Why You Should Read Some Cialdini

Recently, Carsonified posted this video of a Kevin Rose (Digg) speech at the Future of Web Apps conference in London.  The talk, titled “Taking your Site from One to One Million Users”, covers a range of methods for growing web traffic and engaging users.

Although many of his examples are interesting in themselves, it is worth noting that a number draw upon core psychological principles first put together 25 years ago by Robert Cialdini in a book titled Influence.  Cialdini studied how social norms and ingrained behaviours have a massive influence on our responses to the various stimuli we are presented with on a daily basis.  He grouped them into six general categories:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity

You can read a little more about each of these here, but it really is worth taking the time to read the book (most libraries will have it).  It presents both the underlying motivators along with specific examples of their expression in practice, so it is more useful than hearing only the examples themselves, which don’t necessarily lend themselves to application in a range of different domains.

Cialdini also recently co-authored a book titled Yes!, which presents summaries for over 50 scientific studies relating more-or-less to the six categories above.  It is a fascinating read.  Here are a couple of the findings:

  • Tips increase by up to 23% when waiters give mints to their customers directly, rather than letting them pick the mints up from a bowl at the counter.  [an example of reciprocity]
  • A hotel increased guest towel reuse rates (an environmentally friendly action) by 33% simply by changing the wording of the call-to-action message on a sign in the bathroom.  The most successful message suggested that others who had stayed in the same room recently had reused their towels. [an example of social proof, and also liking – we are influenced more by those who share attributes with us]
  • Asking people to predict whether or not they will go out and vote actually increases the chance they will go out and vote (by about 25% points in the study cited).  [an example of social desirability bias combined with commitment and consistency]

There are many other examples in Yes! that translate the six general principles into practice, so you are bound to find some inspiration for mixing it up and applying the principles yourself.


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