La Generalista Review

For anyone interested in how our minds can be persuaded – even when we don’t want them to be – this is a must read book. Dr. Robert Cialdini reviews six ways in which our thinking can be influenced, drawing from scientific research, colourful anecdotes and reader submissions. Specifically, Cialdini looks at the following susceptibilities:

  • Reciprocity – and our sense of obligation to return favours granted us;
  • Commitment – or how our desire to appear consistent locks us into things;
  • Social Proof – the draw to follow others likes us;
  • Likability – those who we find amiable hold special sway over us;
  • Authority – professions, uniforms, and perceived stature persuade us; and
  • Scarcity – we simply want what we cannot have.

Cialdini ties each susceptibility back to real-world examples, framing how these techniques are used against us – particularly in sales tactics.

While this book was intended to help people cope with and avoid undue persuasion, in reading this book, however, the applicability in countering propaganda was striking, namely:

  1. Banning information will only make people want to access it, and be more inclined to believe its message;
  2. If the target audience doesn’t like the messenger, they won’t believe the message (which we posited in this post regarding swaying Russian audiences);

Surely there are a great many other takeaways from the book – but at the risk of giving everything away in one review, let’s stop there.

If you enjoy being read to, the audio version of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion narrate by Lloyd James is a rare delight!

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is available for purchase at Amazon.

About Author

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia is the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With a growing international multi-stakeholder community, the Partnership aims to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats within the information environment. Wanless is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College London exploring how the information environment can be studied in similar ways to the physical environment. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and was a tech advisor to Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Her work has been featured in Lawfare, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, and CBC.