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Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means.

Methods Edit

Persuasion methods are also sometimes referred to as persuasion tactics or persuasion strategies.

Weapons of influenceEdit

Robert Cialdini, in his book on persuasion, defined six "weapons of influence":[1]

  • Reciprocity - People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing and advertising. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1937.
  • Commitment and Consistency - Once people commit to what they think is right, orally or in writing, they are more likely to honor that commitment, even if the original incentive or motivation is subsequently removed. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy.
  • Social Proof - People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  • Authority - People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents, such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre in 1968.
  • Liking - People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed, but generally more aesthetically pleasing people tend to use this influence excellently over others. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity - Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a "limited time only" encourages sales.

Relationship based persuasionEdit

In their book The Art of Woo, G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa present a four-step approach to strategic persuasion[2]. They explain that persuasion means to win others over, not to defeat them. Thus it is important to be able to see the topic from different angles in order to anticipate the reaction others have to a proposal.

Step 1: Survey your situation
This step includes an analysis of the persuader's situation, goals, and challenges that he faces in his organization.

Step 2: Confront the five barriers
Five obstacles pose the greatest risks to a successful influence encounter: relationships, credibility, communication mismatches, belief systems, interest and needs.

Step 3: Make your pitch
People need a solid reason to justify a decision, yet at the same time many decisions are made on the basis of intuition. This step also deals with presentation skills.

Step 4: Secure your commitments
In order to safeguard the longtime success of a persuasive decision, it is vital to deal with politics at both the individual and organizational level.


Propaganda is also closely related to Persuasion. It's a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people. Instead of impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense presents information in order to influence its audience. The most effective propaganda is often completely truthful, but some propaganda presents facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the cognitive narrative of the subject in the target audience. The term 'propaganda' first appeared in 1622 when Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith. Propaganda was then as now about convincing large numbers of people about the veracity of a given set of ideas. Propaganda is as old as people, politics and religion.

List of methods Edit

By appeal to reason:

By appeal to emotion:

Aids to persuasion:

Other techniques:

Coercive techniques, some of which are highly controversial and/or not scientifically proven to be effective:


Neurobiology of persuasionEdit

Attitudes and persuasion are among the central issues of social behavior. One of the classic questions is when are attitudes a predictor of behavior. Previous research suggested that selective activation of left prefrontal cortex might increase the likelihood that an attitude would predict a relevant behavior. Using lateral attentional manipulation, this was supported. [3]

An earlier article showed that EEG measures of anterior prefrontal asymmetry might be a predictor of persuasion. Research participants were presented with arguments that favored and arguments that opposed the attitudes they already held. Those whose brain was more active in left prefrontal areas said that they paid the most attention to statements with which they agreed while those with a more active right prefrontal area said that they paid attention to statements that disagreed. [4] This is an example of defensive repression, the avoidance or forgetting of unpleasant information. Research has shown that the trait of defensive repression is related to relative left prefrontal activation. [5] In addition, when pleasant or unpleasant words, probably analogous to agreement or disagreement, were seen incidental to the main task, an fMRI scan showed preferential left prefrontal activation to the pleasant words [6]

One way therefore to increase persuasion would seem to be to selectively activate the right prefrontal cortex. This is easily done by monaural stimulation to the contralateral ear. The effect apparently depends on selective attention rather than merely the source of stimulation. This manipulation had the expected outcome: more persuasion for messages coming from the left [7]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  2. The art of Woo by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, New York 2007, ISBN 978-1-59184-176-0
  3. Drake, R. A., & Sobrero, A. P. (1987). Lateral orientation effects upon trait behavior and attitude behavior consistency. Journal of Social Psychology, 127, 639-651.
  4. Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., & Quintanar, L. R. (1982). Individual differences in relative hemispheric alpha abundance and cognitive responses to persuasive communications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 623-636.
  5. Tomarken, A. J., & Davidson, R. J. (1994). Frontal brain activity in repressors and nonrepressors. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 339-349.
  6. Herrington, J. D., Mohanty, A., Koven, N. S., Fisher, J. E., Stewart, J. L., Banich, M. T., et al. (2005). Emotion-modulated performance and activity in left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Emotion, 5, 200-207.
  7. Drake, R. A., & Bingham, B. R. (1985). Induced lateral orientation and persuasibility. Brain and Cognition, 4, 156-164.
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