Are my decisions really mine?

September, 21, 2009
Sylvain

imagesAccording to Wikipedia, Social Psychology : “is a type of social science that is concerned with individuals’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour as they affect or are affected by other individuals…and which “studies the interactions between individuals in a group, a society or in different organisations”.  How true is that definition? I’m not sure, but what I do understand is that when I read texts about social psychology they give us the key to understanding what motivates us to undertake specific actions.

At this stage you should understand what I’m aiming at: how do we get people to do what we want them to do?  Social psychology explains things… There is an abundance of literature popularising this subject and the best known book on the subject is undoubtedly Brief Treatise on Manipulation for Honest People (english translation of the french title Petit traité de manipulation à l’usage des honnêtes gens) by Joule and Beauvois.  But today I’m going to talk to you about Roberto Cialdini, author of the excellent book called Influence and Manipulation, in which he gives numerous examples of the  methods that salespeople use to increase their chances of making a sale.  Cialdini teaches psychology at the University of Arizona. Legend has it that, while preparing his doctoral thesis he worked at different jobs linked to sales (cars, furniture, door-to-door etc.) in order to understand the strategies used instinctively by salespeople and to theorise them. Cialdini is the inventor of the “Door in the face” method, which consists of asking the target for something totally extravagant in order to have him respond favourably to a more reasonable request. In short, this is to say that he gave us six potential strategies:

  1. Reciprocity
    This is the most powerful strategy because we usually want to return a favour. This is why sales are best when a free sample has been given (a free chapter for an online book, a slice of bacon in a supermarket, etc).
  2. Conformism
    Our natural tendency is to mimic others, which is why one of the sales arguments is “12322 copies sold” and also why we go to the busiest restaurant or the bread shop that has the longest queue …
  3. Respect for Authority
    We usually believe an ‘expert’, probably because of our education and that’s why the guy telling us why the ‘XXX’ toothpaste is the best, wears a white coat.  This is also why furniture sales people inevitably end up calling over ‘ The Boss’ to give us that last rebate…( test this: ‘The Boss’, is never the same from one day to the next because he is actually just another salesperson playing the part.)
  4. The rare opportunity
    We like to stand out, and buying an almost unique object is showing others how clever we are at finding something exceptional.
  5. Commitment
    Once we’ve committed ourselves to buying something, we find it hard to back out, even when we are confronted with specifications which are not those that had been promised to us by the salesperson.
  6. Friendship
    This is all about playing on feelings (think about Tupperware meetings and home sales for lingerie and sex toys)

Well, that’s a quick look at what Social Psychology can tell us, but I would advise you to read at least the two books that I mentioned earlier, they contain lots of amazing information which could perhaps be of use…

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Picture: courtesy of Abby Blank