50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Robert Cialdini’s Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is a pop psych book, where a bunch of research in psychology is distilled into one readable volume.

50 scientifically proven ways constitute 50 chapters of the book,
longest of which take 7 pages. The authors take the position that
persuasion is a science, not art, hence with the right approach anybody
can become the master in the skill of persuasion. So, what are the 50
ways?

  1. Inconvenience the audience by creating an impression of product scarcity.
    It’s the famous change from “Call now, the operators are standing by”
    to “If the line is busy, call again”, that greatly improved the call
    volume by creating the impression that everybody else is trying to buy
    the same product.
  2. Introduce herd effect in highly personalized form.
    The hotel sign in the bathroom informed the guests that many prior
    guests chose to be environmentally friendly by recycling their towels.
    However, when the message mentioned that majority of the guests who
    stayed in this specific room chose to be more environmentally conscious
    and reused their towels, towel recycling jumped 33%, even though the
    message was largely the same.
  1. Ads quoting negative behavior en masse reinforces negative behavior.
    Petrified Forest National Park A/B tested two versions of a sign
    imploring people not to steal pieces of petrified forest from the park.
    One mentioned large amounts of petrified forest taken away on an annual
    basis, the other one simply asked the visitors not to remove petrified
    wood. The first one actually tripled the theft ratio as it showed
    stealing petrified wood as something commonplace. Same effect was
    observed after airing an ad that implored women to vote, but mentioned
    that 22 million single women did not vote last year. That kind of
    information actually portrays not voting as more socially acceptable.
  2. Avoiding magnetic middle. A California survey
    measured energy usage of a neighborhood on a week-by-week basis. When
    the average electricity consumption for the neighborhood was
    calculated, researchers sent thank-you cards to those using the energy
    conservatively, and a nice reminder to perhaps conserve to those who
    used electricity liberally. Net effect? While the liberals tried to cut
    down on unnecessary energy usage, the conservatives, finding out
    they’re way below average, suddenly became way more liberal with their
    energy usage, which actually increased the amount of energy used by the
    neighborhood. Proposed solution that worked? Sending a smiley face card
    to conservatives with a request to keep doing what they were doing,
    instead of pointing out they were at the right end of the bell curve.
  3. Too many options necessitate selection, and hence frustration, when brain decides it’s unnecessary work.
    The example here is given by a company that manages retirement funds
    for other companies, and hence has access to retirement information of
    800,000 employees. When employees were offered a choice of 2 funds,
    roughly 75% signed up for a retirement program. When the number of
    funds was increased to 59%, even though qualitatively this was a better
    deal for employees, only 60% decided to sign up. When Head & Shoulders brand killed off 11 flavors of the shampoo, leaving only 15 on the market, the sales rose 10%.
  4. Giving away the product makes it less desirable.
    Researchers gave one group of people a picture of a pearl bracelet and
    asked to evaluate its desirability. Another group of people was given
    the same task, but prior to that was shown an ad, where the same
    bracelet was given away for free, if you bought a bottle of expensive
    liqueur. The second group considered the bracelet much less desirable,
    since mentally a lot of potential buyers (35% of them to be exact)
    shuffled the bracelet onto “trinkets they give away for free” shelf in
    their brain.
  5. A more expensive product makes the old version look like a value buy.
    An example here is a Williams-Sonoma bread maker. After an introduction
    of a newer, better, and pricier version, the sales of the old unit
    actually increased, as couples viewed the new item as “top of the
    line”, but old product was all of a sudden reasonably-priced, even
    though a bunch of features were missing.
  6. If a call to action is motivated by fear, people will block it, unless call to action has specific steps.
    A group of people received a pamphlet describing the dangers of tetanus
    infection. It didn’t describe much else. The second group of people got
    a description of tetanus infection, plus a set of instructions on how
    to get vaccinated. The second group exhibited much higher sign-up rate
    for tetanus vaccination than the first one, where many participants
    tried to block out the high-fear message urging that something as rare
    as tetanus would never happen to them.
  7. A small gift makes people want to reciprocate.
    People who received a small no-strings-attached gift from a stranger
    were twice as likely to buy raffle tickets from him than those who were
    just pitched on raffle tickets.
  8. Hand-written Post-It note improves response rate on inter-office letters.
    Researchers distributed three sets of questionnaires around the office.
    The first set included a hand-written Post-It note requesting
    completion of the survey. The second set got the same survey, with the
    request to return it hand-written on Page 1. Third group got the same
    survey with their name mentioned (in type) on page 1 of the survey.
    Response rates? 75%, 48%, 36%. People appreciated personalized
    approach, and somehow a Post-It note even highlighted the extra work
    that someone did before sending out the survey.
  9. How restaurant mints are a personalized affair.
    Let’s a say a restaurant provides mints for its customers on the way
    out. If the amount of tips per week is the baseline for that
    restaurant, let’s make the waiters include a mint as they give the
    check to the customer. The tips go up by 3.3%. However, when the
    waiters offer the mints themselves, prior to signing the check, the
    tipping amount went up by 14.1%. In yet another experiment, the waiter
    would present the patrons with 1 mint per guest, then give them the
    check, then turning around to leave, then, as if remembering something
    sudden, turning around and giving them yet another mint per guest.
    Result? 23% increase in tips, as this signaled high amount of
    personalization.
  10. Attaching no strings increases response to the message.
    Using the same hotel as the one mentioned in Chapter 2, researchers
    tried out two different versions of the sign. The first one: if you
    reuse the towels, a donation will be made to a nonprofit environmental
    organization.  The second version: the donation has already been made,
    since the hotel trusted you’d reuse the towels anyways. Recipients of
    the second message reused their towels 45% more than the recipients of
    the first one.
  11. As time goes by, the value of a favor increases in the eyes of the favor-giver, and decreases in the eyes of the favor-receiver.
    Researchers asked a group of people in the random office environment to
    exchange favors and then rate the value of the given/received favor in
    their eyes. A few weeks later the same employees were reminded of the
    favor, and asked to evaluate the favor again. Favor-givers consistently
    assigned higher value to a given favor, while as the time passed by,
    favor-receivers tended to assign lower value to the received favor.
  12. Asking for small favors changes self-perception, introducing ways for big favors.
    Researchers asked a group of homeowners to place a large “Drive
    Carefully” sign on their front lawn. Only 17% agreed. With the second
    group of homeowners, 76% of people were ok with road traffic people
    maintaining the sign on their beautiful lawns. What was the difference
    between two groups? A few weeks earlier group B was asked to display a
    small non-intrusive window sign asking drivers to slow down. This
    mental foot-in-the-door technique made homeowners from the group B view
    themselves as socially responsible and safety-aware, hence a request
    for a larger favor few weeks later didn’t startle them.
  13. Labeling people into a social group tends to increase their participation ratio.
    A group of people was interviewed regarding their voting patterns. Half
    of them were told that based on their response criteria, they were very
    likely to vote, since they were deemed to be more politically active.
    Later on the election day that specific half did indeed turn up a
    participation rate that was 15% higher than participation of the
    control group.
  14. Asking people to substantiate their decision will lead to higher commitment rate on that decision.
    Researchers called a group of people asking them how likely they were
    to vote in an upcoming election. Those who responded positively were
    either asked nothing, or asked why they felt they would vote. Any
    reason would suffice, but when the election day came, the turnout for
    the control group (who all responded “Yes” to the question of whether
    they were going to vote) was 61.5%. Turnout for the group that actually
    gave a reason (any reason)? 86.7%. A restaurant stopped telling
    customers “Please call to cancel your reservation” and started asking
    “Will you call and let us know if you need to cancel?” Net result?
    Number of reservation no-shows dropped from 30% to 10%.
  15. Writing things down improves commitment. Group A
    was asked to volunteer on AIDS awareness program at local schools, and
    was asked to commit verbally. Group B was asked for the same kind of
    volunteer project, but was given a simple form to fill in. 17% of
    volunteers from Group A actually showed up to their assigned local
    school. From Group B 49% of volunteers showed up.
  16. The fact that circumstances changed allows people to change their viewpoints without being viewed as inconsistent.
    People are generally not thrilled to change their viewpoints on
    something, as they fear they will display lack of consistency and be
    called a flip-flopper. Convincing people that their old decision (to
    stick with the old product) was completely 100% correct under old
    circumstances allows them to be more responsive to the messages that
    imply a new product/idea is better because the circumstances radically
    changed since then.
  17. Sometimes asking people for help makes them more open.
    Group A was given some bogus research that included a sum of prize
    money. After the experiment, the researcher approached them and asked
    whether it wouldn’t be inconvenient if they had to give the money back,
    since the researcher was using his own money. Group B was not
    approached with such request after their portion of bogus experiment
    was done, and was allowed to keep the money. After this both groups
    were asked to rate their impression of the researcher. Even though it
    was the first group who didn’t get to keep any money, all of them
    consistently rated the researcher higher on likability scale.
  18. Asking for little goes a long way. Researchers
    went door-to-door asking for American Cancer Society donations. Group A
    just asked for a donation, group B ended their spiel with “even a penny
    would help”. Results? 28.6% response rate for Group A vs. 50% response
    for Group B.
  19. Lower starting prices attract higher bids. This is
    a reference to a study of eBay items where people consistently bid
    items with a lower starting price higher. The explanation seems to
    focus on the fact that people invest more time into updating bids for a
    lower-priced item to let it go.
  20. How to impress a potential customer with credentials without being labeled as a show-off?
    Public speakers have someone else introduce them, a real estate company
    made a slight improvements to their phone service by directing people
    to “Jane, who has 10 years of experience with houses in upper price
    range”, and physicians display their diplomas on the walls.
  21. The danger of being the smartest person in the room.
    The expert card frequently trumps any other card in the room. The
    example here is that the scientists who discovered the double-helix of
    the DNA were never prime DNA experts, which made them “hungrier” for
    new discoveries, and made them question established rules.
  22. Devil’s advocate example works with large organizations.
    Leaders who consistently seek out dissenting opinions earn more
    respect, and generally have better agreement with people in the room
    than those who rule by lying the law and persecuting dissenters.
  23. Negative examples are memorized better than positive examples.
    When one group of firefighters went through the list of real-life
    mistakes other firefighters have made, and another group just went
    through the list of positive things to do, the first group demonstrated
    better judgment when faced with real-life tests. Our brain seems to
    discount the best practices, but single out bad examples of someone
    else making a mistake.
  24. Admitting negatives up-front might lead to better communication.
    When Progressive says that they will compare your rate against their
    competitors’, and when original VW Bug was introduced in the US, both
    companies pursued a strategy of highlighting the negative stuff only to
    open conversation about the true values their product has to offer.
  25. Spinning negative facts as positive allows customers to make a mental link towards the positive.
    Among the viewers who viewed an ad advertising restaurant’s cozy
    atmosphere, an ad advertising the restaurant and lack of parking
    spaces, and an ad mentioning both, the third group made a connection
    between cozy atmosphere and bad parking situation. The restaurant was
    so cozy, the customers reasoned, that they didn’t even have enough
    parking spots, which made them even cozier in the eyes of a customer.
  26. Admitting you’re wrong makes people trust you more.
    Company A published an investors relations report, contributing slump
    in sales to overall economic climate. Company B said slump of sales was
    relevant to a few bad decisions by top management. Net result?
    Investors viewed company B more positively. You’d think that they’d be
    viewed as a bunch of screw-ups, but admission of a mistake made
    investors more confident the situation was under control, while company
    A investors got the uneasy feeling of the ship floating in the waters
    with captain losing control.
  27. Similarities raise the response rate. A person
    named Cindy Johnson received a survey request by mail from someone
    named Cynthia Johannson. Someone named John Smith received a survey
    from Gregory Jordan. The name similarity in the first case (note that
    it’s just phonetic similarity, none of the names are the same) brought
    up the response rate to 56% vs. regular 30%.
  28. People like the sound of their name, and that defines their vocation.
    There are three times as many dentists named Dennis as any other names.
    Number of Florences living in Florida is disproportionately high, same
    goes for Louises living in Louisiana.
  29. Verbalization helps interaction. Waiters who
    repeat customers’ order to them make 70% more in tips than waiters who
    just say “Okay”. Our mind subconsciously appreciates the effort taken
    to ensure the things are perfectly right.
  30. Just smiling makes for a poorer customer service.
    Group A was exposed to a hotel clerk smiling, while peppering the
    customer with questions regarding their preferences and ways to improve
    their hotel stay. Group B had just a smiling clerk performing her
    duties. Group B was more likely to rate the smile as fake.
  31. People pay more for the stuff that’s about to disappear.
    Oldsmobile sales rose after GM announced the end of life for the line.
    Australian beef purchases rose after customers learned this year’s
    supply would be severely diminished because of the weather conditions.
    Concorde sales took off right after British Airways announced the
    hyper-speed flights would be shut down.
  32. When people feel something is about to go away, they will stick to perception of the product being better than the new one.
    In majority of blind tests customers chose New Coke over Classic Coke.
    Yet when New Coke was introduced, massive protests were staged. When
    the same drink was packaged into Classic Coke and New Coke bottles,
    customers still claimed they preferred the Classic Coke and could taste
    the difference, even though labeling was the only thing that differed
    two drinks.
  33. “Because” makes any explanation rational. In a
    line to Kinko’s copy machine a researcher asked to jump the line by
    presenting a reason “Can I jump the line, because I am in a rush?” 94%
    of people complied. Good reason, right? Okay, let’s change the reason.
    “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” Excuse me? That’s
    why everybody is in the line to begin with. Yet 93% of people complied.
    A request without “because” in it (”Can I jump the line, please?”)
    generated 24% compliance.
  34. Asking people to choose reasons themselves might backfire.
    Two groups were given an ad by BMW. Group A saw an ad saying “So many
    reasons to buy a BMW. Can you name 10?” Group B saw an ad saying “So
    many reasons to buy a BMW. Can you name 1?” After the ad both groups
    were asked to evaluate their likelihood of buying a BMW. Similar to
    what’s described in Chapter 5, people who had to name 10 reasons
    actually named Mercedes-Benz, a competitive brand, as their probable
    choice, while Group B named BMW as their likely next vehicle, compared
    to Mercedes-Benz.
  35. People like stocks with more pronounceable names.
    Research of stock tickers between 1999 and 2004 looked at the
    relationship between the phonetic fluency of the stock and its rise
    through IPO, then 12 months later, then throughout its lifetime. The
    result? Stocks with more pronounceable names produced higher returns,
    even though nobody yells out the tickers on the exchange floor anymore.
  36. Rhyming makes the phrases more convincing. People
    were asked to evaluate the practical value of parables “Caution and
    measure will win you treasure” and “Caution and measure will win you
    riches”. In general proverb A was considered to be more practical and
    insightful than proverb B.
  37. Amount of information is context-dependent. A
    group of people was given an ad for department store A, extolling in
    great detail the 6 departments that A had. Another group was given a
    short blurb on store A, presenting mainly abstract information. After
    that store B was presented to both groups with information on 3
    departments given to both groups. The first group thought they
    preferred A, since A volunteered more information and B seemed shadier
    in comparison. The second group did exactly the opposite and preferred
    store B, which volunteered detailed info on 3 departments, while A’s
    message was an abstract blurb.
  38. Incentive programs need a good start. A car-wash
    place gave one group of customers a free car wash after 8 washes, and
    everybody got their first stamp after their visit. Group B got a free
    car wash after 10 car washes, with 3 stamps on the card. Both groups
    needed to make 7 more trips to get a free wash. 19% of the Group A
    returned, while 34% of the Group B did.
  39. Abstract names allow the customers to come up with reasoning.
    Crayola found out that naming colors Cornflower Yellow and Kermit Green
    worked better than no adjectives attached to colors. The more abstract
    the connection, the better it seemed to work, as people spent mental
    time working out the connection between the abstraction and the product
    in their mind.
  40. Ad campaigns that do not incorporate brands tend to not be remembered.
    A good portion of people when asked which company was represented by a
    bunny and the phrase “going, going, and going” named Duracell as the
    advertiser. Duracell sales increased with the launch of Energizer Bunny
    campaign.
  41. Mirrors make people more self-conscious. A group
    of trick-or-treating kids was told to pick up one candy from the jar in
    the living room, while the adult was in a different room on some
    pretense. Group A had a large mirror placed by the candy jar, group B
    did not have the mirror. 8.9% of kids with the mirror in the room and
    33.7% of the kids with no mirror treated themselves to extra candy.
    Another group of people was brought in for what was advertised as gel
    research, and was given a hand paper towel to wipe the gel off while
    heading for the exit. With the mirror in the hallway, 24% of
    participants littered, dropping the towel on their way out, with no
    mirror, 46% threw the paper towel on the floor without bothering to
    find a trash can.
  42. Negative emotions make people pay more. Group A
    was exposed to an emotional movie about the death of someone close to
    the main character. Group B saw no such movie. Both groups were asked
    then to name a fair price at which they’d buy the object presented to
    them. Group A tended to give prices 30% above Group B’s.
  43. Tired people tend to be more receptive to arguments.
    No wonder those magic bullet infomercials run so late at night. Both
    groups were presented to product demo, and then asked to evaluate the
    possibility of buying it. Group A was tired and a bit sleep-deprived,
    group B was in good physical condition. Group A was much more prone to
    buy.
  44. Caffeine increases the argumentativeness of a strong argument.
    Group A drank regular orange juice, group B drank orange juice infused
    with caffeine. Both groups were then presented with a statement on
    controversial issue. Except one statement then made weak and hasty
    arguments, while the second statement made a strong case. Both groups
    equally dismissed the weak argument case. As far as strongly
    argumentative case, group B was 30% more receptive. A faster-working
    brain under the influence of caffeine seems to appreciate good
    arguments.
  45. Face time still beats e-mail time. Group A was
    given time to get to know one another in person, then resolve a
    conflict via e-mail. Group B got a similar task, except no face-to-face
    communications. 6% of the Group As failed to come up at a good
    resolution, while 29% of Group Bs arrived at impasse.
  46. Individualism is perceived differently in many countries.
    In US and Western Europe a chewing gum campaign that accentuated “you,
    only better” seemed to get more success, than a similar campaign in
    Eastern Europe and Asia, with much more collectivism built into the
    culture. In those countries, emphasizing that chewing gum was much more
    tolerable for other people who can smell your breath, was perceived
    better.
  47. Notion of commitment among various cultures differ.
    A group of American students was asked to complete a short marketing
    survey. A few weeks later they got invited for the second survey, which
    was going to take twice as long. No pay for either survey. The same
    experiment was conducted among Asian students. The response rates among
    American students was 22%, response rate among Asian students was 10%.
    Research suggests that while American students relied only on their own
    experience, Asian students found out that few of their peers responded
    to the first request to complete the survey, which triggered their
    negative response.
  48. Response to voice mail differs among Americans and Japanese.
    When faced with a voicemail message, 50% of Americans, and 85% of
    Japanese hang up. Respondents from Japanese test group pointed out the
    personal touch of the conversation (intonation, pauses, volume) was
    important to them and impossible to reproduce over voicemail.

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