Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini is a book structured around 6 key principles of influence: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. It is one of those books that has stood the test of time and one that gives you new wisdom every time you read it. The book has sold well over three million copies since it was published in 1984 and has been endorsed by non other than Charlie Munger. The most evident and in depth endorsement by Munger can be found in famous 1995 speech at Harvard University on The psychology of human misjudgment. In my opinion, reading the book and listening to the speech is one of the most valuable combinations of worldly wisdoms regarding human psychology that exists. I can’t recommend it enough.

Please comment if you have read the book and what you thought of it. Also, if you have found a worldly wisdom in the book that you think I should have included please comment on that as well. I’m very interested in what caught your eye while reading and why.

Five worldly wisdom’s from the book

Weapons of influence

The advantage of such shortcut responding [fixed-action patterns] lies in its efficiency and economy; by reacting automatically to a usually informative trigger feature, an individual preserves crucial time, energy, and mental capacity. The disadvantage of such responding lies in its vulnerability to silly and costly mistakes; by reacting to only a piece of the available information (even a normally predictive piece), an individual increases the chances of error, especially when responding in an automatic, mindless fashion. The chances of error increase even further when other individuals seek to profit by arranging (through manipulation of trigger features) to stimulate a desired behavior at inappropriate times. (p.17)

Commitment and Consistency

Psychologists have long recognized a desire in most people to be and look consistent within their words, beliefs, attitudes, and deeds. This tendency for consistency is fed from three sources. First, good personal consistency is highly valued by society. Second, aside from its effect on public image, generally consistent conduct provides a beneficial approach to daily life. Third, a consistent orientation affords a valuable shortcut through the complexity of modern existence. By being consistent with earlier decisions, one reduces the need to process all the relevant information in future similar situations; instead, one merely needs to recall the earlier decision and to respond consistently with it.” (p.95-96)

Social proof

Social proof is most influential under two conditions. The first is uncertainty. When people are unsure, when the situation is ambiguous, they are more likely to attend to the actions of others and to accept those actions as correct. In ambiguous situations, for instance, the decisions of bystanders to help are much more influenced by the actions of other bystanders than when the situation is a clear-cut emergency. The second condition under which social proof is most influential is similarity: People are more inclined to follow the lead of similar others.” (p.140)


The scarcity principle holds for two reasons. First, because things that are difficult to attain are typically more valuable, the availability of an item or experience can serve as a shortcut cue to its quality. Second, as things become less accessible, we lose freedoms. According to psychological reactance theory, we respond to the loss of freedoms by wanting to have them (along with the goods and services connected to them) more than before.” (p.231)

Instant influence

Modern day visionaries—like Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft—agree with Macrae, asserting that we are creating an array of devices capable of delivering a universe of information “to anyone, anywhere, anytime” (Davidson, 1999). But notice something telling: Our modern era, often termed The Information Age, has never been called The Knowledge Age. Information does not translate directly into knowledge. It must first be processed—accessed, absorbed, comprehended, integrated, and retained. (p.237)


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