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Summary by Mary Ann Farmer, July 16, 2009 The entire reason this book was written was to answer the question, “I wondered why it is that a request stated in a certain way will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly different fashion will be successful?” The book outlines the principles of consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity and their function in the society and in terms of how their enormous force can be commissioned by a compliance professional that deftly incorporates them into requests for purchases, donations, concessions, votes, etc. Story outlining how in nature and in people we all have fixed-action patterns that cause us to go on automatic pilot or click whir as the author tells. The story goes that a mother turkey hears her baby go cheep cheep and she will take care of it. If she hears a polecat go cheep cheep she will take care of it even though it is her natural enemy. Besides the fixed action pattern there is usually a trigger. And in this case it is the sound of the baby – in the case of people it can be that they have an innate desire to be seen as consistent or that the feel they must do something for you since you did something for them or perhaps someone in authority is telling them to do something. We all have our triggers that put the principles of consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity into play without us even realizing it. A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. Always use the word, because. Some people have wrongly concluded that because you get what you pay for that just because it is expensive it equals quality. Sellers know that some people automatically think price equals quality and exploit that fact. Mailed-out coupons that because of a printing error offered no savings to recipients produced just as much customer response as did error-free coupons that offered substantial savings. The obvious but instructive point here is that we expect discount coupons to do double duty. Not only do we expect them to save us money, we also expect them to save us the time and mental energy required to think about how to do it. We all have automatic behavior patterns that serve us well so that we don’t have to think about every little thing we do but at the same time they can make us vulnerable to anyone who knows how to use them against us. Great story about suit salesmen in the 30’s: Sid the salesman would tell the customer who was trying on a suit in front of a three way mirror that he had a hearing problem and as they talked he would constantly ask him to speak louder. If they customer wanted the price of the suit Sid would yell to his brother at the back of the store…Hey Harry how much for this suit. Then Harry would say for that
beautiful all-wool suit $42 dollars and at that point Sid would look at the customer and say $22 dollars and many customers would buy the suit for $22 ecstatic when in fact it was a ploy used by Sid and Harry in that expensive equaled quality and that the customer was getting a bargain. There is a principle in human perception, The CONTRAST PRINCIPLE that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is. Examples of this….If we are talking to a handsome man at a party and are then joined by an unattractive one, the second man will strike us as less attractive than he actually is. Because media bombards us with images of extremely attractive people we are less satisfied with our lovers. Demonstration to try….get a bucket of hot water, bucket of cold water and a bucket of room temp water. Put one hand in hot water and one hand in cold water and then place both hands in the room temp water bucket and even though both hands are in the same room temp bucket water they will not feel the same. The point is that the same thing – in this instance, room temp water can be made to seem very different, depending on the nature of the event that precedes it. And now you have the CONTRAST PRINCIPLE. In fact, clothing stores instruct their sales personnel to sell the costly item first. The interesting thing is that even when a man enters a clothing store with the express purpose of purchasing a suit, he will almost always pay more for whatever accessories he buys if he buys them after the suit purchase than before. And in real-estate they show you a couple crappy houses to start with then when they show you the third house which is closer to what you want you will think it is fabulous in contrast. The RECIPROCATION PRINCIPLE – is the rule on which the entire promotional products industry was written. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. And in fact when someone gives us something whether it is an offer of a drink when they enter your house or please come to my Tupperware party since I bought fund raising candy from your kid we feel obligated to reciprocate. The rule is so strong that you will even feel an obligation to repay even if you don’t like the person. According to Marcel Mauss a French anthropologist, “There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay.” The other insidious thing is that people can do things for us that we don’t even want and illicit an obligation from us. That’s why the Krishna’s give you a flower. We have all been conditioned to be uncomfortable to be beholden – we need to pay it back or it bugs us. And there is another rule that a person who violates the reciprocity rule by accepting without attempting to return the good acts of others is actively disliked by the social group. And sometimes reciprocity isn’t about a thing it could be that he made a concession so I need to make a concession.
The Rule of Commitment and Consistency – Leonardo Da Vinci said that it is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end. Our kids know this and that is why they don’t give up after they make a request. We have a nearly obsessive desire to be and to appear consistent with what we have already done. We will respond in ways that justify our earlier decisions. We have a way of convincing ourselves that we made the right choices. A good example was that when they left stuff lying on the beach and
didn’t ask anyone to watch it the people watched it being stolen, but if they simply asked someone to watch their stuff it was never stolen. Sir Joshua Reynolds stated, “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” Consistency makes it easy for us not to have to rethink through things – but it can hurt us. A great example was how the toy companies run ads for a toy and creates a huge desire for it with the kids and then the kids get their parents to promise to buy them one for Christmas and then the toy companies make sure the toy is in shortage at Christmas. So the parents buy another toy and to be consistent and to follow through on their commitment to their children they go back after Christmas and buy the other toy when it miraculously becomes available. This is no accident. It is a retail strategy of the toy companies. Commitment is the key…..If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand. So now I understand why we marry publicly – it is that public commitment til death do you part. A really great example of commitment was done by the Cancer Society – they simply called people and said if someone came and asked you to spend three hours collecting money for us what would you do. The people didn’t want to seem uncharitable so many said they would volunteer. Then a few days later someone called and asked them to canvas – they had a 700% increase in volunteers. Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds. An interesting example came out of New Haven CT – these people were told that they were more charitable and thus gave more. What those around us think is true of us is ENORMOUSLY important in determining what we ourselves think is true. Amway is successful in getting commitments from their sales people because they tell them….one final tip before you get started is to set a goal and WRITE IT DOWN. Another trick is to have the customer fill out the sales agreement rather than the salesperson. Another common way to get commitment is through innocent looking promotions like asking customers to submit 25 – 100 word essays on why they like your product/company in order to win something. This does two things it makes it so that the customer is writing it down so they have a commitment to continue liking you and you have a written testimonial you can use in promoting. And whenever they take a stand that is visible to others then they have a huge incentive to maintain their position and be consistent. As a side note if you are on a jury or on a board it is better to have people do secret balloting rather than public. Public ballots cause people not to change their minds. Written commitments are more effective than verbal ones simply because they require more of an effort. Additionally, people who go through a great deal of pain in order to attain something tend to value it more highly. Initiation rituals, boot camps and hazing are effective at creating some intense loyalty. Evidence shows that the tougher the initiation the more valued and the more cohesive the
group. Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of any strong outside pressure. Commitment is so great in that if it is done correctly it can grow its own legs. For instance, kids who were told not to play with a robot or else they would be punished mostly went ahead and played with it whereas the kids who were told not to play with the robot and in fact had no barriers put around the robot not only didn’t play with the robot but also avoided the robot months later. The reason was that they had been changed inside to believe that even though they were told that playing with the robot was wrong when they were given the opportunity they themselves made the decision not to play with it thus it was their decision based on them just not wanting to play with it. Entirely different than not playing with it because someone said it was wrong and if they got caught they would be punished. A really cool example of commitment was done in Iowa to natural gas users. A researcher called families and told them of the importance to save energy and gave them some tips and asked them to try and save. They all agreed but no real savings occurred. So good intentions coupled with good information doesn’t work. The second set of users were contacted and asked the same thing but additionally they were told that their names would be publicized in the local newspaper noting that they were public-spirited, fuel-conserving citizens. Within a month the gas savings was very significant with this group. Then the researchers pulled the rug out – they sent these families a letter saying it would not be possible to publicize their names after all. The interesting thing is that the next month those same families saved even more fuel. 12.2% savings the first month followed by a 15.5% savings for the rest of the winter. What happened….the people made a commitment to save and since they thought they were going to be publicly recognized as energy savers they started thinking of themselves as real energy savers and once the publicity was taken away then it all became their decision to be energy savers not just doing it for publicity. They also did the experiment on homeowners in Iowa in the summer and they saved 27.8 percent in electricity for those who were promised the newspaper publicity but never received it. Ralph Waldo Emerson – said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” Which means that even though consistency is good, even vital, there is a foolish, rigid variety to be shunned. So how do you know when to avoid it? When in the pit of your stomach you realize you are being trapped into complying. And sometimes when you have convinced yourself that you are doing it of your own free will you will not get the pit of the stomach reflex but you will know in the heart of your hearts. Our heart of hearts is the one place where we cannot fool ourselves. It is the place where none of our justifications, none of our rationalizations penetrate. We should train ourselves to be attentive, so that we register it ever so slightly before our brain engages. Look for and pay attention to the first flash of feeling. The Principle of SOCIAL PROOF – Walter Lippmann said, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” The idea of social proof is evident in the fact that canned laughter actually works even though we know it is not real. It is why at night clubs they have long lines to get in…..if you see a long line it gives you the social proof that it must be good or worthwhile. When children were deathly afraid of dogs they easily overcame their fears if shown other children playing with dogs. Even if other kids
playing with dogs was a video – but the more examples shown and the more examples of kids closer to their age the bigger the impact. When small kids were anti-social they were shown a 23 minute movie of 11 scenes and in each scene a solitary child was watching some ongoing social activity and then actively joined the activity and everyone was happy – all of the children became very social after viewing the film one time. This goes to show that the principle of social proof is very potent if it can modify a potential pattern of maladaptive behavior in children. An example of social proof was noted in the study of a “secret” Doomsday Cult in Chicago. These were people whose certainty that they had the truth allowed them to withstand enormous social, economic and legal pressures and whose commitment to their beliefs grew as each pressure was resisted. They believed there would be a flood but all the believers in their group would be saved by aliens. But they didn’t try to get other people to join their group because it was secretive and exclusive in nature. When the day of reckoning came and the floods or the aliens didn’t….. the group was bewildered and didn’t disband as you would think they would have once they were proven wrong…..but then quickly got even stronger and said that because their little group was such good believers God spared the whole world. So the prophecy not coming true actually made them stronger and then they also became open and less secretive. WHY….because the groups assignment was clear; since the physical evidence could not be changed that they were wrong, the social evidence had to be. Convince and ye shall be convinced. In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct. Another example of social proof was with the story of Miss Genovese in NYC. She was stabbed to death and 38 people witnessed it yet did nothing. They did nothing because they all thought that someone else would do something or had already called to report it. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence too. So if you are in need of help you need to look specifically at one person (not the group) and point to them and say you sir in the blue jacket I need help, call an ambulance. Don’t just yell for help…they will think someone else already called. Without a doubt when people are uncertain they are more likely to use others’ actions to decide how they themselves should act. We frequently think of teenagers as rebellious and independent-minded. It is important to recognize, however, that typically that is true only with respect to their parents. Among similar others, they conform massively to what social proof tells them is proper. A frightening part of social proof exists in research that clearly shows that after a suicide makes the front page news, the number of people who die in commercial-airline crashes increases by 1000% and automobile fatalities shoot up. Some people think things are bad and they should just end it all as well. People become angry or impatient or nervous or distracted. To the degree that such people operate or service the cars and planes, the vehicles will be less safe and we will see a sharp increase in the number of auto and air fatalities. When an airline pilot decides to end it all just hope you are not on his flight at the time. And he/she is going to make it look like an accident so that the family can get insurance and to save the family from embarrassment. This is known as the Werther Effect – immediately following a
front-page suicide story the suicide rate increases dramatically in those geographical areas where the story has been highly publicized – in a morbid illustration of social proof those people decide how they should act based on how some other troubled person has acted. In fact, they found that on average, 58 more people kill themselves within two months of the front-page suicide – and the wider the publicity of the suicide the more suicides. Championship fights covered on network TV create measurable increases in US homicide rates. Sometimes we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t! Remember how the Blackfeet Indians used to kill the buffalo. Buffalo have eyes that are set in their heads so that it is easier for them to see to the side than to the front and when they run they put their heads down. The Indians would create a stampede so that the buffalo would run with their heads down and see all the other buffalo running and they would run right off a cliff. In this way, it was possible to decoy a herd toward a cliff, and cause the whole herd to plunge to their death, the leaders being thrust over by their followers and all the rest following of their own free will. The Principle of LIKING – Clarence Darrow said that the main work of a trial attorney is to make a jury like his client. A Tupperware party is no more than a compliance setting. Reciprocity – you get prizes for the games at the beginning of the party and everyone gets a prize…..Commitment – everyone is urged to tell about how much they love their Tupperware….Social Proof – once the buying begins it builds that the product must be good so you need some more….and finally LIKING – your friend asked you to have the party and if your friends buy they know you will get more hostess stuff. Good looking people have an advantage in social interactions – we automatically think good-looking people are talented, kind, honest and intelligent – we think good-looking equals good! Good-looking people get better treatment in the legal system in fact handsome men received significantly lighter sentences. It is apparent that good-looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. Teachers presume good-looking children to be more intelligent than their less attractive classmates. Actor McLean Stevenson once described how his wife tricked him into marriage: “She said she liked me.” The most successful car salesman ever….Joe Girard – sent a card each month to his clients and it said “I like you”. He sent it month after month…the same style card, same words! We tend as a rule to believe praise and to like those who provide it oftentimes when it is clearly false. In fact positive comments produced just as much liking for the flatterer when they were untrue as when they were true. Continued exposure to a person or object under unpleasant conditions such as frustration, conflict, or competition leads to less liking – and the typical American classroom fosters precisely these unpleasant conditions. The nature of bad news infects the teller. There is a natural human tendency to dislike a person who brings us unpleasant information even when that person did not cause the bad news. An innocent association with either bad things or good things will influence how people feel about us. That is why advertisers try to connect themselves or their products with things we like. That is also why radio programmers are instructed to insert the stations call letters before a big hit song is played.
Remember that people do assume that we have the same personality traits as our friends. Research also shows that people become fonder of the people and things they experience while eating – thus take a client out for a meal. All things being equal you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality….and what you want to prove is that YOU are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents YOU; and when he wins, YOU win! According to the association principle, if we can surround ourselves with success that we are connected with in even a superficial way our public prestige will rise. People who are all about another celebrity are individuals with a hidden personality flaw – a poor self-concept. The persistent name-dropper is a classic example of accomplishment being derived outside themselves. Same goes for rock-music groupies, and the notorious stage moms. People use the LIKING principle to make you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Car salesmen do it all the time and you need to be aware of it! If someone likes you to get you to comply you need to be aware so that you can comply or not of your own free will. The Principle of AUTHORITY – research shows that when a person in authority tells you to do something even hurt another person 65% of the time you will do it. We all have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority within us. In fact, once a legitimate authority has given an order, subordinates STOP thinking in the situation and start reacting. A funny example of this is with the doctor who prescribed drops in the R EAR for a hospitalized patient with a severe ear infection. Yep the nurse and the patient accepted the decree to put the drops in his REAR instead of his R – Right Ear. After all, the authority had spoken. 10% of all cardiac arrests in hospitals are due to medication errors. Sometimes just the appearance that you have authority is enough to get people to do your bidding. Con artists, for example, drape themselves with the titles, clothes, and trappings of authority. Titles alone can make strangers react differently. One professor hid his title because people would sensor how they spoke to him if they found out he was a professor. In fact, people who are considered authorities are seen as being on average 2 ½ inches taller than they really are. Being perceived as being in authority makes you taller. Another kind of authority symbol that can trigger our mechanical compliance is clothing. The less skin you show the more authority you are perceived of having. If you wear glasses people think you are smarter. If you wear navy you are considered more business -like. We all must guard against Authority to make sure we are not being taken or duped. We must make sure they are in fact an authority figure. Sometimes compliance practitioners will argue against their own interests this can be done to prove their honesty. Examples….Listerine, the taste you hate three times a day, or L’Oreal a bit more expensive and worth it. Good waiters do this – they tell you what they like which is usually some of the cheaper items on the menu and what not to order to get you to trust them and then they recommend the highest priced wine and you don’t even question it. The more you spend the bigger their tip.
The Principle of Scarcity – the way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost…..G. K. Chesterton. The best example of the scarcity principle is when people will be talking to you and the phone rings and they forget all about you and rush to answer the phone. No matter how rude they are in their minds the call might be more important “SCARCE”. Don’t answer phones when you are talking to someone and if you are expecting an important call let the person know beforehand. Another example….homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save. In retail they use the limited number tactic to get you to buy – it is scarce! A common tactic used by appliance sellers is to always have 30 to 50% of the stock regularly listed as on sale. When the customer sees the one they are interested in they ask if it is available and they are told that the salesman is pretty sure that he just sold the last one to a customer earlier that day. The appliance on sale becomes scarce which makes the customer ask if the salesman could check to make sure there is not another one in stock…and guess what….there is. Who would’ve guessed!
In Summary…..Frank Zappa was a guest on a show and the interviewer said, “I guess your long hair
makes you a girl.” And Zappa said I guess your wooden leg makes you a table.” Illustrating ….very often in making a decision about someone or something, we don’t use all the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single, highly representative piece of the total. And an isolate piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes – mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse. Despite the susceptibility to stupid decisions that accompanies a reliance on a single feature of the available data, the pace of modern life demands that we frequently use this shortcut. The blitz of modern daily life demands that we have faithful shortcuts, sound rules of thumb to handle it all. That is why we should want to retaliate whenever we see someone betraying one of our rules of thumb for profit!
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