Social psychologist Robert Cialdini has identified six principles of persuasion: scarcity, authority, consistency, reciprocity, consensus, and liking.
Here are some examples for your next social psychology lecture.
In 2015, Leslie, an employee at Food52, gave us a beautiful example of scarcity at work. “My mom brainwashed me as a kid. She put all of the candy out in the open and told me I could eat it whenever I wanted, but she'd hide the vegetables and tell me I could only eat them as a special treat at dinner. It worked. When I was six, I asked if I could have a bowl of brussels sprouts for my birthday instead of a cake” (Petertil, 2015).
Authority isn’t that hard to pull off if you’re a grandmother trolling your grandchildren. Reddit user pillowcurtain wrote in 2014 “My grandma told us that smelling each others [sic] farts would make us stronger. Worst Christmas ever for us, funniest Christmas for her.”
Consistency is the principle that makes the foot-in-the-door technique work. A month ago I wrote a blog post explaining how airlines use foot-in-the-door to get us to pay more money to fly.
Speaking of flying, reciprocity works with flight attendants, because, well, they’re human. Treats for flight attendants often result in reciprocated kindnesses (Strutner, 2016). I truly appreciate the work that flight attendants do, and I know that some of my fellow passengers can be challenging. I often bring baked goods to show a little love. But I don’t mind the reciprocity. On one flight, we were in the very last row. We brought Starbucks chocolate chunk muffins for the flight attendants. Not only did we get served food and adult beverages first (instead of last), we got them for free. And the flight attendants were very happy! Goodness all around.
A couple days ago I bought a new computer monitor for my home office. Do you have any idea how many different models of monitors are out there? Me neither, but the number has to be in the hundreds if not thousands. How in the world can I possibly get the best one for my price range? I started by reading reviews on sites like PCMagazine and CNET to narrow the field. And then I relied on consensus. The monitor I chose had 71% of the 232 customer reviews giving it 5 stars; another 15% gave it 4 stars. With 86% of the reviewers being pretty pleased with this particular monitor, well, that’s good enough for me. I’m looking at it now as I type.
The more likeable you are, the more likely you are to get what you want. Or even avoid something you don’t want. Malpractice attorney Alice Burkin said, “People just don't sue doctors they like. In all the years I've been in this business, I've never had a potential client walk in and say, ‘I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.’ We've had people come in saying they want to sue some specialist, and we'll say ‘We don't think that doctor was negligent. We think it's your primary care doctor who was at fault:' And the client will say ‘I don't care what she did. I love her, and I'm not suing her’" (Rice, 2000). And I’m willing to bet it’s not just true for physicians. I recently heard from a department chair who had a student come by to vent about a policy her professor had that the student didn’t like. The chair asked the student if he would like to file a formal complaint against the professor. The student replied, “No! I like him!”
There you have it, six roads to persuasion. After covering these in class, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to generate their own examples. You can either assign a particular principle or two to each group or you can ask each group to generate at least one example for each principle. Afterwards, ask volunteers to share their examples.
Petertil, H. (2015, May 1). Remembering mom's best weird foods. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://food52.com/blog/12884-too-many-cooks-what-weird-food-was-your-mom-eating
Rice, B. (2000). How plaintiff’s lawyers pick their targets. Medical Economics, 77(8), 94-110.
Strutner, S. (2016, October 28). Flight attendants agree this is the easiest way to get on their good side. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/flight-attendant-treats_us_581244d8e4b0390e69ced776