Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion


Are you an Internet marketer interested in influencing people to buy your products? Is copywriting something that interests you? Or perhaps you are interest in knowing just what kind of psychological tricks advertisers use on you on daily basis?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, you really should read
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Let me explain.


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini explains that the human brain often like to take the easy route, a shortcut, when faced with decisions. He also explains that a person who is aware of this fact, someone with the knowledge and tools, can trick another person to make a specific decision.

This is important for two reasons. As someone who wants to influence and persuade, as a marketer, you can use the methods in this book to increase your conversions. However, you should pay mind to when and how often you should use these methods, because when overused, it can come off as manipulative.

What’s more important is that knowing how our mind can work against us, against our own best interests, when faced against these tools of influence, we can protect ourselves better and avoid scams in the future.

The Reason Why.

Influence-The-Psychology-of-Persuasion4A good example on how our mind takes a shortcut to form a decision in the the ‘reason why’.

In experiments shown in Influence, that by simply giving a ‘reason why’ will influence people to make decisions. It was also found that the ‘reason why’ doesn’t really have to follow any kind of logic. As long as a reason is given, the people were more likely co-operate.

One experiment in Influence involved a copy machine, and a line of people. One person was tasked to ask the next person in the line the following question: “Can I use the copy machine before you, because I’m in a rush?” Unsurprisingly, or surprisingly to some, in 94% of the cases the ‘reason why’ was given, the person was allowed to move ahead in the line.

Knowing this, you can see how a simple question can influence people to do small favors for you, but it doesn’t end there. There are multitude of ways to use the ‘reason why’ in an unethical manner, so knowing about it is essential if you don’t want to get scammed.

One way a marketer can use this is (as explained in another example in the book) is to show the customer the more expensive product first, and then show them something that doesn’t cost quite as much. This makes the product seem much cheaper in comparison, and may influence the person to make a purchase they weren’t initially going to make.

Weapons of Automatic Influence.

Influence-The-Psychology-of-Persuasion5As Cialdini explains in the book, there are 6 Key Principles of Influencing that he was able to isolate. He calls these methods the weapons of automatic influence. 

If you have ever browsed the Internet and taken a look at an advertisement, you have more than likely come across one, if not all of these weapons. These weapons are mostly used to trick people into forming decisions, so I’d say it’s good to be aware of them, no matter on which side of the coin you are.

These methods are nothing new, as they’ve been used over centuries to influence people to make purchases. Those seeking to scam people have also been using these methods, and gotten really good at it, too. Especially now in the information age, it is easier than ever to fall into one of these traps.

Thanks to the Internet, anyone can (and should) research a product, service, individual or a company to determine if an offer is legitimate. From the marketers point of view, if these methods are used too often, in too obvious of a manner, it can result in the product appearing as overhyped or hard sell, resulting in fewer conversions. Therefore, practicing patience is the key to avoiding mistakes.

The 6 Key Principles of Influence.

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


You know this as well as I do, humans would do anything to avoid being indebted to someone else. Giving a small gift to someone, completely free of charge, more often than not obligates the receiver to give something in return. This something is often a donation or a purchase.

I see this happening in online marketing all the time. Especially in email marketing. The person selling a product gives away something for free, usually a free e-book, in exchange for your email address. They will then later send you an offer in your email, asking for you to buy something from them. Simple strategy, and it works.

In Influence, Ciadini illustrates this point further with a real-life example. He talks about the strategy Hare Krishnas employed to collect millions of dollars in donations. The Hare Krishna gave away cheap artificial flowers and simply refused to take them back. Whenever someone was given a flower, this would eventually burden them with the feeling of unconscious debt. To clear this debt in their mind, they usually caved and ended up giving a donation.

Commitment and Consistency. 

Consistency, we value it. Subconsciously, we are biased to act consistently, and we expect other people around us to be consistent. We do this to avoid looking like hypocrites to people around us, and to ourselves as well. Other way to put this is, we are wired to automatically behave in a manner that reinforces our earlier decisions.

Again, let’s look at how this works in digital marketing. When an online shop receives a new customer, and they make a purchase, they’ve already made a commitment. If then the customer is asked to buy another product, just before allowing to finish their order, it is possible that they can be influenced to buy another, more expensive product. This works, because for some people it is very important to stay consistent.

I’ve noticed this works in cafés as well. Whenever I go to buy coffee from my favorite café, I always get asked if I’d like to buy a piece of cake, or something else with my coffee. It rarely works on me, but I can see why it would work on so many other customers.

Social Proof.

Humans are social beings. We want to be liked by others, and we want to fit in. This means that on an unconscious level we want to behave like the other people in our group.

Have you ever been paying attention to the tip jar in a bar? The bartender might drop in a few bills just to make it seem like giving him big tips is the norm. Or, when asking for donations, people asking for donations will often employ similar tactics to influence you.

How does this work online? In the sales pages and sales videos, the potential new buyers are shown images and quotes from previous satisfied customers.

Just knowing that should instantly make you feel a little more cynical. Don’t worry, that’s healthy for you.


Would it sound surprising if I said that we prefer to do business with people we like, and who we feel are similar to us? No, rather, we all know this already.

In studies surrounding this subject it has been shown that we prefer to do business (on a subconscious level) with people that we find attractive. Without even speaking to the person, we automatically attribute kindness, honesty and intelligence to the people that are attractive to us.

There is a reason why businessmen wear suits, and why women wear make up. Not only do these things make us feel more confident in ourselves, but it also makes us more attractive to others, and it also gives us more authority. Speaking of that…


Think of a police officer, a teacher, or perhaps a doctor. Now, are you more likely to take directives from one of these people of authority, or a random person on the street? Exactly my point.

Cialdini goes into more detail on this in the book, but we are naturally more inclined to listen directives that come from a person who we project authority to.

Have you seen an ad where a “doctor” (more than likely just an actor dressed as one) is selling you health products? Probably, and even if you haven’t, you can see how that would happen… and you know it would work, too.


This might be one of the most illogical thing we humans do. We love scarcity. If we know something is scarce, and therefore rare or soon not-to-be-available, we are more likely to want or “need” that item. It makes no sense and you know it, and yet we always fall for it.

This is best shown online. I’m sure you’ve come across this too, because it just keep repeating itself (because it works). We are told there are only 5 products left! That you have only 7 hours to make a purchase before this offer is GONE FOREVER. This discount is for first time buyers only. This happens even if the product is a digital product and there are quite literally infinite copies of it available.

Kind of stupid…

…and yet it works.

That is all.

Thank you for reading this blog post. I really enjoyed reading the book, as well as writing about it. Despite me going through many of the points in the book, you will get a better idea by reading it yourself. I highly recommend it.

You can buy the book here: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

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