Cialdini: Triggers and Automatic Influence

This is the 2d post in a series on Bob Cialdini’s fun to read book “Influence”.  This post lays out the basic thesis that the book develops.

Turkeys make good mothers. But they only do this when their chicks chirp a certain way. That chirping triggers their maternal instincts – even if the chirping noise is inserted into something else entirely,. this sounds silly, but turkeys are not alone in this type of auto response mechanism. Consider this statement by Whitehead

civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.

Bingo.Just as mother turkeys do, humans use a wide array of auto-response mechanisms. And if you can “crack the code”, you can get a fellow human to elicit the auto-response. So, for example, doubling the price of a piece of jewelry might make it more attractive to tourists who automatically equate high prices with high quality.

Notice that the above does not require any concerted effort to offer higher quality, just an understanding of how quality is automatically perceived by the potential purchaser.

An example of how triggering can work is the contrast principle. When shown an item with certain characteristics (let’s say a heavy item), the next item that is different (a lighter item) will appear more different than it really is.

So now you understand why, when you go to a clothes store and you ask for assistance in buying a suit — they show you the expensive stuff first. After that, the less expensive stuff looks less attractive than it really is. conversely, a real estate broker may show you very unattractive expensive properties first, so that your eyes light up when you see something that is just normal. And you know why car salesmen sell the car first, and then add a few “small extras”. After spending $15,000 for the car, $500 for the better carpeting looks trivial.

That is an introduction to triggers. We will be taking a closer look at several categories of triggers in this series – next is reciprocity.

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