Book Review: Influence by Robert Cialdini

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Book Review

Marketing Book Reviews

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Our final book from our very first Book Club meeting was written by Christine Cairns as she reviews the writing from Robert Cialdini in his book Influence.

Our Rating

"A Good Read"

3 Star Book Review

The core target reader for this book is likely to be a budding marketer or someone aspiring to develop their career in Sales looking to unleash their powers of persuasion, but it is likely to appeal to the broader public who wish to defend themselves against such techniques, or at least be aware when they are being used against us. Experienced marketing and sales professionals will probably be aware of many of these principles already, so this may not be the best book for you if you're already in this camp.

About Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini is the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is his best-known work and has sold over three million copies and been translated into thirty languages. It has been listed on the New York Times Best Seller list and Fortune lists it in their “75 Smartest Business Books”

Cialdini was hired to work on the 2012 Barack Obama presidential campaign as well as the 2016 presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton.

Outline of the book

Influence by Robert Cialdini explores the psychology of persuasion, compliance and the various weapons “Influencers” have at their disposal to induce the public into buying their products or services. Cialdini spent 3 years ‘undercover’ in various organisations observing real-life situations of persuasion.

The book outlines 6 key principles that influence is based on: Reciprocation, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. Cialdini later added a seventh: Unity.

Key points

Advancements in research
Firstly the book is essentially very old. It was written in 1984 and revised in 1993 but its age really shows in some of the attitudes expressed and no doubt some of the psychological literature it uses will have been superseded as the subject has advanced. For example, in the chapter on Authority there is a heavy reliance on the famous experiments of Stanley Milgram. This study has since been found to be somewhat unreliable both in terms of how it was reported and in terms of the results of subsequent replications, to the extent that its findings are probably somewhat less dramatic than originally thought. Further, Western societies have experienced such an extent of change as to diminish the amount of mindless deference to authority that existed when the book was written, especially in the medical field. We live in a markedly different era when people are less susceptible.

It would be interesting to explore how these 6 principles fit into Daniel Kahneman’s System I and System II thinking dichotomy, which is currently the more fashionable thinking on this subject.

Feelings and Motivations
Some of the principles described in this book have an unusual power to usurp other feelings and motivations we may experience in ordinary life. For instance, the principle of reciprocation (the feeling we have that we must reciprocate a seller’s initial free offering with a purchase) is strong enough to overcome any feelings we may have of dislike for the person for whom we are in a punitively reciprocal relationship.

What's your conclusion?

I feel like the book is extremely helpful for anyone who is looking to understand how compliance professionals successfully portray their ideas correctly whilst selling the premises. The book helps navigate the complex cloud of Human Psychology, showing well known research and experiments that have been tested over the years. The book can also support people beginning their careers with User Experience or Design as the book can provide insight into reaching out towards those all important users through the design and products you provide. The ability to understand how your users think and perceive this is the key.


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