This is part of a series of information/stories delivered from the INCREDIBLE book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. If you work or live a life where you have to get people to do thing, Influence studies and explains the 6 most powerful forces to persuade people. No other book has been recommended to me more, by people smarter than both of us.
In short, they are:
2) Social proof
3) Commitment & Consistency
4) Liking: People prefer to say ” yes” to those they know
And they will be a game changer for you and your business.
Today we elaborate on Authority.
Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation. Early on, these people (for example, parents, teachers) knew more than we did, and we found that taking their advice proved beneficial—partly because of their greater wisdom and partly because they controlled our rewards and punishments. As adults, the same benefits persist for the same reasons, though the authority figures now appear as employers, judges, and government leaders. Because their positions speak of superior access to information and power, it makes great sense to comply with the wishes of properly constituted authorities. It makes so much sense, in fact, that we often do so when it makes no sense at all.
Let’s take an example from one facet of our lives where authority pressures are visible and strong: medicine. Health is enormously important to us. Thus, physicians, who possess large amounts of knowledge and influence in this vital area, hold the position of respected authorities. The worrisome possibility arises, then, that when a physician makes a clear error, no one lower in the hierarchy will think to question it—precisely because, once a legitimate authority has given an order, subordinates stop thinking in the situation and start reacting.
My favorite example is a TV commercial featuring actor Robert Young counseling people against the dangers of caffeine and recommending caffeine-free Sanka Brand coffee. The commercial was highly successful, selling so much coffee that it was played for years in several versions. But why should this commercial prove so effective? Why on earth would we take Robert Young’s word for the health consequences of decaffeinated coffee? Because—as the advertising agency that hired him knew perfectly well—he is associated in the minds of the American public with Marcus Welby, M.D., the role he played in an earlier long-running television series.
The appearance of authority was enough. This tells us something important about unthinking reactions to authority figures. There are several kinds of symbols that can reliably trigger our compliance in the absence of the genuine substance of authority. Consequently, they are employed extensively by those compliance professionals who are short on substance. Con artists, for example, drape themselves with the titles, clothes, and trappings of authority. They love nothing more than to emerge elegantly dressed from a fine automobile and to introduce themselves to their prospective “mark” as Doctor or Judge or Professor or Commissioner Someone.
Likewise, internet authorities stage this all of the time. You see them in fancy houses and nice cars to they MUST know what they are doing. Even though there is no evidence that any of it is theirs.