Influence: the psychology of persuasion: Book Summary

What do you get in this post: in this post, I have covered all chapter’s lessons.

Are you excited like me?

So, stay tuned till the end.

For just 1 page summary you can click here.

Why do you have to read: Influence: The psychology of persuasion book summary?


At the conclusion of each chapter, examples will be provided that will show how frequently and how readily we can be swayed by the influence process in our daily lives.


A fundamental psychological principle that governs human behavior underlies each of these categories, giving the strategies their potency.

Each of these six principles corresponds to a chapter in the book.

Each of the principles—consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity—is discussed in terms of how it functions in society and in terms of how a compliance expert can expertly commission its powerful influence into requests for goods, services, donations, concessions, votes, assent, and other things.

Want to know how?

Favorite quote:

“People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”

Let’s get started.

Chapter 1: Weapons of Influence

There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another.

Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is.

So if we lift a light object first and then lift a heavy object, we will estimate the second object to be heavier than if we had lifted it without first trying the light one.

The contrast principle is well established in the field of psychophysics and applies to all sorts of perceptions besides weight.

When a less attractive woman joins us in conversation with a more attractive one at a cocktail party, we will see the second woman as less appealing than she actually is.

In fact, studies on the contrast principle conducted at Arizona State and Montana State universities imply that because the popular media constantly presents us with instances of impossibly gorgeous models, we may be less satisfied with the physical attractiveness of our own relationships.

A nice demonstration of perceptual contrast is sometimes employed in psychophysics laboratories to introduce students to the principle first-hand.

Each student takes a turn sitting in front of three pails of water—one cold, one at room temperature, and one hot.

After placing one hand in the cold water and one in the hot water, the student is told to place both in the lukewarm water simultaneously.

The look of amused bewilderment that immediately registers tells the story: Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that has been in the cold water feels as if it is now in hot water, while the one that was in the hot water feels as if it is now in cold water.

The point is that the same thing—in this instance, room-temperature water—can be made to seem very different, depending on the nature of the event that precedes it.

Be assured that the nice little weapon of influence provided by the contrast principle does not go unexploited.

The great advantage of this principle is not only that it works but also that it is virtually undetectable. Those who employ it can cash in on its influence without any appearance of having structured the situation in their favor.

Chapter 2: RECIPROCATION: The Old Give and Take…and Take

The author explains us by giving a very good example: AFEW YEARS AGO, A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR TRIED A LITTLE experiment.

He sent Christmas cards to a sample of perfect strangers.

Although he expected some reaction, the response he received was amazing—holiday cards addressed to him came pouring back from the people who had never met nor heard of him.

The great majority of those who returned a card never inquired into the identity of the unknown professor.

They received his holiday greeting card, click, and, whirr, they automatically sent one in return. While small in scope, this study nicely shows the action of one of the most potent weapons of influence around us—the rule for reciprocation.

The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. If a woman does us a favor, we should do her one in return; if a man sends us a birthday present, we should remember his birthday with a gift of our own; if a couple invites us to a party, we should be sure to invite them to one of ours.

By virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.

So typical is it for indebtedness to accompany the receipt of such things that a term like “much obliged” has become a synonym for “thank you,” not only in the English language but in others as well.

The impressive aspect of the rule for reciprocation and the sense of obligation that goes with it is its pervasiveness in human culture.

Chapter 3: COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY: Hobgoblins of the Mind

A STUDY DONE BY A PAIR OF CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGISTS UNCOVERED something fascinating about people at the racetrack: Just after placing a bet, they are much more confident of their horse’s chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down that bet.

Of course, nothing about the horse’s chances actually shifts; it’s the same horse, on the same track, in the same field; but in the minds of those bettors, its prospects improve significantly once that ticket is purchased.

Although a bit puzzling at first glance, the reason for the dramatic change has to do with a common weapon of social influence. Like the other weapons of influence, this one lies deep within us, directing our actions with quiet power.

It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done.

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.

Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision. Take the bettors in the racetrack experiment.

Thirty seconds before putting down their money, they had been tentative and uncertain; thirty seconds after the deed, they were significantly more optimistic and self-assured.

The act of making a final decision—in this case, of buying a ticket—had been the critical factor.

Once a stand had been taken, the need for consistency pressured these people to bring what they felt and believed into line with what they had already done.

They simply convinced themselves that they had made the right choice and, no doubt, felt better about it all.

Although consistency is generally good, even vital, there is a foolish, rigid variety to be shunned. It is this tendency to be automatically and unthinkingly consistent that Emerson referred to.

And it is this tendency that we must be wary of, for it lays us open to the maneuvers of those who want to exploit the mechanical commitment consistency sequence for profit,

Chapter 4: SOCIAL PROOF: Truths Are Us

The principle of social proof. It states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior.

We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theatre, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer.

The tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it normally works quite well.

As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accordance with social evidence than contrary to it. Usually, when a lot of people are doing something, it is the right thing to do.

This feature of the principle of social proof is simultaneously its major strength and its major weakness.

Like the other weapons of influence, it provides a convenient shortcut for determining how to behave but, at the same time, makes one who uses the shortcut vulnerable to the attacks of profiteers who lie in wait along its path.

Chapter 5: LIKING: The Friendly Thief

A FEW PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT, AS A RULE, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests.

We always think that if things are sold at the same price, then we will buy cheaper But when a friend calls up, we do not think in the same way. As we think about other companies.

You feel like you have to go. And when you get there, you feel like you have to buy something. What can I do? It’s for one of my friends.

Am I right?

Physical Attractiveness

Although it is generally acknowledged that good-looking people have an advantage in social interaction, recent findings indicate that we may have sorely underestimated the size and reach of that advantage.

There seems to be a click, whirr response to attractive people. Like all click, whirr reactions, it happens automatically, without forethought.

The response itself falls into a category that social scientists call “halo effects.”

A halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. And the evidence is now clear that physical attractiveness is often such a characteristic.

Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence.

Furthermore, we make these judgments without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process.

Certain of the consequences of this unconscious assumption that “good-looking equals good” scare me.

For example, a study of the Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates.

Despite such evidence of favoritism toward handsome politicians, follow-up research demonstrated that voters do not realize their bias.

In fact, 73 percent of Canadian voters surveyed denied in the strongest possible terms that their votes had been influenced by physical appearance; only 14 percent even allowed for the possibility of such influence.

Chapter 6: AUTHORITY: Directed Deference

Whenever we are faced with so potent a motivator of human action, it is natural to expect that good reasons exist for the motivation.

In the case of obedience to authority, even a brief consideration of human social organization offers justification aplenty.

A multi-layered and widely accepted system of authority confers an immense advantage upon a society.

It allows the development of sophisticated structures for resource production, trade, defense, expansion, and social control that would otherwise be impossible.

The other alternative, anarchy, is a state that is hardly known for its beneficial effects on cultural groups and one that the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes assures us would render life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Consequently, we have trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong.

The essential message fills the parental lessons, the schoolhouse rhymes, stories, and songs of our childhood and is carried forward in the legal, military, and political systems we encounter as adults. Notions of submission and loyalty to the legitimate rule are accorded much value in each.

Religious instruction contributes as well.

The very first book of the Bible, for example, describes how failure to obey the ultimate authority produced the loss of paradise for Adam, Eve, and the rest of the human race.

This paradox is, of course, the same one that attends to all major weapons of influence.

In this instance, once we realize that obedience to authority is most rewarding, it is easy to allow ourselves the convenience of automatic obedience.

The simultaneous blessing and bane of such blind obedience is its mechanical character. We don’t have to think; therefore, we don’t.

Although such mindless obedience leads us to appropriate action in the great majority of cases, there will be conspicuous exceptions—because we are reacting rather than thinking.

Chapter 7: SCARCITY: The Rule of the Few

Probably the most straightforward use of the scarcity principle occurs in the “limited-number” tactic when the customer is informed that a certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long.

You have seen the limited-number tactic employed repeatedly in a range of situations: “There aren’t more than five convertibles with this engine left in the state.

And when they’re gone, that’s it, ’cause we’re not making ’them anymore.”

“This is one of only two unsold corner lots in the entire development. You wouldn’t want the other one; it’s got a nasty east-west exposure.”

“You may want to think seriously about buying more than one case today because production is backed way up and there’s no telling when we’ll get any more in.”

Sometimes the limited-number information was true, sometimes it was wholly false. But in each instance, the intent was to convince customers of an item’s scarcity and thereby increase its immediate value in their eyes.

Related to the limited-number technique is the “deadline” tactic, in which some official time limit is placed on the customer’s opportunity to get what the compliance professional is offering.

People frequently find themselves doing what they wouldn’t particularly care to do simply because the time to do so is shrinking.

Thank you for your time.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

1 thought on “Influence: the psychology of persuasion: Book Summary”

Leave a Comment