Robert B. Cialdini

Robert B. Cialdini (1945-)

American

Robert Beno Cialdini was born April 27, 1945 is the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

He is best known for his 1984 book on persuasion and marketing, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The book has sold over three million copies and has been translated into thirty languages.

It has been listed on the New York Times Business Best Seller List. Fortune Magazine lists the book in their "75 Smartest Business Books".

His two other books, "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive" and "The Small BIG: Small changes that spark a big influence" have been named a New York Times Bestseller and The Times Book of the year respectively.

Dr. Cialdini received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin in June 1967. He then went on to Graduate studies in Social Psychology at the University of North Carolina and earned his Ph.D. in June 1970 and received Postgraduate training in Social Psychology at Columbia University.

He has held Visiting Scholar Appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University. Currently, Dr. Cialdini is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

Cialdini's theory of influence is based on the principles of reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity.

Six key principles of influence:

  1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
  2. Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. See cognitive dissonance.
  3. Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  4. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  5. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  6. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a "limited time only" encourages sales.

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