Monday, March 9, 2009


Prepared by Philip Zimbardo and Cindy X. Wang

aving begun to understand the impetus of social influence, we now move on to the better delineated principles of influence studied by social psychologist Robert Cialdini.

Cialdini is a renowned social psychologist that has done extensive research on the domains in which social influence is most powerful. The following principles play on fundamental human instincts and can be exploited both intentionally and unintentionally by professional influence agents.

Many of these may seem like obvious tactics that advertisers and influence agents will utilize to sway our opinion. However, when we are not prepared to scrutinize and resist them, these principles will often work subliminally and quite powerfully. Thus, an important part of resisting these common influence tactics is awareness of their fundamental operating principles, contexts in which they are most easily provoked, and the best methods to avoid falling prey to them.

We hope that by learning about these principles of persuasion, you will be better able to recognize the situations you are in that may lead to act against your will and then to have the tools to resist unwanted social influence. There are six basic principles, and each one is set in a specific Context. When you are aware of the Context, or the behavioral Setting, you will better recognize the principal at work, when you see the principal operating, you will understand the Context in which it is embedded

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

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