Influence the Weapons of Persuasion

The thesis of Robert Cialdini’s Influence the Psychology of Persuasion is that all animals (including humans) use mental short cuts to make decisions.  The short cuts work very well 90% of the time.  They are exist to encourage action while it can still be taken. They can be used ethically to help people make a decision and they can be abused to gain compliance. Fortunately Cialdini ends each section with defense mechanisms for when people try to take advantage of you.  Here we give a short overview of the principles of persuasion.  For more details and better explanations, I recommend purchasing Cialdini’s book.

Chapter 1:  Associations: People routinely form associations and short cuts in their minds.  A common example is expensive = quality.

Contrast.  When you perceive two things, the differences of the second compared to the first are magnified. For instance if you see something inexpensive (say a slice of pizza) and then something expensive (say a suit). The suit will seem very expensive because you naturally compare it to the price of the pizza even though suits and pizza are very unrelated.  Another example can be if you put your hand in cold water then stick it in room temperature water, the water will feel hot.  Try it at home by sticking one hand in cold water and the other and hot water then sticking both of them in room-temperature water.

Chapter 2: Reciprocity

One of the things which separates humans from other animals is that human society has been built up around reciprocity. Reciprocity is the idea that we should pay, in kind, what another person has given us. Reciprocity is perhaps the most powerful method in gaining compliance from others.  A powerful example of people using this to their advantage is Nielsen surveys.  Nielsen sends cash with their surveys (2 dollars with the first one) in order elicit a greater response from the participants.  As the recipient of the survey, you cannot refuse or return the two dollars and therefore feel obligated (even though they phrase as not pay) to give Nielsen reciprocate.

This tactic is also used in negotiating, when a concession is made by one party, the other party feels the need to meet the concession with one of their own.  This can similarly be used in sales. By asking for something more than what you originally wanted to sell, the buyer will likely refuse, but because they refused the initial offer the are more likely to buy something smaller because they rejected you initially and want to make a concession of their own.

Chapter 3: Commitment and Consistency

Dealing with people who neg on promises and are completely inconsistent is seldom worth the time and effort.  Therefore, normal sociable people have an psychological desire to be consistent and to keep their commitments. The tactic of internal consistency is so powerful that you can persuade someone to change their opinion on something simply by having them write it.  This was a tactic the Chinese used to convince American POWs during the Korean war to become more pro China.

Commitment works similarly.  If someone commits to doing they are very likely to follow through.  The example given by Cialdini involves someone stealing someone else’s things at the beach. In the experiment they had someone either ask their neighbor to keep an eye on their things or not and had someone else come by to “steal them”.  In the cases where the strangers was asked to keep an eye out, they intervened 75% of the time where as when they didn’t they in only intervened 25% of the time.

Chapter 4: Social Proof

In situations where we are uncertain we frequently look to others to guide our actions.  This works very well much of the time.  Or rather it works very well in terms of informing us what is polite, acceptable behaviour.  It also works well in times of trouble for instance if you don’t realize their is an unknown gunman on your college campus but you see a lot of your peers running in the same direction you might escape from the gunman simply by running in the same direction.  However this psychology (in my opinion more than any of the others)  can lead you astray.  The Nazi’s used this concept to help walk Jews into their mass graves without force.  Additionally many successful people advise the following: to be exceptional, do the opposite of what the masses are doing.  This psychology, however, is ingrained in all of us.

Chapter 5: Liking

People are more likely to say yes to people they like.  Therefore being likeable is very powerful.  Cialdini goes over numerous ways to be likeable: be attractive, compliment others, similarity, cooperation, and association.  People are more likely to like attractive people (male or female).  People like people who are similar to themselves.  People like those who compliment them.  People like people who are working together for a common goal.  Finally people like things that they associate with good.

Association is the only one which requires further explanation.  We are not too different from Pavlov’s dog.  We naturally make associations in order to better predict the future (it is how our mind creates models of the world). Therefore if we juxtapose anything with something we consider good or we like, that two objects without logic will take on the properties of each other in the mind.  For instance people always tend to think of pastors as being more righteous because they are associated with church and with the bible, things which are frequently considered righteous.  However I suspect pastors in general aren’t any more righteous than their congregation on average even though they will be perceived as such by association.

Chapter 6: Authority

People have a tendency to submit to authority.  We are ingrained at a young age to listen to our parents, listen to our teachers.  Therefore when someone who seems to have authority to us tells us to do something, we tend to listen.  Additionally the world is very complicated as such we tend to differ to people on areas where they have a position of authority due to expertise. Very few people will argue against doctors on what is best for the body.  In truth you will infrequently go wrong when listening to a personal trainer on exercise, a nutritionist on diet or a physicist on matters of science.  Listening to experts is frequently good, but it is important to remember that they are still human.

Chapter 7: Scarcity

Things which are rare are typically more valuable than things which are common.  While this isn’t always the case it tends to work very well.  When you see advertisers using the phrases such as “limited time only” or “only X spaces left” they are playing with this psychological short cut.  Artificially creating scarcity can help sales and drive up the selling price.

I believe Cialdini’s influence, The Psychology of Persuasion is a very interesting read and I highly recommend it.  Additionally it is very well written which makes it very easy to read.

Influence the Weapons of Persuasion

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

I learned about Scott Adams from his writings on Trump and became interested in buying his book.  His posts on Trump have been the most fascinating real time look into political/persuasive strategy I have seen.  As such I wanted to learn more about what Scott had to say in general.  This is my overview of his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

Systems vs. Goals

The the difference between a system and a goal is that a goal is an object to be obtained and a system is the means by which you will achieve that goal.  For instance if my goal is to write a thesis or dissertation the systems approach would be to make sure to write everyday and make sure I am doing research everyday.  The intertwining of the book is focusing on systems is superior to goals

1.) Systems are psychologically easier on the body than goals.

Be definition goals are never complete.  And when they are completed they leave a what’s next feeling.  So, goals are inherently negative.  Systems on the other hand are inherently optimistic. As long as you are following the system, you have achieved.  That is, systems allow you to build positive feedback loops while goals make that difficult.

2.) Systems are more likely to succeed than goals

Because systems are inherently optimistic they give you psychological boost.  Secondly they allow you to consider failure (something that is bound to happen) a step in the right direction

3.) Systems allow you to play the odds.

Systems allow you to change what you are working on based on what you believe will be most successful without giving up.

4.) Systems are conducive towards long term thinking

With goals, you have to break them into piecewise parts (so you can be accomplishing something).  However with a systems approach allows you to pursue things not directly related to your goal that are likely to become useful later.  For instance I am starting a company in a very small marketplace.  I suspect the monetary return will not be worth my time. But I am learning a ton of useful skills: CAD, sales, manufacturing, design that I wouldn’t have learned in the normal course of my PhD program.  Likewise, this blog is unlikely to have a financial return

Some examples of systems

Below are some examples of successful people using a systems approach

Jerry Seinfeld wrote one joke everyday.

Another example of a is good looking loser’s golden rule: Do The Most Productive Thing At Every Given Moment

Scott Adams used the system approach (every new skill you learn doubles your chances at success) to start his own business.

Mike Cernovich from Danger and Play advocates using a system approach of developing multiple streams of income even if they are tiny in order to achieve financial freedom.

Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words a day.

Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown, recommends deliberate practice everyday.

Adams also suggests exercising everyday as a system for getting into shape and losing weight.  Focusing on exercising gives a positive feedback, but stepping on the scale gives negative feedback.

Energy Management

There are many ways a string can be loose, but only one which it can be taut. Naturally, not all systems are equivalent. So how do you pick a system which gets the best results in all of your desires.

The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy.  I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.

Without a metric, it is impossible to optimize a problem, especially a problem with multiple outputs.  While it would certainly be possible to devise a cost function and manage your different wants and priorities with regards to the cost function, the energy measurement provides a simple effective metric which to judge your actions and systems.

Jujitsu You Mind

Scott recommends using psychological jujitsu on your mind.  An example of which is using your laziness as a way to accomplish your goals.  His best example is diet.  Scott always keeps healthy snakes available so that his laziness will cause him to naturally eat the healthy snacks and food.  This is practical application of Scott’s energy method, make everything you want as easy to accomplish as possible and make actions that are undesirable difficult to do.  Scott also applies such tricks to his work and exercise routine he builds habits (which are easy to maintain) through methods that are easy to start at times when his body and life schedule easily allow him to continue.


Scott Adams book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is a good read, which should take less than a day to read.  It will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the word.  It is well worth the time to read.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

Gorilla Mindset

I am a long time reader of Mike’s blog, Danger and Play. And I primarily bought the book as a thank you for all the free information he has published over the years.  Despite reading every single one of his blog post’s I am very thankfully I decided to purchase Gorilla Mindset because Gorilla Mindset is a collection of Mike’s most useful techniques in regards changing how you think in order to live a more fulfilling life, regardless of how you define fulfilling.

Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset deserves to be compared to classics such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale.   His information is golden (if you try it you won’t regret it). For instance I use his tricks on checking into the moment to overcome negative momentum, improve sport performance, get more work done, and generally enjoy life more.  An example last week I was playing sand volleyball.  My team of two was crushed the first set (I believe 5 to 21).  We then fell behind in the second set. This is naturally discouraging, but I started using Mike’s techniques to get into the moment and all of a sudden my digs were solid, my serves were on point and kills were unreturned.  We ended up winning the second set.  A lot of Mike’s techniques sound stupid, but they work.

In my opinion, the content of Mike’s book measures up to the best, classic “self help books”. But in my opinion, he doesn’t do as good of an idea of selling the ideas as they do. That is he doesn’t have a lot of examples of people using them to help convince you to try them.  So the book is full of high quality, first rate information, but unless you are naturally curious or have decided ta priori to try everything, it is unlikely you will try.  When I read chapter 3 on getting in the moment, I literally thought to myself that sounds stupid.  Then I said, Mike is a pretty smart guy he is frequently on point, I will try it.  Then I tried it, and it worked. His techniques didn’t just work, they worked far better than I thought they could.  But I wouldn’t have tried them unless I had known before reading the book that Mike had good information to share.

The second complaint I had is that the chapters on physical fitness and money seemed like they were written with ADD pills. In a sense, both chapters belong in the book because your mind is very connected with you body and it is very connected with your environment (which can be heavily effected by money).  However, because he had so much information to share, it read like he throwing rapid fire advice which almost read more like a lifehacker article.  I almost feel that Gorilla Fitness and Gorilla Money should each be their own book

I want to now talk about some of the good things about the book and why in spite of my complaints the book is a must read.  First the book if full of golden advice which I don’t know where you will find compiled elsewhere.  The first five chapters, in my opinion are each individually worth the price of the book.  The chapter on posture is a must and deserves to be expanded.  Likewise the chapters on vision could be expanded with more selling.

Mike, if you ever read this, I hope you consider making a second edition with tons of stories selling the techniques so that this book can take it’s rightful place next to other “self help” classics.

Gorilla Mindset