Strategies for Persuasion and Influence FAQ: Persuasion

The Science of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini (Scientific American, Feb, 2001,) describes eight strategies of persuasion. All of these have been tested in the field and shown to work.


People feel obligated to reciprocate. Therefore, offer a low-value item, such as free samples, free inspections, free hours, a free month, and so on, and people will reciprocate by buying the product.

  • If a request for donations is sent out, it gets an 18% response rate.
  • If free mailing labels are included, the success rate doubles to 35%.

Another way to do this: Intentionally ask for a too-high amount, get a refusal, reply with a lower request, and the person will reciprocate by accepting.

  • Ask people if they will take ghetto kids to a zoo: 17% accepted.
  • Ask people if they will work for free two hours per week for two years. 0% accepted. Follow up by asking if they will take ghetto kids to a zoo: 50% accepted.


People want to be consistent. If they say that they will do something, they will perform that promise to be consistent.

  • People do not show up for 30% of restaurant reservations.
  • If the restaurant asks them to promise to call if they want cancel, and they say “yes, they promise to call,” then the failure rate falls to 10%. They perform in consistency with their promise.

Social Validation

People tend to do what other people are doing.

  • A lone man stands at a street corner and stares up. 4% join and start looking up.
  • Five men look up. 18% join in.
  • 15 men look up. 40% join in.


People want to be liked. Salesmen use similarities to establish connection (“No kidding! I’m from the same town!”,) praise (“You’re making a great decision!”,) and flattery (“I love that shirt!”). Salespeople act as if they are cooperating, not selling. People want to be liked by attractive people.

  • Good-looking fund raisers get more donations (42%) vs plain-looking fundraisers (23%.)
  • Identifying oneself as similar to the customer will double the response.


People let authorities make decisions for them. (“Four out of five doctors recommendÖ”)

  • How to lead ordinary people into jaywalking? Have a man in a suit be the jaywalker. 350% increase in response.


People will act upon news of scarcity.

  • Upon news that “Australian beef will be scarce”, sales will double. Thus advertisers describe a shortage to create a sense of urgency.
  • If the news is a confidential report (the information itself is scarce) that predicts a beef shortage, the response rises to 600%.