The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini is a true eye opener.
This book reveals a fact about humans that everyone should pay more attention to: In many ways, we act like robots, pre-programmed for different reaction patterns.
A short story from Cialdini’s book, paints a perfect picture of just how irrational this mental programming can be.
Turkey mothers are loving, caring mothers. What is surprising, is that they rely on one single factor to determine whether to care for a chick or not and that is the sound of “cheep-cheep” from the chick. It turns out, that if the chick is not “cheeping” along, it is either abandoned or killed. In the same manner, if the natural enemy is made to say the key word “cheep-cheep”, the mother turkey will be motherly and loving towards it also.
How crazy is that? The sole trigger of her motherly behavior, is one goddamn sound – a mental shortcut dependant on one variable. The “cheep-cheep” shortcut completely overwrites ALL other contradicting information the Turkey has about her chicks or enemies, as looks and smells, when deciding whether to care or fight.
Cialdini groups together the human equivalents of the “Turkey Mother Behavior” into 6 major categories of unconscious mental shortcuts or biases as they are also commonly called.
1. Reciprocation: Giving back what you get, feeling in debt.
A simple example of reciprocation, is the feeling you get when a company gives you something like a free sample. The feeling of wanting to buy the product, to pay back.
2. Commitment and consistency: The urge to commit to what you decided on. Stubbornness.
People want to be consistent. When we take a stance, it’s very hard to let go of. A good example of this behavior can be seen among football supporters fanatic commitment to their club.
3. Social Proof: The crowd is right.
Social Proof can be seen in the way we shop online. If you are unfamiliar with a product you want to buy, chances are the you will use other people ratings as a short-cut for making the right decision. The Authority of the rating increases with the number of people giving their opinion.
4. Liking: Favoring people or things you like, even when alternatives are better.
People have a tendency to do business with the person they like the best. Also if the other person’s offer is better. If you’re in doubt the advice of the person you like the most will often be favored over the advice of a person you like less. Even if the less liked person gives more qualified advice.
5. Authority: The expert or authority is always right.
The celebrity endorsing a product in his/her field of expertise is a simple use of the Authority principle.
6. Scarcity: The fewer the more valuable.
Simply being told that there is a limited supply of a good, will increase likelihood of a person deciding to buy.
Let’s take deeper look at how we humans use the same kind of biases as the Turkey mother.
Shortly after reading the book Influence, I was standing outside a mall with my girlfriend, when a woman inside caught my attention. She wore a long white coat, in the fashion of a doctor or dentist. She talked to another women, as she tried to find the correct makeup for her. She was looking sharp, clean and professional.
Why were this shop assistant wearing a long white, clean-looking coat when all the other assistants were wearing something more casual as a polo and a skirt? Because she knew about the Authority bias! In general, we trust Authority with almost blind faith. Without thinking much about it we associate her long white Dr. looking coat with professionalism and authority, and thus also her. Like Turkey uses, the “cheep-cheep” shortcut, we humans use the advice of an authority or PERCEIVED authority, as a shortcut for taking the right decision, unconsciously. But as the enemy can cheat the Turkey mother, a random makeup salesman can win trustworthiness by putting on a white coat.