Home » psychology » The art of changing a mind – influence (part 2!)

The art of changing a mind – influence (part 2!)

This post is a continuation on influence: the art of changing a mind. In this post I am continuing to review the book “Influence” by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Today we are going to talk about the next major factors of influence- social proofing and liking.

Social proofing – Cialdini states that, “we view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it,” (that’s such a good definition!!!). As with the other factors of influence, this is quite simple. When we are struck with an unfamiliar stimulus (be it a new location, new type of food, or new type of music) we look to those with more experience than ourselves to guide our behavior. If you are at a restaurant that serves sushi you may be confused how to correctly eat a given entree. Do I use my hands for the appetizer, am I relegated to attempting to poke at it with my chop sticks, or would it be in poor taste to use my hands!? Since you are unsure, you look around at the other tables, and as luck would have it, you see another group next to your table. They appear to be confidently eating tempura shrimp with their hand. Whether it is right or not, it eases your worry, as you begin to do the same.

I know this may sound repetitive, but we are talking about dissonance reduction (surprise!!!!). We are exposed to a new stimulus and we are unsure how to interact with it. Do I use a fork, do I use chop sticks, do I use my hands, what do I do?! When you find someone else who is confidently engaging, it allows you follow their lead and blame any sort of embarrassment on someone else.

Further, when struck with choices between things that are highly similar (vehicles and even toothpaste) we may tend to choose one that is more widely use. “Clearly,” I would think to myself, “if this vehicle was bad, it would not be the highest selling vehicle there is!” That’s a bit foolish, of course! I might be confusing advertising budgets with actual quality. Regardless, social proofing serves to help us have less dissonance when trying to figure out how to behave and what to buy. This effect is most prevalent when we are not thinking critically about important decisions, or when we are highly distracted. For example, imagine a person who has never tried an energy drink before is going to the store. The person sees Mega Juice, Monster Drink, Double Deluxe Brawndo, and Ultra Slurp. The person is unsure about what to do, but they recognize Brawndo because they saw their friend drink it. Clearly this would influence them to try this product out, unless they did not trust that friend.

Liking – Liking actually appears to be the most simplistic thing out of all of the factors, but a lot goes into it. It comes as no surprise that when you like someone you are more willing to listen to what they have to say. Further, given the choice between a someone you are neutral towards, and someone you like, you would prefer to purchase something from a person you like (obviously!). One of my earliest posts discusses the five components of liking, but we will talk about it once more. (Feel free to see the original post here)

1. Proximity – Do you live in the same community? People who share my environment share my concerns!

2. Propinquity – Do we see each other on a regular basis? I’m more likely to be friends with people I see frequently.

3. Similarity –  Are we around the same age, do we see the world in a similar way, and do we have the same hobbies? If so, we’d probably be friends.

4. Mutual liking – If you like me, it makes it easier for me to like you back. It’s quite simple!

5. Attractiveness – Perhaps it is superficial, but our species will have an easier time opening up with others whom they find attractive.

What does this mean for trying to influence others? If possible, live in the same community as the clients you serve, and interact with the same clients on a regular basis. If you know your clients well, ensure they are matched with people who have similar ideologies and lifestyles. Further, ensure the person is warm and friendly, and has an easy time getting along with others. Finally, ensure that they present themselves in a way that is similar to the client. That is, if you are hoping to influence an executive, dress as professional as possible. If you are trying to influence me, on the other hand, perhaps just jeans and a collared shirt would be fine. You want to match the person you wish to influence, not intimidate them or appear inferior! These factors apply to both sales and persuasion. However, the person you are trying to influence may actually have a different ideology than yourself. Try to have as many of the five factors as possible!

As for having this method used against you, you should not feel too upset. If we are talking about a car salesman, I’d rather be matched with a salesman I can get along with easily. You still have to keep in mind that you are shopping for yourself, and not for the sake of pleasing this new “friend” of yours.

We can step back for a moment and think about what we have discussed so far.

What will a salesman try to do to get you to purchase their product, or what would a politician do to get your vote?

1. With contrast they will make themselves (or their products) appear like the easiest choice to make.

2. With reciprocity they will give you something and make you feel as if you owe them back. This gift is normally quite minor, but that’s all it takes.

3. With their foot in the door, they will use commitment/consistency to turn a minor commitment into a large one. It’s hard for us to break off from things once we’ve committed to them.

4. People will use social proofing to make their idea (or product) seem like the one everyone else would pick. Thus for me to go against their idea (or product) would make me an outcast. To go along with their idea would cause me much less dissonance.

5. People will try to gain my trust for their own benefit. Even if these people are truly warm individuals, they are trying to get something from me (votes/money). The people who are my actual friends are people I make time for, and who I see outside of a single context. An acquaintance is someone I see at a single place (work, office, salesroom, etc), a friend is someone I see anywhere.

In my next post we will move on to Authority and Scarcity. Remember, don’t let dissonance reduction rule your critical choices!


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