Persuasion Techniques: The Psychology of Influence

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Do you want to be an agent of change? Psychological research reveals how to tip the balance in your favour.

All human societies are alive with the battle for influence. Every single day each of us is subject to innumerable persuasion attempts from corporations, interest groups, political parties and other organisations. Each trying to persuade us that their product, idea or innovation is what we should buy, believe in or vote for.

In our personal lives the same struggle is played out for the supremacy of viewpoints, ideals and actions. Whether it’s friends and family, work colleagues, potential employers or strangers, each of us has to work out how to bring others around to our own point of view. We all play the influence game, to greater or lesser degrees.

Psychologists have been studying how we try to influence each other for many years. I’ve been covering some highlights of this research, which are collected below.

• 3 Universal Goals to Influence People – Effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations.

• The Persuasive Power of Swearing – Show your passion and people have one more emotional reason to come around to your point of view.

• Loudest Voice = Majority Opinion – Even if only one member of a group repeats their opinion, it is more likely to be seen by others as representative of the whole group.

Don’t Take No For An Answer – You ask someone for a favour and they say no. Where do you go from there?

The Influence of Fleeting Attraction – Friendship is a fantastic lever for persuasion and influence, a lever we happily push on every day.

Caffeine Makes Us Easier to Persuade – Of all the effects caffeine has on our minds—enhanced attention, vigilance and cognition—perhaps least known is its tendency to make us more susceptible to persuasion.

Persuasion: The Right-Ear Advantage – If you want someone to comply with a random request for a cigarette, you should speak into their right ear.

Balanced Arguments Are More Persuasive – The instinct to paper over weaknesses in our argument is wrong—so long as we counter criticism.

The Battle Between Thoughts and Emotions in Persuasion – Nowadays people tend to use ‘I think’ and ‘I feel’ interchangeably. Does it make any difference whether what you say is couched in ‘thinking’ or ‘feeling’ terms?

 Our Secret Attitude Changes – When you change your attitude about something, do you know why?

 Are Fast Talkers More Persuasive? – Beware the fast-talker, the person with the gift of the gab—the friendly salesman, the oily politician—running through the ‘facts’ faster than you can keep up.

 Persuasion: The Sleeper Effect – Any time we receive a persuasive message before we find out who the source is, the sleeper effect can come into play.

 Communicating Persuasively: Email or Face-to-Face? – Face-to-face communication is usually most persuasive but it’s not always possible to meet in person. How, then, do people react to persuasion attempts over email?

 The Influence of Positive Framing – Do people really pay more attention to frightening messages? Actually emphasising the positive can be more persuasive than pointing out the negative.

 The Illusion of Truth – Repetition is used everywhere to persuade: advertising, politics and the media.

 9 Propaganda Techniques in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 - Back in the Summer of 2004 Michael Moore brought out ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′, his personal view of how terrorist attacks in the US were used to pursue illegal wars.

 Persuasion: The Third-Person Effect – Attractive woman holding a bottle of beer? Hah! How stupid do they think we are?

 20 Simple Steps to the Perfect Persuasive MessagePerfection is hard to achieve in any walk of life and persuasion is no different.

 Why Stories Sell: Transportation Leads to Persuasion – Stories which transport people are more likely to be persuasive.

 How To Encourage People To Change Their Own Minds - Let people talk themselves around to your point of view.

 When Does Reverse Psychology Work? – Reverse psychology works best with people who are contrary or resistant.

The One (Really Easy) Persuasion Technique Everyone Should Know – It’s supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people and it’s the easiest, most practical persuasion technique available.

The Single Most Effective Method for Influencing People Fast – Works like magic: a little-known influence technique that out-guns the usual suspects.

9 Ways The Mind Resists Persuasion and How To Sustain or Overcome Them – Persuasion is about far more than just argument and counter-argument.

How To Make Persuasive Eye Contact – How situations change the type of eye contact people make with each other.

Image credit: Martin Howard

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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 4 January 2011

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License