage you to train more consistently in order to meet your objective.



Many people refer to social proof as peer pressure, but I believe it is more akin to herd behavior. This rule "...applies particularly to how we determine what constitutes proper behavior." We consider an action to be more correct in a given situation if we observe others doing it.” Because everyone else is doing it, I'm going to do it as well.

If you're in a bar with four friends and they're all ordering margaritas, you'll probably order one as well.

Because all your pals are doing it, you start wearing your jeans incredibly low.

You laugh at a joke because your buddies are laughing at it, but you have no idea what the joke is about.

You see that everyone else is gazing up at the sky, so you do as well (works every time).


Simply put, we prefer to respond positively to requests from people we know and like.

But what elements influence a person's liking for another person?

  1. A) Attractiveness on the Physical Level: Want to know why Kim Kardashian has nearly 10 million Facebook likes (, her own reality show, and a Sears clothing line? Sorry, it's not because she's very bright or brilliant; it's largely because she's extremely attractive and dresses nicely. People admire her and want to be associated with her because she is super attractive and dresses well.
  2. B) Similarity: We prefer people who are like ourselves, whether it's because we have similar ideas, personality traits, backgrounds, or lifestyles.

The cliques that emerge in high school are an excellent example: athletes, nerds, band geeks, and so on – everyone chose a group with which they identified the most. And if you were a complete social outcast, chances are you hung out with other outcasts.

Within agencies, we find the same dynamic: planners socialize with planners, creatives socialize with creatives, and so on.

  1. C) Compliments: Even if the compliments are untrue, we enjoy receiving them. You wouldn't fall for it, of course. I mean, you're really intelligent and entertaining to be around. Did I mention that you're ridiculously attractive? You, yes you!!
  2. D) Contact: Things that are familiar to us appeal to us. On the other side, we are typically afraid of what we do not understand.

Here are several examples:

One of the reasons individuals prefer to eat at the same restaurants over and over instead of trying something new is because they are familiar with them.

Contact is also one of the reasons why African-American voters massively supported Obama in his presidential race and why presidential candidates are most likely to win in their home states. Because they're more "comfortable" and "closer to home."

You learn that the new female at work went to the same high school as you. And she adores Adele! And there are cupcakes!! What's more, guess what? You've officially become BFFs!!

Collaboration (E): Cooperation operates in a unique way. We also like folks who collaborate with us rather than compete with us. Being "on the same side" and working together toward a same objective are extremely powerful.

It explains why "Yes We Can" worked so successfully as a unifying slogan for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.

You collaborate on a fresh business proposal.

Teams in sports

We see this all the time in reality shows, such as the "Survivor" tribes and alliances, or the "Real World/Road Rules Challenge."

"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," says F. Conditioning and Association. – Isaac Asimov "Whoever you cheer for symbolizes YOU, and when he wins, YOU win."

"Association" is a general principle that governs both negative and positive interactions. People's perceptions of us will be influenced by an innocent association with either bad or pleasant things."

Everyone wants to be a part of a successful team because it elevates their social status. As a result, people will want to associate themselves with happy occurrences while avoiding bad ones.

Have you ever noticed how when your team wins, people say "WE WON!!" but when their team loses, they say "THEY LOST!!"?

Of course, the same concept applies to brands such as Starbucks, Apple, and Coach. Because of the Association rule, we buy these brands.

The same goes for name droppers who want you to know who they know (did I mention my high school neighbors were Das EFX?). I didn't, did I? Okay, that's OK. It's not a big deal.)


Simply said, individuals are drawn to authority personalities. We are taught from a young age that obeying authority is the correct thing to do and that disobedience is the wrong thing to do.

Police officers, firefighters, clergy, office managers, and others are examples.

Thesis Statements (PhD, Esq, MBA, etc.)

The manner in which people dress (Ex: 3-piece suit vs. tank top and board shorts). Con artists, like Leonardo DiCaprio in "Catch Me If You Can," take advantage of this law all the time.

Celebrity endorsements in advertising are an example of this idea in action.


"Opportunities seem more important to us when their availability is limited," according to the scarcity principle. Fans of behavioral economics will recognize how this relates to the notion of Loss Aversion, which states that the fear of loss always outweighs the desire for gain.

Limited-time offerings, for example, are products that are in short supply and cannot be guaranteed to last long (like Missoni at Target several months ago or Tickle Me Elmo several years ago).

Deadlines – The customer's opportunity to receive the offer is given an explicit time limit. Examples include Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Another variation of the deadline strategy is when you're told you have to buy RIGHT NOW or the price will skyrocket in the near future (Ex: health club memberships, buying a car, etc.).

Why does the principle of scarcity work so well?

"...since we know that difficult-to-get items are usually better than easy-to-get ones, we can often utilize an item's availability to assist us swiftly and accurately decide on its quality." We utilize scarcity as a mental shortcut to make judgments rather than analyzing all the benefits and disadvantages.


Great! Do you want to read the entire book? Then visit our online store at and E-books are available in PDF and Audio formats.

Source: Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion by ROBERT B. CIALDINI

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