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Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is on how ones instincts or involuntary training kicks in under various circumstances and how this is used by different people to get us to do or believe something which we would normally have done or believed under normal circumstances. Many of these techniques and its variation is used by the marketing and sales personnel to sell goods to the customers.

 

Weapons of Influence

In this chapter is named the author says how one can create a situation and use this to influence people into doing or believing something that we want them to do or believe.
The first example the author quotes is of a friend of his who had a shop selling trinkets. She was finding it difficult to sell of some turquoise jewellery for which she was asking a reasonable price. One day when she was leaving for a trip to a different place she asked her assistant to mark the prices of turquoise pieces to half the rate. The assistant misunderstood and marked them double the rate. The whole lot got sold in no time.
The second example the author quotes is of mother turkeys who are extremely protective of their chicks. It does everything to protect its chicks from its natural enemy polecats. So much so that when in experiments a stuffed polecat was put in front of the mother turkey it attacked it with all ferocity it could. When a tape recorder was inserted into the same stuffed polecat and the tape played the cheep cheep of the chicks the mother turkey became protective of the polecat instead of attacking it. When the tape was switched off the mother turkey started attacking it again. The mother turkey had been wired to respond to the cheep cheep of the chicks in a particular way and no matter what form was in front of it, it was triggering the ingrained response.
The author argues that in a similar fashion humans tend to respond in a predetermined way under various circumstances. In the above example we assume that things that are expensive are of better quality than things that are cheap. This is what led the tourists to buy items that were marked double their normal rates.
The author gives many examples of how animals and humans are wired to respond automatically, possibly irrationally in many situations.
One other example that the author quotes example of a salesman selling suits. When a potential customer would walk in, Sid the salesman would pretend to be a little hard of hearing and would also indicate that he is a little hard of hearing. He will compliment the customer as he tries the suit. Then when it appears that the customer has liked the suit he would call out to his brother and the head tailor working behind in the shop asking “Harry, how much for this suit?”. Harry would reply back “Forty Two dollar for the beautiful all wool suit”. Pretending not to have heard his brother and cupping his ears would ask once again and Harry would reply back “Forty Two dollars”. Now turning to the customer, Sid would say “He says twenty two dollars”. In most cases the customer would pay the twenty two dollars in a hurry and buy the suit. What Sid was doing was giving the impression that he was offering the suit at a price much lower than its actual value making the customer feel that he was getting away with a bargain.
The author compares this type of exploitation to a jujitsu players who uses her power minimally while using naturally existing conditions like gravity, momentum/inertia of the opponent as a lever.
Humans can physically be duped to believe something which is not true very easily. As an example if a person is asked to keep dipped one hand in hot water and another in cold water for some time and now when they are asked to dip both the arms in lukewarm water the person would be surprised as the hand that was in the hot water will feel that the water is cold whereas the one which had been in cold water will feel the water to be hot.
In a similarly manner after being bombarded with all the models that appear in the advertisements and magazines and films one tends to think poorly of one’s companions leading to disenchantment.
The real estate agents will tend to show the run down houses so that the customer has seen the bad ones and now when presented with even an average house the tendency of the customer will have a tendency to feel that the house is good.
The author gives an extreme example of a girl in a college who is writing to her parents. She first states she has passed to all sorts of crisis having a fall, having a concussion in the head, falling in love with the nurse in the hospital and becoming pregnant. At the end of the letter she admits all the above crisis were untrue, but she had secured a D in a subject and F in another.

Reciprocation – The Old Give and Take … and Take

The second technique that is used is Reciprocation. This follows the give and take principle. Since we have been trained to repay what is given to us, we tend to pursue this path even when we should ideally not have done so.An extreme example that is quoted by the author is as follows. In 1985 Ethiopia was under the onslaught of a major economic crisis due to which people were dying for want of nourishment, it was discovered that a 5000 dollar relief donation was made by the people of Ethiopia to the people of Mexico who had been ravaged by earthquakes. It seems very odd to see that people suffering from lack of food and security sending funds to another country. The author dig around and found that the reason for this was that in 1935 Mexico had sent relief to Ethiopia when it had been attacked by Italy. It shows for how long people can remember the help extended to them.
The author gives the example of how the Hare Rama Hare Krishna society gather funds during their initial days. At first they shaved their heads and wore ochre robes and beads and bells and in this form they would canvass for membership and also collect funds. But this was not working very well. To circumvent this problem the Krishnas’ started giving a gift to the targeted donor before asking them for the donation. The gift could be a book or a magazine or even as simple as a flower. Even if the potential donor refused to accepted she was cajoled into accepting it as a gift. This made the donors reciprocate by giving at least a token donation. This was hugely successful. But over a period of time people have become aware of this trick and have not started avoiding the Krishnas.
The power of reciprocity is used effectively by product manufacturers in the form of free samples. Free samples provided by manufacturers to be tried out by the customer in most situations makes the customer buy the product as they feel obliged to do so since she has been given a free sample. Amway is a classic organization which uses this technique to make the customer buy its product. The Amway sales person will leave a goody bag containing some cleaners, insect killers etc. telling the potential customer to try it out for a day to three days. After trying it out the customer typically feels guilty and ends up buying some of the items.
One other example that the author quotes is of sales people selling service-contract along with the product. The salesperson tends to try and sell a three year contract initially and then finally relents and gives in to a one year contract. The buyer generally finds it difficult to accept the offer. Since the salesperson’s commission is based on the service-contract she ends up getting it.

Commitment and Consistency – Hobgoblins of the Mind

In this chapter the author covers how humans tend to live up to what they commit to. A classic example that the author gives is about the bettors in the horse racing. Once they have placed a bet their confidence in the horse grows manifold. They start believing that they have bet on the winner. It is a self-deusion, but is not confined to such activities.An experiment was conducted in one of the beaches. A person comes to the beach and spreads a towel near a family and starts listening to a radio. After some time he gets up and walks away as if to get something. In the meantime another heavy built person comes and tries to steal the radio. In the second scenario the person talks to the family asks them to look after the radio and walks away and the heavy built person comes and tries to steal the radio. It was found that in the first case where the person did not ask for any commitment from the family it was very few who actually tried to stop the thief. In the case where the commitment had been sought most of the families tried to stop the thief from stealing despite the built of the thief.
This happens because consistency is highly valued in our culture. So we fall into a habit of being consistent and this triggers the automatic system to react unthinkingly when we are under commitment.
The author says that this ploy is used effectively by manufacturers to sell items after a festive season. The example that the author quotes is that of the toy makers. The author suggests that the toy makers put out a very high key advertisement just before the festival season advertising an expensive and attractive toy. Most children elicit a promise from their parents that they will get that toy for the festival as a gift. The toy manufacturer now ensures that there is a minimal supply of these toys in the stores before the festival. This leads the parents to buy an alternate but most likely an equally expensive toy as a gift for the festival. After the festival sale the toy manufacturers bring out the stock of the toy that they had advertised heavily before the festival. The tendency now of the parents is to buy this toy for their children as they had promised it and it has become available now. Using this ploy the toy makers sustain demand for their toys.
The author further substantiates this by giving example of how the Chinese exploited this tendency during the war with Korea. The Chinese began slowly by asking the American soldiers to write down that “US is not a great country” and that “Communism is good” and for this rewarding them with cigarettes or chocolates. Having accepted the gift the soldier slowly started becoming more an more complaint, so much so that they were ready to spill the beans on their fellow soldiers for what was considered to be faults by their captors. Many soldiers were made to write elaborate compositions on the faults of US and glories of China. This was shown to others and they were told that such and such has written this and if they would write something similar they would be reward. This double whammy worked most times and the soldiers ended up doing the biding of their captors. Sometimes if a soldier refused to write a composition asked for, the Chinese would ask them to just copy out a composition by somebody else. Slowly the person copying out started believing in what he was copying. In some cases the soldiers were asked to read out their own compositions or read out somebody else’s composition and were rewarded for it. The effect was the same the soldier’s started believing in what they were reading. The author further states that after the Tiananmen Square Massacre there were contents for writing good things about the government. The contests were announced in various popular newpapers and magazines, but the prizes were left unsaid. It was just a means to make the people commit to the government and the Party.
As another example of commitment the author states that the more the difficultly that one goes through to get something, the more one is dedicated to it. One starts believing that “This is it”. The example given is of the entry to the fraternities in the schools. One is made to go through a long list of rituals many of them dangerous and humiliating. But one who has got into the fraternity after so much effort one starts believing that the fraternity is everything and one does not violate any rule of the fraternity. The benefit of being in the fraternity itself maybe trivial, but the commitment with which one has suffered the tribulations of initiation to belong to the fraternity ensures that one sticks to the fraternity. Many tribes in Africa too have such initiations which can almost kill a person.
Similar initiation happens to the new entrants to the US Army. Cadets are subjected to what could be considered “absurd and dehumanizing” treatment. in 1988 a cadet, John Edwards was ranked academically at the top of his class of 1100 members, was expelled from the academy because he refused to expose the newcomers to what he felt was “absurd and dehumanizing” treatment. This is a real life incident. Read it http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/18/nyr….
Verbal commitments are better than no commitments, written commitments are better than verbal commitments and public commitments are ones which people struggle to break the most.
It is concluded that while threat may bring about a temporary compliance it is commitment that will bring in a long term compliance and hence commitment is what should be used in case of children, not threat.
Another example of commitment that the author quotes is the technique used by car salesman. When a person comes in the person is shown a car to his or her liking and is quoted a price which is a few hundred dollars less than the actual price. After going through various steps, possibly also allowing the person a drive in the car in the neighbourhood the salesperson would find an error in the calculation or would find some accessory has not been accounted for an would hike the price to the actual value. By now the customer would most likely be hooked to buying the vehicle and most would find it difficult to refuse in the increased price. In many cases the financing bank would find the error making it even more difficult for the customer to cancel the order.
Another example of commitment that author gives is that of a beautiful young lady coming to just ask a few questions of him for a survey. The author obliges and she starts off by asking if he likes to go out, go to restaurants, if he likes to order wine and the follows it up with if he likes to go to operas and concerts. By now in an attempt to impress the lady the author committed to a lavish lifestyle and boasts about how he is a connoisseur of operas and concerts. The lady at the end of the survey says that since the author is so much into concerts and operas he would possibly not mind buying membership of a club which for a small membership fee could save him 1200 USD considering the discounts he would get when he goes to all the operas and concerts that he had been going to. The author had been trapped into being consistent.
The solution that the author suggests is to listen to one’s stomach. If it complains that one is being made a sucker, one should withdraw.

Social Proof – Truths Are Us

The author starts off with the example of usage of canned laughter used in many of the American comedy serials and copied by many others through the world. Most people hate it and feel that it is phony. But studies have shown that canned laughter makes people laugh for longer than they would without it. It makes people laugh at poor jokes that they would otherwise found to be not humourous.
The moot question is why do we laugh more knowing fully well that the canned laughter track is transparently fake. The reason for this is that we look to what others are doing and assume and accept what others are doing is correct to follow. This applies as much to disposing the popcorn bag in a theatre to how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party. We take cues for all of these by looking around us and seeing how others are doing the same.
Normally this works well too as we do not end up making many mistakes. But this tendency of ours can and is exploited by many to get us to do things that we would normally not do.
Some examples where people bias our actions are bartenders salting their tip jars with a few dollars of their own. Advertisers using terms like “fastest-growing”, “largest-selling” are appealing to this aspect of ours. We think if it is the “largest-selling” then many would have bought it and so we should buy it too.
During the height of disco craze, many discos are known to have created artificially long waiting lines even though the clubs could have accommodated many more than those waiting outside. The discos exploited the fact that people felt that since the queue is long it must be worth waiting to get into the club.
One experiment was conducted on children who were normally afraid to interact with dogs. When they were shown other children playing with dogs or even when they were shown clips of other children playing with dogs, their fear reduced dramatically.
The author talks of an extreme case where a lady was killed in Queens, a borough of New York City, in March 1964. The lady was chased by the killer for over a period of half and hour. There were 38 respectable bystanders and not one had alerted the police or acted in defence of the victim. This came to fore because Rosenthal a Pulitzer winner reporter was assigned the task of investigating the ‘bystander angle’ in this crime. Each of them did not act because the other 37 did not act. This is social proof. They felt that it is right not to act. One is faced with similar situation in day to day life. Is the man lying in the alley a heart attack victim or a drunk sleeping it off? Are the sharp sounds from the street gunshots or a truck backfiring? Is the commotion next door an assault requiring a police or an especially loud marital spat where intervention would be inappropriate and unwelcome? In such times of uncertainity, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues. We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency. Since it is likely that everybody is watching out for such clues, nobody acts.
Studies conducted in multiple cities have indicated that if a person is all alone they tend to provide aid in case of emergency or report an incident as opposed to when there are multiple bystanders.
In case one is in an emergency situation then to get aid it is better that one picks one of the bystander specifically for help rather than look at the crowd. Looking multiple faces in the crowd reduces chances of help.

Liking – The Friendly Thief

As a rule we prefer to say yes to somebody we know and like. This fact is used by many to make us comply to their requests. A classic case is that of Tupperware. Tupperware parties are organized by Tupperware officials who market the products to the group of social bees who have been invited by the queen bee. At the end of the Tupperware demonstration the queen bee, the hostess, asks the invitees to buy whatever they wish to buy. Since the lady in question gets a share of the sales she has no hesitancy in asking others to buy the goods. Since the request has come from someone whom they know and trust and someone who has invited them for a party and has entertained them most of the ladies find it difficult to say no and end up buying a set or two.
The other means that is employed by salesperson to sell goods is to say, “so-and-so” recommended your name and suggested that you buy our products. This is sufficient to entry into the house of many and who are known to the “so-and-so” and most times it is sufficient enough for the salesperson to sell the product.
Research also has showed that likeable people, people with good appearance, are less likely to be convicted that those who do not have a pleasant appearance. They are also likely to get a lighter sentence in case they are found guilty.
Being addressed by similar people also tends to bias people for or against something. If the salesperson figures out what is liked by the person whom he is selling the product to, e.g. if the car salesperson finds out that the customer likes to go fishing then salesperson may launch into how she finds it very interesting to fish too. Soon the customer and the salesperson are on the same plane and it becomes much easier for the salesperson to sell the car.
Many sales training program urge trainees to “mirror and match” the customer’s body posture, mood, and verbal style, as similarities along each of these dimensions have been shown to lead to results.
The authors highlight how desegregation of schools in the US to improve social interactivity between the children will not yield the desired results. They say that school is an arena where fierce competition is played out. And in this scenario likelihood of liking one another is limited. As an example the author quotes a scenario. If the teacher asks a questions then a few hands go up. These students are looking upto the teacher to give them a chance to prove themselves and win the approval of the teacher. The others are slinking in their seats trying to become invisible. When the teacher calls one child the faces of others invariably fall as they have lost the chance to get the teacher’s approval and there will be relief on the faces of the children who did not know the answer. The competition will ensure that they do not end up liking each other. The children who fail become jealous and resentful of the successes, putting them down as teacher’s pets or resorting to violence. The successful students, for their part, often hold the unsuccessful children in contempt, calling them “dumb” or “stupid”.
Studies show that we are suckers for praise and it is easy for anybody to exploit this gullibility of ours.
At the same time the positive aspect of desegregation is that it is likely to increase the performance of the minority students significantly as they will now be in company of students who are performing better.
An experiment was conducted to see how students could be made to use “cooperative learning”. In one of the camps the students were separated into groups randomly. A series of competitions between the groups, between the tents resulted in each group calling the other groups by names. When they tried to reduce this disharmony by making them interact more often by making them sit and eat together etc, the idea backfired. The flames of competition continued.
The only way they could be made to work together was to create a crisis in which one group by themselves could not solve the problem. E.g. a truck expected to fetch supplies was broken down and they were expected to push start the truck. When it was arranged for the water supply to the camp to be stopped the groups got together to find out a solution to the problem. When it was suggested that a popular movie was available for screening but it was expensive for any one group to contribute and get on hire the groups got together and contributed to get the movie on hire for screening. After a few such scenarios it was found in one of the trips back from a campfire when the bus stopped at a refreshment stand the boys who were bitter against one another earlier were treating each other to milkshakes!
Thus if segregation has to have impact one needs to figure out ways to set up a common goal for all the students which can be achieved only by them working together.
One experiment called the Jigsaw classroom is found to help in this cause. The class is given a common assignment which they have to finish in a given time. Each student is given only a part of the information required to complete the assignment. Unless the students cooperate they will be unable to finish the assignment. This was found to simulate more friendship and less prejudice between the ethnic groups.
One example that the author quotes is of a Mexican American boy named Carlos who was not very articulate in English. Since he had been ridiculed by others in class when he had spoken up earlier he had learned to keep quite. The teacher also let Carlos be silent and did not ask him questions fearing that she would embarrass him further. When Carlos became part of the group where jigsaw learning was being conducted he found it difficult to interact with the others in the group. He was ridiculed when he tried to come up with his section. This happened for a few days. But later when the observer who was assigned to the group told the group that “You can make as much fun as you want of him, but you are not going to learn about Joseph Pulitzer’s middle years and the exam will take place in about an hour”. This had a big impact on the group. The students now learned to draw information out from him and asked questions that made it simple for him to answer. Slowly over a period of time they figured out that he was not as dumb as they thought him to be and slowly but surely they started liking him and increased their interaction with him. And Carlos started enjoying school more than ever before.
This technique is used effectively by the police when they are trying to elicit a confession from the suspect. The police play what they like to call the “good cop” “bad cop” game with the suspect. Even as the suspect is brought one of the cop starts cursing and abusing the suspect. The good cop sits in the background and observes this activities. They then slowly ask the bad cap to slow down. The bad cop shouts back asking the good cop to keep quite and further cursing the suspect. Now when the good cop starts saying a few positive things on behalf of the suspect. Slowly the suspect begins liking the good cop and the good cop now suggests to the suspect he collaborate with the suspect if the suspect agrees to confess to the crime and that he will ensure that the suspect does not get a lengthy sentence. The fear of long sentence combined with the dislike for the bad cop makes many a suspect accept the crime.
One group of people who have been hated for no crime of theirs are the weathermen. Apparently the weathermen get threatening calls for ruining the evening of people and for giving advance notice of the bad weather. They also get badgered for failing to announce bad weather like rain which tends to spoil the the day for many. Weathermen are associated with negatives.
We tend to rate things by association. There is a tendency to rate a car alongside which a beautiful model is standing to be much better than the one alongside which no model is standing. The car companies use this technique to influence buyers into buying their cars.
The rule seems to be that there has to be a positive association, not necessarily a logical one.
Ivan Pavlov proved through research that while the sight of food makes the animals salivate, by associating it with something irrelevant like the ringing of a bell it is possible to make the animal salivate only on the ring of bell. Most appeals for votes in the congress happen over a food. The reason is that people tend to rate things that hear when they are satisfied or are enjoying something much more than they would have rated it if they had heard it under different circumstances. Thus if a certain topic is discussed over food the people tend to have a better opinion of the same when it comes up for vote and the chances are better that they will vote for the same.
The authors quote Isaac Asimov who stated “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own gender, your own locality … and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win.”
People tend to related to the winning sports team for the same reason. They feel they have won the match themselves. When a team wins the statement of the fans is “We won”. Their team loses the statement is “They lost”.
The way to be wary of such tactics is to keep a watch for “Am I impressed with this person in such a short while?”. If the answer is yes and the person is trying to sell you something or is soliciting something from you then you can be almost sure that you are being taken for a ride.

Authority – Directed Deference

This chapter covers details of how one gets influenced due the deference one has for people in authority. In an experiment conducted, a group of people were asked to participate in a psychology study. There were two sets of people, the Learners and the and the Teachers. The Teachers were told that this was a study to see the impact of punishment on memory. The Learners were not participants they were actually part of the study team. The Learners were asked to learn the spellings of a set of words and the Teachers were asked to ask them to spell the words. A researcher (authority), in a lab coat and air of a professor, tells the Teacher to give an electric shock to the learner each time they made a mistake. The intensity of the electric shock was progressively increased. The Learners pretended to get hurt each time the shock was administered. Common sense tells us that one will stop when the Learner screams. But what was found that encouraged by the researcher asking them to administer the shock the Teachers actually went ahead and kept on administering the shocks.
Even when the Learners indicated that they had a heart problem before the start of the test most Teachers continued to give shocks to the maximum level despite the pleas of the Learner stating that his heart is giving away.
Although many of the Teachers protested and pleaded they continued to follow the instructions of the authority.
The test was altered and this time instead of the researcher asking the Teacher to continue the Learner said that he would be able to tolerate the shock and ask the Teacher to continue, but most Teachers refused to continue beyond a point.
Another variation of the test was that instead of two researchers there were two of them and each one gave contradicting instructions. When this happened most teachers stopped.
Author observes that another extreme example of blindly following the authority is the army. The author gives the example of how in September of 1987 a few people protesting the shipments of military equipment to Nicaragua stretched their bodies across the tracks in Concord, California. The drivers following the instructions of authority refused to stop despite spotting the men on the tracks. The men scrambled at the last minute, but one, Mr. Wilson, of them lost both his legs. To add to the agony the Navy medical corps at the place refused to treat him and did not give them the ambulance so that he could be transported to a private hospital. He and his family were left to stanch the blood for 45 minutes before a private ambulance came to pick him up and take him to a private hospital. Surprisingly Mr. Wilson a veteran of Vietnam does not blame the men responsible. He says they did what I did in Vietnam. Mr. Wilson blames the system which has trained men to follow authority without a second thought. The train crew agreed with Mr. Wilson’s assessment. They went ahead and filed a case against him, saying that that his trying to stop them from carrying out orders had caused them humiliation, mental anguish and physical stress.
The author quotes how Adam and Eve suffered because of their disobedience to authority. The author also quotes case of extreme obedience of Abraham who plunged his knife through this son’s heart at the command of God without hesitation.
The author opines that initially following the command of parents and teachers helps us as they know more than the child as to what is right and what is not and this practical. But carrying the same attitude into adulthood may not be a good idea always.
The author quotes that one of the findings indicates that 10% of the cardiac arrest cases are due to wrong medication. It further shows that patients, nurses and pharmacists blindly follow the instruction of the doctor resulting in cardiac arrest. As an extreme example the author quotes a doctor who prescribed ear drops to be administered in the right ear of a patient suffering from pain and infection. Instead of writing it out fully the doctor abbreviated it so that the instruction read “place in R ear”. Dutifully the nurse put the required number of drops in the anus of the patient. Although it did not make any sense, neither the patient nor the nurse gave it a second thought.
When Sanka Brand advertised their caffeine free coffee they engaged the services of an actor who had played the role of an doctor in one of the famous serials. The actor speaks about the ill-effects of caffeine and then asks the viewers to buy the caffeine free version of the Sanka brand. The commercial was a huge success. What this shows is that even though the actor was pretending to be an authority people believed him.
The author goes on to say that even the usage of a grand title helps influence people to comply to requests.  In an experiment the researcher posing to be a doctor called up different nurses and asked them to administer a dose of 20 mg of a drug that had not yet been certified for usage in the wards and the maximum suggested dosage for the drug was 10 mg. In most cases the nurses were ready to comply and prepared to administer the medicine when they were intercepted and told about the experiment. This showed how much even the usage of a title could force people into complying to the requests of the person claiming the title.
Clothes of a person also can influence people into complying with the requests. In an experiment when a man dressed himself well with a suit and a boot and a tie and crossed the road in violation of the signal, many others followed him. When the same man dressed informally did the same, the number of pedestrians who violated the rule along with him were drastically lower. Similarly experiments have shown that people comply with instructions from men in uniform than from one who is not in uniform.
Trappings of a person like the jewellery, or the car in which the person is travelling can also influence others into compliance.
One way that could be used to avoid getting into this trap is to be on a constant alert for authority. We can ask ourselves “Is this authority truly and expert?”. Asking ourselves this question could save us from blindly following “authority” and falling prey to their designs or mistakes.
The author further strengthens his argument by giving example of a waiter who used to change his interactions with the guests who come to dine based on their background. With a family he would be clownish paying attention to the young ones, with a single he would be friendly and cordial, with a young couple he would act authoritarian, with old couple he would be deferential. The best act he saved for the ones who came in the group. When the first person in the group would select an item he would furrow his forehead and suggest that, that may not be the best selection for the day. He would then suggest an item which would be slightly cheaper and rave about it. This would mostly sufficient for the guests to assume that he was an authority in selection and that he would not make them select something very expensive. After they had made their initial selections he would offer them a selection of wine by asking, “If I may, can I suggest a very good wine to go with the dinner?”. By now most guests would be eating out of his hands and would let him select the wine for them and later he also would find it easy to persuade them to have a dessert. Using this tactics he would succeed in increasing the base charge and the tips that would be given to him.

Scarcity – The Rule of the Few

Creating a situation of scarcity, says the author, pushes people into hurrying their decision to buy. The author quotes the example of how clever salesperson in the stores will watch people browsing through the list of options and try and identify the one that interests them the most. Then the salesperson will gently ask them if that was the model they were looking for and then inform them that the last piece was sold just sometime ago. Then pretending to understand their disappointment they will tell the buyers that they will see if they can find one in the warehouse or in some such place. They will then comeback with the happy news that one more piece has been found. By this time most buyers will be ready to grab the opportunity and go ahead with the buy without any further ado.
A set of people were tricked to transferring their life savings to a scamster’s account. This was done by first calling the victim and giving them false, but impressive credentials of Wall Street. They were then sent a pamphlet which described how then could get high returns on their investment. This followed by a call to them asking them to transfer a nominal sum for investment in some scheme. This call is soon followed by multiple other calls, each stating that the schemes are ending and the investment needs to be made as soon as possible. In most cases the victims are fooled by the scarcity and give in to the request of transfer of funds for the investment. The key was to trick the victim to quickly buy without thinking too much about it.
Door to door salesperson use this trick by stating that the offer that they are extended is for a limited period and that they cannot come by the buyer’s house another time as they have a lot of other places to cover. They are given an option of buying the item with the offer at their doorstep or they could go a long way off to buy it and that without the offer. This makes many of the buyers to go ahead with the purchase on the spot.
In an experiment the researchers let two set of two year old children into different rooms. In each room they had a transparent barrier. Some of the toys were easily accessible and the other set of toys were behind the barrier. In one room the barrier was small enough for the children to lean over and pick up a toy from the other side. In the second room the barrier was tall enough to be really a barrier. It was observed that the children expressed more interest in toys on the other side of the barrier when the barrier was truly a barrier and when it was not truly a barrier they did expressed equal interest in toys on either side.
Psychologists studying Romeo and Juliet opine that the two teenagers fell in love as they lived nearby. But their resolve to remain in love was driven by the parent’s insistence on them separating.
A book was advertised to two sets of students. One set of students were told that the book is meant only for adults and the other set of students were told of no such restriction. It was observed that the set of students to whom it was projected as “adults only” showed more interest in the book than the other set of students.
One place where this can have a very adverse effect is the presentation of evidence material in a judicial case. These need to be approved by the judge before it can be accepted as an evidence. But just the fact that a material is inadmissable can play on the minds of the jury and can influence them into thinking that the evidence is something more important than it actually is. Studies have shown that jurors have awarded more damage when it is known that the accused is insured as opposed to when they are not for similar offence.
In an experiment people were asked to taste cookies and give their ratings. One set of people were asked to pick the cookies contain 10 or more cookies, while the other set of people were asked to pick cookies from a jar containing only two cookies. It was found that the people who picked the sample cookie from the jar containing only two cookies rated the cookies better than the ones who picked it up from jar where there was plenty more. In another variation of the experiment one set of people were asked to pick from a jar containing two cookies. Another set of people were first shown a jar with 10 cookies and then before they could taste it was replaced with a jar containing only two cookies. The later set of people rated the cookies better as they moved from abundance to scarcity prompting them to assume that what becomes scarce is better. Even amongst the people who were first show 10 and then given 2 cookies to pick up from there was a variation. One set of people were told that there was another group that needed the cookies and so the cookies were being reduced, while the other group was told that the researcher had made a mistake. The people who were told that another group needed the cookie rated the cookie better than the other group.
The author compares the bargain shoppers to a school of tuna. When a school of tuna are thrown some bait there is a frenzy to catch the bait. In this frenzy they snap at anything and so they tend to snap at the metal hooks in their midst making it easy for the fishermen to catch them. Similarly the shops throw a bargain sale and listing a few items at real bargain prices and possibly even being sold for a loss. But when the bargain shoppers drop in they not only the goods that are in real bargain sale, but anything else that they see in sale without bothering to find out the actual prices.
To protect against such a tactic the author suggests that if feel a sudden surge to buy something one needs to ask oneself if one really needs it or has this urge come due to the fact that the item is becoming scarce. This questioning will stop us from running heads down at anything that is thrown at us.
The author illustrates how an old car salesperson used to schedule two people to come almost one after the other. Now when the first one is examining the car, the second prospect turns up. Now the first one needs to step aside to let the second one inspect the car and this puts pressure on the first prospect to make up his mind quickly. This also pressurizers the second buyer to make up his mind as he knows there is somebody else looking over his shoulder.

The book is a wonderful book for people looking to exploit the blind spots of others to market them something or to make some money out of others. It is also a wonderful book for the gullible people on the other side to try and safeguard themselves against these snake oil salesperson and others trying to exploit their spontaneous response to the given situation.

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