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Six principles of persuasion: Examples

sue_frantz
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Social psychologist Robert Cialdini has identified six principles of persuasion: scarcity, authority, consistency, reciprocity, consensus, and liking. In this post, we’ll give you examples of Cialdini’s principles of persuasion, as well as a quick classroom exercise to help you prepare for your lecture.

Examples of Cialdini’s Persuasion Principles

Here are some examples for your next social psychology lecture.

Scarcity

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).

This is a good example of Cialdini’s scarcity principle, as the child’s perception of the vegetables as scarce influenced them to desire them more than they would have otherwise. This shows the power that scarcity can have in action.

Authority

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

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.

Reciprocity

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.

Consensus

A couple of 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.

Likeable

The more likable 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!”

Principles of Persuasion Classroom Exercise

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. Afterward, ask volunteers to share their examples. 

References

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

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.