A book by Robert B. Miller
This is definitely the most well researched and thought out book I have read to date. Cialdini references hundreds of social experiments, articles, and research to back his 6 principles of social influence – namely reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
The initial premise is that through various mediums such as environment, sales techniques, or personal interactions there are certain aspects of social dynamics that make us more prone to doing things we normally wouldn't, had we cognitively processed all the appropriate information to make a well informed decision. My favorite example of this is one that Cialdini uses early in the book about a mother turkey, who viciously attacks predator polecats when caring for her young. In an experiment researchers used a stuffed polecat doll with a tape recorder that would play a cheep sound similar to a baby turkey. As expected when the stuffed polecat doll was presented to the mother turkey she tore it to shreds. However the next time the polecat doll was presented it played the recorded cheep and as if on queue the mother turkey began to nurture the once predator as if it were her own! Confusing right? Well Cialdini contends that the brain sometimes takes shortcuts to process information and as a result reacts to certain triggers automatically in what he calls the "click, whir" response (as in a tape recorder). The belief behind these mental shortcuts is to aid the poor turkey brain in its processing power so the less information the turkey has to process the more it can think about sleeping, eating, and well you get the idea :)
Granted we are all smarter than a mother turkey (well at least most of us) and our brains would easily be able to process that a cheeping polecat is still a polecat so how does this relate to our vulnerability to be influenced into doing undesirable or dumb things? Well the answer lies all around us. Cialdini claims that in this Information age we've created for ourselves with computers, the Internet, radio, television, etc we now live in an environment that is fast paced, stressful, and overbearing compared with previous history. Enormous amounts of information is not only readily available to us but is also sometimes forced on us thus when we are unable, indifferent, or distracted we fail to process all related information and like the mother turkey, take shortcuts.
Since advertisers, solicitors, and malicious conspirators understand and exploit these vulnerabilities Cialdini has set forth ways to detect and defend against these powers of influence passively in jujitsu fashion though he does have moments of pugnacious retaliations. What Cialdini has set forth is a set of valuable tools for protecting ourselves against possible social influences and if harnessed properly we should propel ourselves from the Information Age to the Knowledge Age.
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