Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1993) – book

book

Just finished reading Dr. Robert Cialdini‘s 1993 classic – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and would like to recommend it to anyone interested in applied psychology and cognitive science. Cialdini was interested why people comply with requests that do not necessarily benefit them. According to Wikipedia, he spent 3 years applying for jobs and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations and telemarketing firms to find that out. Now he’s a Distinguished Professor of psychology in Arizona State University.

From Wikipedia, Cialdini’s “6 weapons of influence”:

  • Reciprocation – People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. 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 – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy. Seecognitive dissonance.
  • 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.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that 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. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

[russian]

Закончил читать одно из классических произведений по психологии Роберта Чалдини – “Психологию влияния”, и рекомендую к прочтению каждому. Чалдини всегда интересовало, почему люди выполняют просьбы и требования, далеко не всегда им самим выгодные.  По информации из Wikipedia, чтобы получить ответ на этот вопрос, он провел три года на разных позициях в фирмах, торгующих подержаными машинами, агенствах по телемаркетингу, рекламных агенствах и т.д. Сейчас Чалдини Заслуженный Профессор психологии государственного университета Аризоны.

Естественно, эта книга отсканирована и выложена в Рунете в многочисленных экземплярах. 🙂

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (2008) – book

welcome

I’ve just finished reading this book, and would like to recommend it to anyone. This is a very fun and easy reading on everyday’s brain puzzles. Common myths and unknown truths, brain’s birth and development, emotions and rationality – the book if full of surprises and useful tips. Not very detailed in its scientific explanations, “Welcome to Your Brain” feels more like a manual going only through the very general principles that will help you use your own brain right. 

Top 6 myths about the brain (from Welcome to Your Brain Blog):

  1. You only use 10 percent of your brain
  2. Playing classical music to an infant can make the child smarter
  3. Drinking alcoholic beverages kills brain cells
  4. Games like Sudoku and Brain Age keep your brain young
  5. In a noisy place, you can hear better on your cell phone by covering your other ear
  6. Vaccines cause autism

The authors, Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt gave a talk about the book at Google, and this is actually how I found out about it. If you like the talk, you’ll most definitely like the book:

The book mentions some experiments that show how limited our scope of attention is. Here’s an example from YouTube:

TED: A journey to the center of your mind by Vilayanur Ramachandran

Neurologist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran is known for his work in behavioral neurology and psychophysics. In this 2007 TED talk, he explores how brain damage can reveal about the connections between the internal structures of the brain and the mind. He talks about phantom limb pain, synesthesia (when people hear color or smell sounds), and the Capgras delusion. Ramachandran was the original inventor of the “Mirror Box” (but don’t click on the link, better watch the talk first!). Extraordinary talk.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: A brief history of violence by Steven Pinker

I’ve always felt that the natural path of development for humanity is to grow less and less violent over time, in spite of the recent phenomena which I can only describe as “violence hysteria”. Finally, some data and a very educational talk to share. Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist and cognitive scientists was invited to talk on TED three times: in 2003, 2005 and 2007. In his latest talk, he presents data proving that we leave in the most peaceful of all times, and delves into the question of why it is so commonly perceived that the level of violence has been rising in the 20th century.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: The brain in love by Helen Fisher

Famous anthropologist Helen Fisher talks about love as a brain function. What is love, why has it evolved, and why are some of us ready to die for it? Fisher and her team took MRI scans of people in love, including those just dumped. Fisher is considered the world’s leading expert on the topic of love. From Wikipedia:

In 2004, anthropologist Helen Fisher, in her ground-breaking book, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, proposed the humanity has evolved three core brain systems for mating and reproduction:

  • lust – the sex drive or libido.
  • attraction – early stage intense romantic love.
  • attachment – deep feelings of union with a long term partner.

A fascinating talk.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: Why are we happy? We aren’t we happy? by Dan Gilbert

In this talk, Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. In fact, getting or not getting what we want has very little correlation with how we feel about life afterwards. Our happiness’ source is internal – our brain is incredibly adaptive to the external circumstances, especially when we cannot change them. He also touches on the issue of choice with some data showing that having been able to change one’s decision actually makes this person less happy. So, it really is very interconnected (and confirming) with another TED talk I posted earlier – The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

Very insightful, entertaining and sometimes very funny. Enjoy!

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: The paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz

I am starting posting my favorite TED videos. If you don’t know what TED is, you’ve been missing a lot. From Wikipedia:

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference that defines its mission as “ideas worth spreading”. The lectures, also called TED talks, cover a broad set of topics including science, arts and design, politics, culture, business, global issues, technology and development, and entertainment. Speakers come from a similarly wide variety of communities and disciplines and have included such people as former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Nobel laureates James D. WatsonMurray Gell-MannAl Goreinternet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales, notable architect and urbanism critic James Howard Kunstler, and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Since 2007, TED started making its talks available on their official website. Most of them are highly educational and entertaining, and some of them are simply jaw-drapping. Not surprisingly: the brightest minds and most interesting people are invited to talk there.

TED is not cheap – if you want to watch the videos, it’s free, but if you want to attend the conference in person, you’d have to part with $6000 for yearly membership. And both 2009 events (Long Beach, California in February and Oxford, UK in July) are booked, although you could still join the waiting list.

I’ve been watching TED talks regularly, and here I will post the most interesting, exciting and amazing talks which I’d love everyone to see. That is, of course, according to my taste.

In this one, psychologist Barry Schwartz analyzes abundance of choice in the modertn western society, and challenges the assumption that more choice make us happier. In fact, more choice often times makes us less happier and more dissatisfied, and Barry delves into the obvious question – “Why?”. Here’s a link to the book he wrote on the subject.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).