by Greg Eriksen
The ability to influence others, whether they are aware of it or not, is an often unnoticed yet very prevalent practice within our society. Whether it is a marketing campaign or a friend proposing an idea, we are frequently convinced to agree with others while believing we are making an autonomous decision. Some of the common techniques to persuade others stem from six principles: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus.
Reciprocity involves targeting people’s tendency to feel obliged to treat others similarly to how they are treated. For example, if someone invites you to their birthday party, you may be more likely to invite them to yours. While this phenomenon may seem to boil down to being friendly, it could be used as a way to persuade others. In fact, people’s natural response to reciprocate others’ actions can be used to increase their generosity when tipping restaurant employees. In a previous study, researchers found that servers who leaving candy for their guests alongside the bill received a tip percentage that was 2.7% higher than servers who left no treat .
The second principle, scarcity, is the idea that rarer things hold more value. For example, you’re more likely to decline an invitation to go to the beach in the middle of the summer than on an unusually warm day in spring since the opportunity to go to the beach seems rarer in the second situation. In marketing, scarcity statements like “limited quantity” have been found to be effective in influencing consumers when deciding whether they will purchase a product. Interestingly, in recent years as the term “FOMO” (which stands for “fear of missing out,” specifically defined as individuals’ worry that they are not involved in something that is better or more exciting than what they are currently doing) has been popularized, advertisers have been FOMO-based appeals to consumers.
Authority and consistency are the third and fourth principles of persuasion. Authority is described by the tendency for people tend to listen to others who are deemed credible or knowledgeable. For example, broadcasting experts’ opinions seemed to shift public opinion by as much at 4%. On the other hand, the principle of consistency targets people’s tendency to remain consistent with what they have said or done in the past. In 1998, Gordon Sinclair used this idea of consistency to reduce the number of customers who did not go to their reservations without alerting the restaurant. He instructed receptionist to ask customers “Will you please call if you have a change to your plans?” and wait for an answer rather than simply ending calls with “Please call if you change your plans.”By having customers establish that they will call if they want to cancel their reservation, this change in protocol dropped the number of customers who did not call the restaurant to cancel their reservations from 30% to 10%!
Liking is the fifth principle of persuasion, and perhaps the most common. When another person displays positive traits such as physical attraction and cooperativity, others are influenced to believe what they say. The Liking principle seems to link with the Halo effect; the cognitive bias in which we attribute a person’s entire character on a small amount of perceivable information. Hence, different studies have shown that physically attractive people are also perceived to be intelligent, competent, and likeable. Therefore, if someone tries to persuade you to buy them a drink at a bar, consider the Halo effect and how they may be influencing you!
The last principle of persuasion is consensus. This refers to social validation in which people tend to do what others do. How does this tie into persuasion? Employing the principle of consensus can convince people that the decision they are making is normal and common. For example, certain hotels may leave a note in the restroom that indicate that it would be appreciated if the guests reuse their towels. To increase the effectiveness of this note, researchers added information indicating that 75% of other guest’s reuse towels. By doing so, there was a 26% increase in towel re-usage.
After evaluating all of these principles, it is clear that the power of persuasion is persistently and subconsciously influencing our everyday decisions. From restaurants to retail stores to hotels, persuasive tactics will always attempt to be at the heart of your final decision!