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Book reviews > Influence


Cialdini, R.B. (1994). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, NY: Quill


This is the million-seller persuasion classic, first published in 1984 that is probably more widely referenced than any other book in the field.

Cialdini describes six principles of influence that are now widely espoused by many others.

  • Reciprocity: If I do something for you then you must do what I ask of you.
  • Scarcity: If I can't have it, I want it (as in retail 'sales').
  • Liking: If you like me then you are more likely to do what I ask of you.
  • Authority: If you look and act like somebody in authority then I will obey you.
  • Social proof: If we do not know what to do we look to other people.
  • Commitment/consistency: If I say something I will likely act in a way consistent with that commitment.

The nice thing about the book is not just the critical principles that it espouses, but also that it is highly readable. Cialdini took jobs such as waiting table in order to study the 'pros' in the field, for example finding that waiters use different methods with different people in order to maximize the tip they will receive. He also uses well-known examples, such as the Kitty Genovese murder, to illustrate how the principles appear in practice.

It is difficult to criticize this book, not because it is a classic but because it is such a delightful and easy read. With clear language and interesting examples throughout, it is relevant for many different disciplines.

The trap in reading any established text is in assuming that it is completely definitive, with its methods applying universally and that all other methods are irrelevant. Of course this is not true and Cialdini himself continues to research and write in the area. Nevertheless, the six principles still give remarkably good coverage and can be seen in use many times every day.

This is very highly recommended and essential reading for anyone interested in changing minds.



Buy Me

Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Revised edition), Quill, NY, 1994

Originally published in 1984, this is an absolute classic on influence and persuasion. Cialdini identifies six key principles by which we are heavily influenced: Reciprocation, commitment/consistency, social proof,  liking, authority and scarcity. Highly readable and academically sound.



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