Book Notes: Influence by Robert Cialdini


The book is organized around 6 Principles: Consistency, Reciprocation, Social Proof, Authority, Liking and Scarcity.


Everything should be made as Simple as possible, but Not Simpler. - Albert Einstein

A well-know principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful If we provide a Reason. People simply like to have Reasons for what they do.

A standard principle to guide Buying: "Expensive = Good". Price alone had become a trigger feature for Quality; and a dramatic increase in price alone had led to a dramatic increase in Sales among the Quality-hunger buyers.

These were people who had been brought up on the rule "You get what you pay for" and who had seen that rule borne out over and over in their lives. Before long, they had translated the rule to mean "Expensive = Good". A higher price typically reflects higher quality.

Although they probably did not realize it, by reacting solely to the Price feature of the turquoise, they were playing a shortcut version of Betting the Odds. Instead of stacking all the odds in their favor by trying painstakingly to master each of the things that indicate the worth of turquoise jewelry, they were counting on just one - the one they knew to be usually associated with the quality of any item. They were betting that Price alone would tell them all they needed to know.

In fact, automatic, stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving, and in other cases it is simply necessary. You and I exist in an extraordinarily stimulus environment, easily the most rapidly moving and complex that has ever existed on this planet. To deal with it, we Need Shortcuts. We can't be expected to recognize and analyze all the aspects in each person, event, and situation we encounter in even one day. We haven't the time, energy, or capacity for it. Instead, we must very often use our stereotypes, our rules of thumb to classify things according to a few key features and then to respond mindlessly when one or another of these trigger features is present. We accept their imperfection, since there is really no other choice. Without them we would stand frozen - cataloging, appraising, and calibrating - as the time for action sped by and away. As the stimuli saturating our lives continue to grow more intricate and variable, we will have to depend increasingly on our Shortcuts to handle them all.

It is odd that despite their current widespread use and looming future importance, most of us know very little about our automatic behavior patterns. Perhaps that is so precisely because of the mechanistic, unthinking manner in which they occur. Whatever the reason, it is vital that we clearly recognize one of their properties: they make us terribly vulnerable to anyone who does know how they work.

There is a group of people who know very well where the Weapons of Automatic Influence lie and who employ them regularly and expertly to get what they want. They go from social encounter to social encounter requesting others to comply with their wishes; their frequency of success is dazzling. The Secret of their effectiveness lies in the way they structure their requests, the way they arm themselves with one or another of the Weapons of Influence that exists within the social environment.

There are several components shared by most of the Weapons of Automatic Influence: (1) the nearly mechanical process by which the power within these weapons can be activated; (2) the consequent exploitability of this power by anyone who knows how to trigger them; (3) the way the weapons of influence lend their force to those who use them.

The exploiters can commission the power of these weapons for use against their targets while exerting little personal force. This last feature of the process allows the exploiters an enormous additional benefit - the ability to manipulate without the appearance of manipulation. Even the victims themselves tend to see their compliance as determined by the action of natural forces rather than by the designs of the person who profits from that compliance.

An example is in order. There is a Principle in human perception, the Contrast Principle, that affects the way we see the difference between 2 things that are presented one after another.

The same thing can be made to seem very different, depending on the nature of the event that precedes it. It is much more profitable for salespeople to present the expensive item first.

Presenting an inexpensive product first and following it with an expensive one will cause the expensive item to seem even more costly as a result.


Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill

The rule of Reciprocation says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. By virtue of the reciprocity rule, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.

The Rule is Overpowering

The rule for reciprocity was so strong that it simply overwhelmed the influence of a factor - liking for the requester - that normally affects the decision to comply. Think of the implications. People we might ordinarily dislike - unsavory or unwelcome sales operators, disagreeable acquaintances, representatives of strange or unpopular organizations - can greatly increase the chance that we will do what they wish merely by providing us with a small favor prior to their requests. The rule for reciprocation is strong enough to overcome the factor of Dislike for the requester.

As a Marketing technique, the Free Sample has a long and effective history. The beauty of the Free Sample is that it is also a Gift and, as such, can engage the Reciprocity rule.

The reciprocity rule governs many situations of a purely interpersonal nature where neither money nor commercial exchange is at issue.

The Rule Enforces Uninvited Debts

The influential French anthropologist Marcel Mauss, in describing the social pressures surrounding the gift-giving process in human culture, can state, "There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay."

The obligation to receive reduces our ability to choose whom we wish to be indebted to and puts that power in the hands of others.

The Rule Can Trigger Unfair Exchange

Why should it be that Small First Favors often stimulate Larger Return Favors? One important reason concerns the clearly unpleasant character of the feeling of indebtedness. Most of us find it highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation. It weights heavily on us and demands to be removed. Because reciprocal arrangements are so vital in human social systems, we have been conditioned to be uncomfortable when beholden. We may be willing to agree to perform a larger favor than we received, merely to relieve ourselves of the psychological burden of Debt.

In combination, the reality of internal discomfort and the possibility of external shame can produce a heavy psychological cost. When seen in the light of this cost, it is not so puzzling that we will often give back more than we have received in the name of reciprocity. People will often avoid asking for a needed favor if they will not be in a position to repay it. The psychological cost may simply outweigh the material loss. The risk of still other kinds of losses may also persuade people to decline certain gifts and benefits.


The general rule says that a person who acts in a certain way toward us is entitled to a similar return action. We have seen that one consequence of the rule is an obligation to Repay Favors we have received. Another consequence of the rule is an obligation to make a Concession to someone who has made a concession to us.

Because the rule for reciprocation governs the Compromise process, it is possible to use an initial concession as part of a highly effective Compliance technique. The technique is a simple one that we can call the Rejection-then-Retreat technique. Suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely to turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, I should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own, the only one I would have immediately open to me - compliance with your second request.

Be assured that any strategy able to triple the percentage of Compliance with a substantial request will be frequently employed in a variety of natural settings.

It would appear that the Larger the Initial Request, the more Effective the procedure, since there would be more room available for Illusory Concessions. This is true only up to a point, however. Research conducted at Bar-Ilan University in Israel on the Reject-then-Retreat technique shows that if the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. In such cases, the party who has made the extreme first request is not seen as to be bargaining in good faith. Any subsequent retreat from that wholly unrealistic initial position is not viewed as a genuine concession and thus is not reciprocated. The truly gifted negotiator is one whose initial position is exaggerated enough to allow for a series of reciprocal concessions that will yield a desirable final offer from the opponent, yet is not so outlandish as to be seen as illegitimate from the start.

In combination, the Influences of Reciprocity and perceptual Contrast can present a fearsomely powerful force.

It seems that the Rejection-then-Retreat tactic spurs people not only to agree to a desired request but actually to carry out the request and, finally, to Volunteer to perform further requests.

Responsibility - the uncanny ability of the Rejection-then-Retreat technique to make its targets meet their commitments becomes understandable: a person who feels Responsible for the terms of a contract will be more likely to live up to that contract.

Satisfaction - the ability to prompt its victims to agree to further requests. Since the tactic uses a concession to bring about Compliance, the victim is likely to feel more satisfied with the arrangement as a result.


It is essential to recognize that the requester who invokes the Reciprocation rule to gain our Compliance is not the real opponent. The real opponent is the Rule. If we are not to be abused by it, we must take steps to defuse its energy.

Perhaps the answer is to Prevent its Activation. Perhaps we can avoid a confrontation with the rule by refusing to allow the requester to commission its force against us in the first place. Perhaps by rejecting the requester's initial favor or concession to us, we can evade the problem. Perhaps; but then, perhaps not. Invariably declining the requester's initial offer of a favor or sacrifice works better in theory than in practice. The major problem is that when it is first presented, it is difficult to know whether such an offer is honest or whether it is the initial step in an exploitation attempt. If we always assume the worst, it would not be possible to receive the benefits of any legitimate favors or concessions offered by individuals who had no intention of exploiting the reciprocity rule.

We will always encounter authentically generous individuals as well as many people who try to play fairly by the reciprocity rule rather than to exploit it. A policy of blanket rejection, then, seems ill advised.

Another solution holds more promise. It advises us to accept the desirable first offers of others but to accept those offers only for what they fundamentally are, not for what they are represented to be. Once we have determined that his initial offer was not a favor but a compliance tactic, we need only react to it accordingly to be free of its influence. As long as we perceive and define his action as a compliance device instead of a favor, he no longer has the reciprocation rule as an ally: the rule says that favors are to be met with favors; it does not require that tricks to be met with favors.


It is easier to Resist at the Beginning than at the End.

Just after placing a bet, people at the racetrack are much more confident of their horse's chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down that bet.

The reason for the dramatic change has to do with a common weapon of social influence. It is our nearly obsessive Desire to be (and to appear) Consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that Commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision. Once a stand had been taken, the need for Consistency pressured these people to bring what they felt and believed into line with what they had already done. They simply convinced themselves that they had made the right choice and, no doubt, felt better about it all.

We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.

The drive to be (and look) Consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence, often cause us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests.

Inconsistency is commonly thought to be an undesirable personality trait. On the other side, a high degree of Consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. Certainly, good personal consistency is highly valued in our culture.

But because it is so typically in our best interests to be Consistent, we easily fall into the habit of being automatically so, even in situation where it is not the sensible way to be. When it occurs unthinkingly, Consistency can be disastrous.

First, like most other forms of automatic responding, it offers a shortcut through the density of modern life. All we have to do when confronted with the issue is to turn on our Consistency tape, and we know just what to believe, say, or do. We need only believe, say, or do whatever is Consistent with our earlier decision.

Sir Joshua Reynolds noted, "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking."

People will hide inside the wall of Consistency to protect themselves from the troublesome consequences of Thought.

As it appears, automatic consistency functions as a shield against Thought, it should not be surprising that such consistency can also be exploited by those who would prefer that we not think too much in respond to their requests for our Compliance. They structure their interactions with us so that our own need to be consistent will lead directly to their benefit.


Once we realize that the power of Consistency is formidable in directing human action, an important practical question immediately arises: How is that force engaged? What produces the Click that activates the Whirr of the powerful Consistency tape? Social psychologists think they know the answer: Commitment. If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.

For the salesperson, the strategy is to obtain a large purchase by starting with a small one. Almost any small sale will do, because the purpose of that small transaction is not profit. It is Commitment. The tactic of starting with a little request in order to gain eventual compliance with related larger requests has a name: the Foot-in-the-Door technique.

According to Freedman and Fraser, "What may occur is a Change in the person's feelings about getting involved or taking action. Once he had agreed to a request, his attitude may change, he may become, in his own eyes, the kind of person who does this sort of thing, who agrees to requests made by stranger, who takes action on things he believed in, who cooperates with good causes."

What the Freedman and Fraser findings tell us, then, is to be very careful about agreeing to trivial requests. Such an agreement can not only increase our Compliance with very similar, much larger requests, it can also make us more willing to perform a variety of larger favors that are only remotely connected to the little one we did earlier. Once a person's self-image is altered, all sorts of subtle advantages become available to someone who wants to exploit that new image.

Notice that all of the Foot-in-the-Door experts seem to be excited about the same thing: you can use small commitments to manipulate a person's self-image; you can use them to turn citizens into "public servants", prospects into "customers", prisoners into "collaborators". And once you've got a man's self-image where you want it, he should comply naturally with a whole range of your requests that are Consistent with this view of himself.

The Magic Act

Writing was one sort of Confirming action that the Chinese urged incessantly upon the men. The Chinese knew that, as a Commitment device, a Written Declaration has some great advantages. First, it provides physical evidence that the act occurred. A second advantage is that it can be shown to other people. People have a natural tendency to think that a statement reflects the true attitude of the person who made it. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, observers automatically assume that someone who makes such a statement means it. And, What those around us think is True of us is enormously important in determining What we ourselves think is True.

The Public Eye

The prisoner experience in Korea showed the Chinese to be quite aware of an important psychological principle: Public Commitments tend to be Lasting Commitments. For appearances sake, the more Public a stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it. The Deutsch and Gerard finding that we are Truest to our Decisions if we have bound ourselves to them Publicly can be put to good use.

The Effort Extra

Yet another reason that written Commitments are so effective is that they require more work than Verbal ones. The more effort that goes into a Commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it. Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills, decided to test their observation that "Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort."

The Inner Choice

It appears that Commitments are most effective in changing a person's self-image and future behavior when they are active, public and effortful. But there is another property of effective commitment that is more important than the other three combined. Social scientists have determined that we accept Inner Responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won't get us to accept Inner Responsibility for the act. Consequently, we won't feel committed to it. The same is true of a strong Threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but its is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.

Compliance professionals love Commitments that produce Inner Change. First, that change is not just specific to the situation where it first occurred; it covers a whole range of related situations, too. Second, the effects of the change are lasting.

There is yet another attraction in Commitments that lead to Inner Change - they grow their own legs. There is no need for the compliance professional to undertake a costly and continuing effort to reinforce the change; the pressure for consistency will take care of all that. What is important about this process of generating additional reasons to justify the commitment is that the reasons are New.

New-car dealers frequently try to benefit from this process through a trick they call "Throwing a Lowball". No matter which variety of Lowballing is used, the sequence is the same: an Advantage is offered that induces a favorable Purchase Decision; then, sometime after the Decision has been made but before the Bargain is sealed, the Original Purchase Advantage is deftly removed. It seems almost incredible that a customer would buy a car under these circumstances. Yet it works - not on everybody, of course, but it is effective enough to be a staple compliance procedure in many, many car showrooms. The impressive thing about the lowball tactic is its ability to make a person feel pleased with a poor choice.

Once made, that Commitment started generating its own Support.


Although Consistency is generally good, even vital, there is a Foolish, Rigid variety to be shunned. It is this tendency to be automatically and unthinkingly consistent that Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

The only way out of the dilemma is to know When such Consistency is likely to lead to a Poor Choice.


Where all Think alike, No one Thinks very much

The principle of social proof states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.


If we are to defend ourselves adequately against any weapons of influence, it is vital that we know its optimal operating conditions in order to recognize when we are most vulnerable to its influence. In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.

Especially in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon called "pluralistic ignorance."

In times of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues.

What is easy to forget is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence too. And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly, with brief, camouflaged glances at those around us. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a nonemergency. This is the state of Pluralistic Ignorance "in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react."

It seems that the Pluralistic Ignorance effect is strongest among Strangers: because we like to look poised and sophisticated in public and because we are unfamiliar with the reactions of those we do not know, we are unlikely to give off or correctly read expressions of concern when in a grouping of strangers. Therefore, a possible emergency becomes viewed as a non-emergency.

Devictimizing Yourself

The key is the realization that groups of bystanders fail to help because the bystanders are Unsure rather than Unkind. They don't help because they are unsure of whether an emergency actually exists and whether they are responsible for taking action. As a victim, you must do more than alert bystanders to your need for emergency assistance; you must also remove their Uncertainties about how that assistance should be provided and who should provide it. My advice would be to isolate one individual from the crowd: stare, speak, and point directly at that person and no one else: "You, Sir, in the Blue jacket, I need Help. Call an ambulance."

In general, you best strategy when in need of emergency help is to reduce the Uncertainties of those around you concerning your condition and their responsibilities. Be as precise as possible about your need for aid. Do not allow bystanders to come to their own conclusions because, especially in a crowd, the principle of social proof and the consequent pluralistic ignorance effect might well cause them to view your situation as a nonemergency.

Fight the natural tendency to make a General request for Help. Pick out one person and assign the task to that individual. Otherwise, it is too easy for everyone in the crowd to assume that someone else should help, will help, or has helped.


We stated that the Principle of Social Proof, like all other weapons of influence, works better under some conditions than under others. We have already explored one of those conditions: UNCERTAINTY.

There is another important working condition: SIMILARITY. The principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us. It is the conduct of such people that gives us the greatest insight into what constitutes correct behavior for ourselves. Therefore we are more inclined to follow the lead of a similar individual than a dissimilar one. We will use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves, especially when we view those others as Similar to ourselves.

Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the Principle of Social Proof to work maximally in their favor.

As slaughterhouse operators have long known, the mentality of a herd makes it easy to manage. Simply get some members moving in the desired direction and the others - responding not so much to the lead animal as to those immediate surrounding them - will peacefully and mechanically go along.


The disadvantages of automatic pilots arise principally when Incorrect Data have been put into the control system, our best defense against these disadvantages is to recognize when the data are in error. If we can become sensitive to situations where the Social Proof automatic pilot is working with inaccurate information, we can disengage the mechanism and grasp the controls when we need to.

An automatic-pilot device, like Social Proof, should never be trusted fully, even when no saboteur has fed bad information into the mechanism, it can sometimes go haywire by itself.


The Friendly Thief

Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say Yes to the requests of someone we know and Like.

Compliance professionals have found that the Friend doesn't even have to be present to be effective; often, just the mention of the Friend's Name is enough.

The professionals' compliance strategy is quite direct: they first get us to Like them.

Joe Girard, the "No 1 Car Salesman", for all his success, the formula he employed was surprisingly Simple. It consisted of offering people just 2 things: a Fair Price and someone they Liked to buy from.

What are the factors that cause one person to like another person?

Social scientists have been asking the question for decades. Their accumulated evidence has allowed them to identify a number of factors that reliably cause Liking. And each is cleverly used by compliance professionals to urge us along the road to say "Yes".

Physical Attractiveness

Research has shown that we Automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as Talent, Kindness, Honesty, and Intelligence. Furthermore, we make these judgements without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process.

In one study, good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favorable hiring decisions than did job qualifications. Good-looking people are likely to receive highly favorable treatment in the legal system. Other experiments have demonstrated that attractive people are more likely to obtain help when in need and are more persuasive in changing the opinions of an audience.

It is apparent that good-looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently helped, and seen as possessing better personality traits and intellectual capacities.


We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of Opinions, Personality Traits, Background, or Life-style. Consequently, those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in any of a wide variety of ways. Dress is a good example. Several studies have demonstrated that we are more likely to help those who dress like us. Another way requesters can manipulate Similarity to increase Liking and Compliance is to claim that they have backgrounds and interests similar to us.

It would be wise these days to be careful around salespeople who just seem to be just like you.


An important fact about human nature: we are phenomenal suckers for Flattery. We tend to believe Praise and to Like those who provide it, oftentimes when it is clearly false.

Positive comments produced just as much Liking for the flatterer when they were Untrue as when they were True.

Apparently we have such an Automatically Positive Reaction to Compliments that we can fall victim to someone who uses them in an obvious attempt to win our favor.

Contact and Cooperation

Often we don't realize that our Attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.

Although the familiarity produced by contact usually leads to greater liking, the opposite occurs if the contact carries distasteful experiences with it.

Compliance professionals are forever attempting to establish that We and They are working for the Same Goals, that we must "Pull Together" for mutual benefit, that they are, in essence, our Teammates.

Conditioning and Association

There is a natural human tendency to Dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information, even when that person did not cause the bad news. The simple association with it is enough to stimulate our Dislike.

People do assume that we have the same personality traits as our friends.

Did you ever wonder what all those good-looking models are doing standing around in the automobile ads? What the Advertiser hopes they are doing is lending their Positive Traits - Beauty and Desirability - to the cars. The advertiser is betting that we will respond to the product in the same ways we respond to the attractive models merely associated with it.

Because the Association principle works so well - and so unconsciously - manufacturers regularly rush to connect their products with the current cultural rage.

The important thing for the advertiser is to establish the Connection; it doesn't have to be a logical one, just a positive one.

All this tell me that we purposefully manipulate the visibility of our connections with Winners and Losers in order to make ourselves look good to anyone who could view these Connections. By showcasing the Positive Associations and burying the Negative ones, we are trying to get observers to think more highly of us and to Like us more.

Whenever our public image is damaged, we will experience an increased desire to restore that image by trumpeting our ties to successful others. At the same time, we will most scrupulously avoid publicizing our ties to failing others. It will be when prestige (both public and private) is low that we will be intent upon using the successes of associated others to help restore image.


The secret may lie in its Timing. Rather than trying to recognize and prevent the action of liking factors before they have a chance to work on us, we might be well advised to let them work. Our vigilance should be directed not toward the things that may produce undue liking for a compliance practitioner, but toward the fact that undue liking has been produced. The Time to react protectively is when we feel ourselves liking the practitioner more than we should under the circumstances.

We have to be sensitive to only one thing related to Liking in our contacts with compliance practitioners: the Feeling that we have come to Like the practitioner more quickly or more deeply than we would have expected. Once we notice this feeling, we will have been tipped off that there is probably some tactic being used, and we can start taking the necessary countermeasures.


Follow an Expert

According to Milgram, the real culprit in the experiments was his subject's inability to defy the wishes of the boss of the study - the lab-coated researcher who urged and, if need be, directed the subjects to perform their duties, despite the emotional and physical mayhem they were causing.

"It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority - Government - to extract frightening levels of obedience from ordinary citizens. Furthermore, the findings tell us something about the sheer strength of Authority pressures in controlling our behavior."

We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong.

We learn in the story that the correctness of an action was not adjudged by such considerations as apparent senselessness, harmfulness, injustice, or usual moral standards, but by the mere command of a higher Authority.

Our Obedience frequently takes place in a Click, Whirr fashion, with little or no conscious deliberation. Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.

After all, as Milgram himself suggests, conforming to the dictates of authority figures has always had genuine practical advantages for us. Early on, these people (parents, teachers..) knew more than we did, and we found that taking their advice proved beneficial - partly because of their greater wisdom and partly because they controlled our rewards and punishments. As adults, the same benefits persist for the same reasons, though the authority figures now appear as employers, judges, and government leaders. Because of their positions speak of superior access to information and power, it makes great sense tom comply with the wishes of properly constituted authorities. It makes so much sense, in fact, that we often do so when it makes no sense at all.

Once we realize that Obedience to Authority is mostly rewarding, it is easy to allow ourselves the convenience of automatic obedience. We don't have to think, therefore, we don't. Although such mindless obedience leads us to appropriate action in the great majority of cases, there will be conspicuous exceptions - because we are Reacting rather Thinking.

An example where Authority pressures are visible and strong: Medicine. Physicians who possess large amounts of knowledge and influence in this vital area, hold the position of respected authorities. No one may overrule the doctor's judgment in a case, except perhaps, another doctor of higher rank. As a consequence, a long-established tradition of automatic obedience to a doctor's orders has developed among health-care staffs. The worrisome possibility arises, them, that when a physician makes a clear error, no on lower in the hierarchy will think to question it - precisely because, once a legitimate authority has given an order, subordinates stop thinking in the situation and start reacting.

The important lesson of this story is that in many situations where a legitimate authority has spoken, what would otherwise make sense is irrelevant. In these instances, we don't consider the situation a whole but attend and respond to on only one aspect of it.


The Appearance of Authority was enough. When in a Click, Whirr mode, we are often as vulnerable to the Symbols of Authority as to the Substance. Con artists, for example, drape themselves with the Titles, Clothes, and Trappings of Authority. They understand that when they are so equipped, their chances for compliance are greatly increased.


How our actions are frequently more influenced by a title than by the nature of the person claiming it.

It is not necessarily the pleasantness of a thing that makes it seem bigger to us, it is its Importance.

There are 2 lessons for us. One is specific to the association between Size and Status. The connection of those two things can be profitably employed by individuals who are able to fake the first to gain the appearance of the second. The other lesson is more general: the outward signs of power and authority frequently may be counterfeited with the flimsiest of materials.


A second kind of Authority symbol that can trigger our mechanical compliance is Clothing.


Finely styled and expensive clothes carry an aura of Status and Position, as do trappings such as jewelry and cars.


One protective tactic we can use against Authority status is to remove its element of surprise. Because we typically misperceive the profound impact of authority on our actions, we are at the disadvantage of being insufficiently cautious about its presence in compliance situations. A fundamental form of defense against this problem, therefore, is a heightened awareness of authority power.

The trick is to be able to recognize without much strain or vigilance when authority promptings are best followed and when they should be resisted.

Posing two questions to ourselves can help enormously to accomplish this trick. The first is to ask, when we are confronted with what appears to be an authority figures's influence attempt "Is this authority truly an expert?" By orienting in this simple way toward the evidence for authority status, we can avoid the major pitfalls of automatic deference. This question brings our attention to the obvious. It channels us effortlessly away from a focus on possibly meaningless symbols to a consideration of genuine authority credentials. It impels us to distinguish between relevant authorities and irrelevant authorities.

Suppose, though, we are confronted with an authority we determine is a relevant expert. Before submitting to authority influence, it would be wise to ask a second simple question: "How truthful can we expect the expert to be here?" Authorities, even the best informed, may not present their information honestly to us. Therefore we need to consider their trustworthiness in the situation.


The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost

The opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.

The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of Losing something than by the thought of Gaining something of equal value.

Collectors of everything from baseball cards to antiques are keenly aware of the influence of the Scarcity principle in determining the worth of an item. As a rule, if it is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable.

Probably the most straightforward use of the Scarcity principle occurs in the "Limited number" tactic, when the customer is informed that a certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long. The intent was to convince customers of an item's Scarcity and thereby increase its immediate value in their eyes.

Related to the limited-number technique is the "Deadline" tactic, in which some official time limit is place on the customer's opportunity to get what the compliance professional is offering. People frequently find themselves doing what they wouldn't particularly care to do simply because the time to do so is shrinking.

A variant of the Deadline tactic is much favored by some face-to-face, high-pressure sellers because it carries the purest form of decision deadline: Right Now. Customers are often told that unless they make an immediate decision to buy, they will have to purchase the item at a higher price or they will be unable to purchase it at all.

It is "keep the prospects from taking the time to think the deal over by scaring them into believing they can't have it later. which makes them want it now."


In the instance of the Scarcity principle, the power -in directing human action - comes from 2 major sources. The first is Familiar. Like the other weapon of influence, the scarcity principle trades on our weakness for Shortcuts. Because we know that the things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item's availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality. This, one reason for the potency of the scarcity principle is that, by following it, we are usually and efficiently right.

In addition, there is a unique, secondary source of power within the Scarcity principle: as opportunities become less available, we lose freedoms, and we hate to lose the freedoms we already have. Whenever free choice is limited or threatened, the need to retain our freedoms makes us desire them significantly more than previously. So when increasing Scarcity - or anything else - interferes with our prior access to some item, we will react against the interference by wanting and trying possess the item more than before.

We show the strong tendency to react against restrictions on our freedoms of action throughout our lives. Teenage, this is a period characterized by an emerging sense of Individuality. For teenagers, the emergence is from the role of child, with all of its attendant parental control, and toward the role of adult, with all of its attendant rights and duties. Not surprisingly, adolescents tend to focus less on the duties than on the rights they feel they have as young adults. Not surprisingly, again, imposing traditional parental authority at these times is often counterproductive; the teenager will sneak, scheme, and fight to resist such attempts at control.

When our freedom to have something is limited, the item become less available, and we experience an increased desire for it. However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we Want it. Still, we need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire.

The tendency to want what has been banned and therefore to presume that it is more worthwhile is not limited to commodities as laundry soap. In fact, then tendency is not limited to commodities at all but extends to restrictions on information. Almost invariably, our response to the banning of information is a greater desire to receive that information and a more favorable attitude toward it than before the ban. The intriguing thing about the effects of censoring information is not that audience members want to have the information more than they did before; that seems natural. Rather, it is that they come to believe in the information more, even though they haven't received it.

According to the Scarcity principle, we will find a piece of information more persuasive if we think we can't get it elsewhere.


Do we value more those things that have recently become less available to us, or those things that have always been scarce? The drop from abundance to scarcity produced a decidedly more positive reaction to the cookies than did constant scarcity.

We are most likely to find revolutions where a period of improving economic and social conditions is followed by a short, sharp reversal in those conditions. Thus it is not the traditionally most downtrodden people - who have come to see their deprivation as part of the natural order of things - who are especially liable to revolt. Instead, revolutionaries are more likely to be those who have been given at least some taste of a better life. When the economic and social improvements they have experienced and come to expect suddenly become less available, they desire them more than ever and often rise up violently to secure them. In each case, a time of increasing well-being preceded a tight cluster of reversals that burst into violence.

A valuable lesson for would-be rulers: When it comes to freedoms, it is more dangerous to have given for a while than never to have given at all. Freedoms once granted will not be relinquished without a fight.

People see a thing as more desirable when it has recently become less available than when it has been scarce all along.

The finding highlights the importance of competition in the pursuit of limited resources. Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we are in Competition for it. Advertisers often try to exploit this tendency in us. In their ads, we learn that “popular demand” for an item is so great that we must “hurry to buy”, or we see a crowd pressing against the doors of a store before the start of a sale, or we watch a flock of hands quickly deplete a supermarket shelf of a product.

The feeling of being in Competition for Scarce resources has powerfully motivating properties.

Salespeople are taught to play the same game with indecisive customers. For example, a realtor who is trying to sell a house to a “fence-sitting” prospect will sometimes call the prospect with news of another potential buyer who has seen the house, liked it, and is scheduled to return the following day to talk about terms. The tactic, called in some circles “goosing ‘em off the fence” can work devastatingly well. The thought of losing out to a rival frequently turns a buyer from hesitant to zealous.

Humans and fish alike lose perspective on what they Want and begin striking at whatever is being Contested.


Part of the problem is that our typical reaction to scarcity hinders our ability to Think. When we watch something we want become less available, a physical agitation sets in. Especially in those cases involving direct competition, the blood comes up, the focus narrows, and emotions rise.

Knowing the causes and workings of Scarcity pressures may not be sufficient to protect us from them because knowing is a cognitive thing, and cognitive processes are suppressed by our Emotional Reaction to Scarcity. In fact, this may be the reason for the great effectiveness of scarcity tactics. When they are employed properly, our first line of defense against foolish behavior – a thoughtful analysis of the situation – become less likely.

Perhaps, we can use the arousal itself as our prime cue. In this way we can turn the enemy’s strength to our advantage. Rather than relying on a considered, cognitive analysis of the entire situation, we might simply tune ourselves to the internal, visceral sweep for our warning. By learning to flag the experience of heightening arousal in a compliance situation, we can alert ourselves to the possibility of scarcity tactics there and to the need for caution.

After all, merely recognizing that we ought to move carefully doesn’t tell us the direction in which to move; it only provides the necessary context for a thoughtful decision.

Therein lies an important insight. The joy is not in Experiencing a scarce commodity but it Possessing it. It is important that we not confuse the two.

Whenever we confront the Scarcity pressures surrounding some item, we must also confront the question of what it is we want from the item.

-If the answer is that we want the thing for the social, economic, or psychological benefits of Possessing something rare, then, fine; Scarcity pressures will give us a Good indication of how much we would want to pay for it – the less available it is, the more valuable to us it will be.

-But very often we don’t want a thing purely for the sake of owning it. We want it, instead, for its Utility value; we want to eat it or drink it or touch it or hear it or drive it or otherwise Use it. In such cases it is vital to remember that Scarce things do not taste of feel or sound or ride or work any better because of their Limited Availability.

Should we find ourselves beset by Scarcity pressures in a compliance situation, then, our best response would occur in a 2-stage sequence. As soon as we Feel the tide of Emotional Arousal that flows from Scarcity influences, we should use that rise in arousal as a signal to Stop short. Panicky, feverish reactions have no place in wise compliance decisions. We need to Calm ourselves and Regain a Rational perspective. Once that is done, we can move to the 2nd stage by Asking ourselves Why we want the item in consideration. If the answer is that we want it primarily for the Purpose of Owning it, then we should use its Availability to help gauge how much we want to spend for it. However, if the answer is that we want it primarily for its Function, then we must remember that the item under consideration will function equally well whether scarce or plentiful. Quite simply, we need to recall that the scarce cookies didn’t taste any better.


Every day in every way, I'm getting busier.

Very often in making a decision about someone or something, we don’t use all the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single, highly representative piece of the total. And an isolated piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes – mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse.

Despite the susceptibility to stupid decisions that accompanies a reliance on a single feature of the available data, the pace of modern life demands that we frequently use this shortcut. We have our capacity limitations, and, for the sake of efficiency, we must sometimes retreat from the time-consuming, sophisticated, fully informed brand of decision making to a more Automatic, primitive, single-feature type of responding. Where we are rushed, stressed, uncertain, indifferent, distracted, or fatigued, we tend to focus on less of the information available to us.

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