The psychology of persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini – 2021 - Harperbusiness – 568 pages


2022 November 17 | by Arduino Mancini Effective thinking - Resilience - Sales

Before I tell you why it is in your interest to read this book, I would like you to answer a few questions:

  • Why do we buy more from a kind and/or good-looking person than from one we do not find so pleasant?
  • Why when someone invites you to dinner you feel obliged to return the invitation?
  • Before entering a restaurant, what prompts you to see if it is attended by a sizeable number of people?
  • Why is it that when we hear fake laughter in a TV show we continue to follow it without switching off, even though everything tastes false?
  • Why do we rarely question the opinion of a person whom we consider an expert in a particular field?
  • What prompts companies that promote special offers to emphasize that they are limited in time and/or volume?
  • Why do we appreciate people who do not change their minds, even when it is in their best interest?

In this book, Robert B. Cialdini, a social psychologist acknowledged to be among the most influential scholars in the psychology of persuasion, presents the six aspects that motivate us to say yes, that is, even when it would be more convenient to say no.

In a simple, narrative style, the author presents the six weapons of persuasion, to help us to learn and cope with them; and he does it by presenting countless studies in which he is very often the protagonist himself.

That’s right, because Cialdini is not merely happy to assess the robustness of the studies he reports as often as he can he personally tests and experiences, even and especially emotionally, what each of us would go through under the same conditions.

The weapons of persuasion that Robert Cialdini presents are the following:

  1. Reciprocity. When someone gives us a favour or even a courtesy, it triggers within us an obligation to give back;
  2. Commitment and consistency. It acts on the need to be consistent with ourselves and the decisions we made; a mental mechanism that makes us feel uncomfortable when faced with the possibility/need/opportunity to change our minds;
  3. Social proof. One way we use to orient our choices is to follow the way others behave: because if so many people behave the same way, then it means that is the correct response in a given situation;
  4. Sympathy. People we like or simply find pleasant are more likely than others to win our favour. And this is in business, politics and private life;
  5. Authority. it is a powerful tool of persuasion, especially because we often resist challenging it. Therefore, people with impressive titles, dressed formally or simply in uniform are highly likely to influence our behaviour.
  6. Scarcity. Widely employed in advertising promotions, online and otherwise, that informs the audience that the sale is limited in duration and/or quantity; in short, beware of missing the last piece!

Who might benefit from this book?

Certainly salespeople, who will learn that becoming a customer’s “friend” is rarely a good idea, and anyone involved in communication to generate consensus.

Yet people who can benefit substantially from Cialdini’s book are the very ones who risk every day being influenced by manipulative communication; they can find extremely useful the paragraph at the end of each chapter that the Author devotes to “How to Say No,” helping to become immune to the weapons of persuasion.

Before going to the contents of the book, watch this short video: Robert Cialdini describes the weapons of persuasion in a few minutes.



Table of Contents

The first edition of the book dates to 1995; the current edition is revised and expanded.



  • The Levers of Persuasion. The (powerful) tools of the trade.
  • Reciprocity. The ancient adage “quid pro quo.”
  • Sympathy. The friendly thief.
  • Social proof. We are the truth
  • Authority. Guided deference
  • Scarcity. The rule of the few.
  • Commitment and consistency. The bogeymen of the mind.
  • Unity. The “we” is a shared me.
  • Immediate persuasion. Primitive consent for an automatic age.




Analytical Index


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