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Persuasion

How can you change someone’s mind? And how are you swayed by others? Persuasion refers to the influence people have on one another—changing someone’s beliefs, decisions, or actions through reasoning or request.

The Principles of Persuasion

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The cornerstone of the psychology of persuasion is a set of six principles delineated by pioneering researcher Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus at Arizona State University. People are often faced with an overwhelming amount of information when making a decision, so they end up relying on intuitive concepts. Studies by Cialdini and others have revealed how six principles—reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus—are surprisingly universal.

What are the principles of persuasion?

The psychologist Robert Cialdini developed six principles of persuasion which have been used in business schools as well as in boardrooms. They are: 

• Reciprocity: People feel the need to give back to someone who provided a product, service, or information.

• Scarcity: People want items that they believe are in short supply.

• Authority: People are swayed by a credible expert on a particular topic.

• Consistency: People strive to be consistent in their beliefs and behaviors.

• Likability: People are influenced by those who are similar, complimentary, and cooperative.

• Consensus: People tend to make choices that seem popular among others.

How do you use the principles of persuasion?

Choosing the right principle for persuasion depends on the context. In a corporate context, a brand hoping to boost sales may leverage the authority principle by securing an expert’s endorsement. In a social context, an individual may deepen a relationship by inviting an acquaintance to a birthday party; due to the reciprocity principle, the acquaintance may then return the favor another time.

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How to Be Persuasive

While persuasion is a science, it’s also an art. It’s a balance between pushing your perspective without being aggressive, being assertive but not dismissive. But with the right combination, a thoughtful and persuasive message can help you personally or professionally.

How can I be more persuasive?

People can experiment with various strategies to become more convincing. One important concept is that people are more likely to be swayed by those they like. Spending time with a colleague to get to know each other or simply offering a friendly smile and nod can help you become more persuasive. Another tactic is to have someone else vouch for you, lending credibility to your belief or decision without seeming too pushy yourself.

How can I be more assertive?

Assertiveness is about standing up for yourself, rather than putting anyone else down. You can become more assertive by being clear and concise about what you’d like, and repeat yourself if necessary. You can also offer solutions to potential barriers and explain that you understand the other person’s point of view.

Persuasion in Marketing

Psychology has provided insight into why consumers choose the products they do and how companies try to encourage their purchases. From catchy advertisements and limited-time offers to examining customers’ habits online, marketers leverage a litany of tactics to persuade potential customers.

How do marketers persuade customers to purchase their products?

Companies often leverage the principles of persuasion—reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus—when communicating with customers. They also focus on the moment before delivering a message, what researcher Robert Cialdini calls pre-suasion. What the person sees, hears, or feels before getting a message about a product or service can influence how they receive it, and companies can aim to make sure their audience is primed correctly.

What online advertising tactics are persuasive to consumers?

Companies can now identify precise target audiences with whom to test their ideas. They can test for biases, heuristics, and cultural relevance to gain insights. This can occur early in the process too, before launching an official campaign. Digital products can help turn products or services into habits, such as through a recurring purchase or smart device. Messages that evoke emotion, whether awe, humor, or anger, also make the user experience more salient and persuasive, as is also the case offline.

Persuasion in Politics

Politics is inherently a process of persuasion. From a candidate’s journey to secure votes from their constituents, to passing new legislation, to public demonstrations for federal action, politics illustrates exactly how influence can lead to change.

What makes a political message persuasive?

Research on how voters respond to political messaging has revealed three basic principles. The first is for politicians to know what brain network they’re activating—the words used should evoke associations to a voter’s values or loved ones (e.g. “People who’ve lost their jobs” instead of “the unemployed”). The second is to speak directly to voters’ emotions. Messages that tap into hope, satisfaction, pride, and enthusiasm, on the one hand, and fear, anxiety, anger, and disgust on the other, move people to vote. The third is to tell a coherent memorable story rather than state a policy platform; the brain is wired to understand, remember, and pass along information presented as narrative.

Why is misinformation so effective?

Whether a foreign operative, marketer, or troll, anyone today can manipulate others into believing and latching onto what they want by disseminating misinformation. But the human mind, scientists contend, is built for belief. When you picture or hear of something, you assume it's true. Our ancestors evolved in an environment too dangerous to question themselves every time they thought they saw a lion or second-guess every story from a tribe member. Credence and impressionability, and the folding of hearsay and conviction into memory networks, are not flaws—they're efficiencies in building a cohesive cosmology. But they leave us vulnerable to predatory rumormongers.

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