Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Noah Goldstein’s, Steve Martin’s (no, not that Steve Martin‘s) and Robert Cialdini’s Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is a pop psych book, where a bunch of research in psychology is distilled into one readable volume.

50 scientifically proven ways constitute 50 chapters of the book, longest of which take 7 pages. The authors take the position that persuasion is a science, not art, hence with the right approach anybody can become the master in the skill of persuasion. So, what are the 50 ways?

  1. Inconvenience the audience by creating an impression of product scarcity. It’s the famous change from “Call now, the operators are standing by” to “If the line is busy, call again”, that greatly improved the call volume by creating the impression that everybody else is trying to buy the same product.
  2. Introduce herd effect in highly personalized form. The hotel sign in the bathroom informed the guests that many prior guests chose to be environmentally friendly by recycling their towels. However, when the message mentioned that majority of the guests who stayed in this specific room chose to be more environmentally conscious and reused their towels, towel recycling jumped 33%, even though the message was largely the same.
  3. Ads quoting negative behavior en masse reinforces negative behavior. Petrified Forest National Park A/B tested two versions of a sign imploring people not to steal pieces of petrified forest from the park. One mentioned large amounts of petrified forest taken away on an annual basis, the other one simply asked the visitors not to remove petrified wood. The first one actually tripled the theft ratio as it showed stealing petrified wood as something commonplace. Same effect was observed after airing an ad that implored women to vote, but mentioned that 22 million single women did not vote last year. That kind of information actually portrays not voting as more socially acceptable.
  4. Avoiding magnetic middle. A California survey measured energy usage of a neighborhood on a week-by-week basis. When the average electricity consumption for the neighborhood was calculated, researchers sent thank-you cards to those using the energy conservatively, and a nice reminder to perhaps conserve to those who used electricity liberally. Net effect? While the liberals tried to cut down on unnecessary energy usage, the conservatives, finding out they’re way below average, suddenly became way more liberal with their energy usage, which actually increased the amount of energy used by the neighborhood. Proposed solution that worked? Sending a smiley face card to conservatives with a request to keep doing what they were doing, instead of pointing out they were at the right end of the bell curve.
  5. Too many options necessitate selection, and hence frustration, when brain decides it’s unnecessary work. The example here is given by a company that manages retirement funds for other companies, and hence has access to retirement information of 800,000 employees. When employees were offered a choice of 2 funds, roughly 75% signed up for a retirement program. When the number of funds was increased to 59%, even though qualitatively this was a better deal for employees, only 60% decided to sign up. When Head & Shoulders brand killed off 11 flavors of the shampoo, leaving only 15 on the market, the sales rose 10%.
  6. Giving away the product makes it less desirable. Researchers gave one group of people a picture of a pearl bracelet and asked to evaluate its desirability. Another group of people was given the same task, but prior to that was shown an ad, where the same bracelet was given away for free, if you bought a bottle of expensive liqueur. The second group considered the bracelet much less desirable, since mentally a lot of potential buyers (35% of them to be exact) shuffled the bracelet onto “trinkets they give away for free” shelf in their brain.
  7. A more expensive product makes the old version look like a value buy. An example here is a Williams-Sonoma bread maker. After an introduction of a newer, better, and pricier version, the sales of the old unit actually increased, as couples viewed the new item as “top of the line”, but old product was all of a sudden reasonably-priced, even though a bunch of features were missing.
  8. If a call to action is motivated by fear, people will block it, unless call to action has specific steps. A group of people received a pamphlet describing the dangers of tetanus infection. It didn’t describe much else. The second group of people got a description of tetanus infection, plus a set of instructions on how to get vaccinated. The second group exhibited much higher sign-up rate for tetanus vaccination than the first one, where many participants tried to block out the high-fear message urging that something as rare as tetanus would never happen to them.
  9. A small gift makes people want to reciprocate. People who received a small no-strings-attached gift from a stranger were twice as likely to buy raffle tickets from him than those who were just pitched on raffle tickets.
  10. Hand-written Post-It note improves response rate on inter-office letters. Researchers distributed three sets of questionnaires around the office. The first set included a hand-written Post-It note requesting completion of the survey. The second set got the same survey, with the request to return it hand-written on Page 1. Third group got the same survey with their name mentioned (in type) on page 1 of the survey. Response rates? 75%, 48%, 36%. People appreciated personalized approach, and somehow a Post-It note even highlighted the extra work that someone did before sending out the survey.
  11. How restaurant mints are a personalized affair. Let’s a say a restaurant provides mints for its customers on the way out. If the amount of tips per week is the baseline for that restaurant, let’s make the waiters include a mint as they give the check to the customer. The tips go up by 3.3%. However, when the waiters offer the mints themselves, prior to signing the check, the tipping amount went up by 14.1%. In yet another experiment, the waiter would present the patrons with 1 mint per guest, then give them the check, then turning around to leave, then, as if remembering something sudden, turning around and giving them yet another mint per guest. Result? 23% increase in tips, as this signaled high amount of personalization.
  12. Attaching no strings increases response to the message. Using the same hotel as the one mentioned in Chapter 2, researchers tried out two different versions of the sign. The first one: if you reuse the towels, a donation will be made to a nonprofit environmental organization.  The second version: the donation has already been made, since the hotel trusted you’d reuse the towels anyways. Recipients of the second message reused their towels 45% more than the recipients of the first one.
  13. As time goes by, the value of a favor increases in the eyes of the favor-giver, and decreases in the eyes of the favor-receiver. Researchers asked a group of people in the random office environment to exchange favors and then rate the value of the given/received favor in their eyes. A few weeks later the same employees were reminded of the favor, and asked to evaluate the favor again. Favor-givers consistently assigned higher value to a given favor, while as the time passed by, favor-receivers tended to assign lower value to the received favor.
  14. Asking for small favors changes self-perception, introducing ways for big favors. Researchers asked a group of homeowners to place a large “Drive Carefully” sign on their front lawn. Only 17% agreed. With the second group of homeowners, 76% of people were ok with road traffic people maintaining the sign on their beautiful lawns. What was the difference between two groups? A few weeks earlier group B was asked to display a small non-intrusive window sign asking drivers to slow down. This mental foot-in-the-door technique made homeowners from the group B view themselves as socially responsible and safety-aware, hence a request for a larger favor few weeks later didn’t startle them.
  15. Labeling people into a social group tends to increase their participation ratio. A group of people was interviewed regarding their voting patterns. Half of them were told that based on their response criteria, they were very likely to vote, since they were deemed to be more politically active. Later on the election day that specific half did indeed turn up a participation rate that was 15% higher than participation of the control group.
  16. Asking people to substantiate their decision will lead to higher commitment rate on that decision. Researchers called a group of people asking them how likely they were to vote in an upcoming election. Those who responded positively were either asked nothing, or asked why they felt they would vote. Any reason would suffice, but when the election day came, the turnout for the control group (who all responded “Yes” to the question of whether they were going to vote) was 61.5%. Turnout for the group that actually gave a reason (any reason)? 86.7%. A restaurant stopped telling customers “Please call to cancel your reservation” and started asking “Will you call and let us know if you need to cancel?” Net result? Number of reservation no-shows dropped from 30% to 10%.
  17. Writing things down improves commitment. Group A was asked to volunteer on AIDS awareness program at local schools, and was asked to commit verbally. Group B was asked for the same kind of volunteer project, but was given a simple form to fill in. 17% of volunteers from Group A actually showed up to their assigned local school. From Group B 49% of volunteers showed up.
  18. The fact that circumstances changed allows people to change their viewpoints without being viewed as inconsistent. People are generally not thrilled to change their viewpoints on something, as they fear they will display lack of consistency and be called a flip-flopper. Convincing people that their old decision (to stick with the old product) was completely 100% correct under old circumstances allows them to be more responsive to the messages that imply a new product/idea is better because the circumstances radically changed since then.
  19. Sometimes asking people for help makes them more open. Group A was given some bogus research that included a sum of prize money. After the experiment, the researcher approached them and asked whether it wouldn’t be inconvenient if they had to give the money back, since the researcher was using his own money. Group B was not approached with such request after their portion of bogus experiment was done, and was allowed to keep the money. After this both groups were asked to rate their impression of the researcher. Even though it was the first group who didn’t get to keep any money, all of them consistently rated the researcher higher on likability scale.
  20. Asking for little goes a long way. Researchers went door-to-door asking for American Cancer Society donations. Group A just asked for a donation, group B ended their spiel with “even a penny would help”. Results? 28.6% response rate for Group A vs. 50% response for Group B.
  21. Lower starting prices attract higher bids. This is a reference to a study of eBay items where people consistently bid items with a lower starting price higher. The explanation seems to focus on the fact that people invest more time into updating bids for a lower-priced item to let it go.
  22. How to impress a potential customer with credentials without being labeled as a show-off? Public speakers have someone else introduce them, a real estate company made a slight improvements to their phone service by directing people to “Jane, who has 10 years of experience with houses in upper price range”, and physicians display their diplomas on the walls.
  23. The danger of being the smartest person in the room. The expert card frequently trumps any other card in the room. The example here is that the scientists who discovered the double-helix of the DNA were never prime DNA experts, which made them “hungrier” for new discoveries, and made them question established rules.
  24. Devil’s advocate example works with large organizations. Leaders who consistently seek out dissenting opinions earn more respect, and generally have better agreement with people in the room than those who rule by laying down the law and persecuting dissenters.
  25. Negative examples are memorized better than positive examples. When one group of firefighters went through the list of real-life mistakes other firefighters have made, and another group just went through the list of positive things to do, the first group demonstrated better judgment when faced with real-life tests. Our brain seems to discount the best practices, but single out bad examples of someone else making a mistake.
  26. Admitting negatives up-front might lead to better communication. When Progressive says that they will compare your rate against their competitors’, and when original VW Bug was introduced in the US, both companies pursued a strategy of highlighting the negative stuff only to open conversation about the true values their product has to offer.
  27. Spinning negative facts as positive allows customers to make a mental link towards the positive. Among the viewers who viewed an ad advertising restaurant’s cozy atmosphere, an ad advertising the restaurant and lack of parking spaces, and an ad mentioning both, the third group made a connection between cozy atmosphere and bad parking situation. The restaurant was so cozy, the customers reasoned, that they didn’t even have enough parking spots, which made them even cozier in the eyes of a customer.
  28. Admitting you’re wrong makes people trust you more. Company A published an investors relations report, contributing slump in sales to overall economic climate. Company B said slump of sales was relevant to a few bad decisions by top management. Net result? Investors viewed company B more positively. You’d think that they’d be viewed as a bunch of screw-ups, but admission of a mistake made investors more confident the situation was under control, while company A investors got the uneasy feeling of the ship floating in the waters with captain losing control.
  29. Similarities raise the response rate. A person named Cindy Johnson received a survey request by mail from someone named Cynthia Johannson. Someone named John Smith received a survey from Gregory Jordan. The name similarity in the first case (note that it’s just phonetic similarity, none of the names are the same) brought up the response rate to 56% vs. regular 30%.
  30. People like the sound of their name, and that defines their vocation. There are three times as many dentists named Dennis as any other names. Number of Florences living in Florida is disproportionately high, same goes for Louises living in Louisiana.
  31. Verbalization helps interaction. Waiters who repeat customers’ order to them make 70% more in tips than waiters who just say “Okay”. Our mind subconsciously appreciates the effort taken to ensure the things are perfectly right.
  32. Just smiling makes for a poorer customer service. Group A was exposed to a hotel clerk smiling, while peppering the customer with questions regarding their preferences and ways to improve their hotel stay. Group B had just a smiling clerk performing her duties. Group B was more likely to rate the smile as fake.
  33. People pay more for the stuff that’s about to disappear. Oldsmobile sales rose after GM announced the end of life for the line. Australian beef purchases rose after customers learned this year’s supply would be severely diminished because of the weather conditions. Concorde sales took off right after British Airways announced the hyper-speed flights would be shut down.
  34. When people feel something is about to go away, they will stick to perception of the product being better than the new one. In majority of blind tests customers chose New Coke over Classic Coke. Yet when New Coke was introduced, massive protests were staged. When the same drink was packaged into Classic Coke and New Coke bottles, customers still claimed they preferred the Classic Coke and could taste the difference, even though labeling was the only thing that differed two drinks.
  35. “Because” makes any explanation rational. In a line to Kinko’s copy machine a researcher asked to jump the line by presenting a reason “Can I jump the line, because I am in a rush?” 94% of people complied. Good reason, right? Okay, let’s change the reason. “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” Excuse me? That’s why everybody is in the line to begin with. Yet 93% of people complied. A request without “because” in it (“Can I jump the line, please?”) generated 24% compliance.
  36. Asking people to choose reasons themselves might backfire. Two groups were given an ad by BMW. Group A saw an ad saying “So many reasons to buy a BMW. Can you name 10?” Group B saw an ad saying “So many reasons to buy a BMW. Can you name 1?” After the ad both groups were asked to evaluate their likelihood of buying a BMW. Similar to what’s described in Chapter 5, people who had to name 10 reasons actually named Mercedes-Benz, a competitive brand, as their probable choice, while Group B named BMW as their likely next vehicle, compared to Mercedes-Benz.
  37. People like stocks with more pronounceable names. Research of stock tickers between 1999 and 2004 looked at the relationship between the phonetic fluency of the stock and its rise through IPO, then 12 months later, then throughout its lifetime. The result? Stocks with more pronounceable names produced higher returns, even though nobody yells out the tickers on the exchange floor anymore.
  38. Rhyming makes the phrases more convincing. People were asked to evaluate the practical value of parables “Caution and measure will win you treasure” and “Caution and measure will win you riches”. In general proverb A was considered to be more practical and insightful than proverb B.
  39. Amount of information is context-dependent. A group of people was given an ad for department store A, extolling in great detail the 6 departments that A had. Another group was given a short blurb on store A, presenting mainly abstract information. After that store B was presented to both groups with information on 3 departments given to both groups. The first group thought they preferred A, since A volunteered more information and B seemed shadier in comparison. The second group did exactly the opposite and preferred store B, which volunteered detailed info on 3 departments, while A’s message was an abstract blurb.
  40. Incentive programs need a good start. A car-wash place gave one group of customers a free car wash after 8 washes, and everybody got their first stamp after their visit. Group B got a free car wash after 10 car washes, with 3 stamps on the card. Both groups needed to make 7 more trips to get a free wash. 19% of the Group A returned, while 34% of the Group B did.
  41. Abstract names allow the customers to come up with reasoning. Crayola found out that naming colors Cornflower Yellow and Kermit Green worked better than no adjectives attached to colors. The more abstract the connection, the better it seemed to work, as people spent mental time working out the connection between the abstraction and the product in their mind.
  42. Ad campaigns that do not incorporate brands tend to not be remembered. A good portion of people when asked which company was represented by a bunny and the phrase “going, going, and going” named Duracell as the advertiser. Duracell sales increased with the launch of Energizer Bunny campaign.
  43. Mirrors make people more self-conscious. A group of trick-or-treating kids was told to pick up one candy from the jar in the living room, while the adult was in a different room on some pretense. Group A had a large mirror placed by the candy jar, group B did not have the mirror. 8.9% of kids with the mirror in the room and 33.7% of the kids with no mirror treated themselves to extra candy. Another group of people was brought in for what was advertised as gel research, and was given a hand paper towel to wipe the gel off while heading for the exit. With the mirror in the hallway, 24% of participants littered, dropping the towel on their way out, with no mirror, 46% threw the paper towel on the floor without bothering to find a trash can.
  44. Negative emotions make people pay more. Group A was exposed to an emotional movie about the death of someone close to the main character. Group B saw no such movie. Both groups were asked then to name a fair price at which they’d buy the object presented to them. Group A tended to give prices 30% above Group B’s.
  45. Tired people tend to be more receptive to arguments. No wonder those magic bullet infomercials run so late at night. Both groups were presented to product demo, and then asked to evaluate the possibility of buying it. Group A was tired and a bit sleep-deprived, group B was in good physical condition. Group A was much more prone to buy.
  46. Caffeine increases the argumentativeness of a strong argument. Group A drank regular orange juice, group B drank orange juice infused with caffeine. Both groups were then presented with a statement on controversial issue. Except one statement then made weak and hasty arguments, while the second statement made a strong case. Both groups equally dismissed the weak argument case. As far as strongly argumentative case, group B was 30% more receptive. A faster-working brain under the influence of caffeine seems to appreciate good arguments.
  47. Face time still beats e-mail time. Group A was given time to get to know one another in person, then resolve a conflict via e-mail. Group B got a similar task, except no face-to-face communications. 6% of the Group As failed to come up at a good resolution, while 29% of Group Bs arrived at impasse.
  48. Individualism is perceived differently in many countries. In US and Western Europe a chewing gum campaign that accentuated “you, only better” seemed to get more success, than a similar campaign in Eastern Europe and Asia, with much more collectivism built into the culture. In those countries, emphasizing that chewing gum was much more tolerable for other people who can smell your breath, was perceived better.
  49. Notion of commitment among various cultures differ. A group of American students was asked to complete a short marketing survey. A few weeks later they got invited for the second survey, which was going to take twice as long. No pay for either survey. The same experiment was conducted among Asian students. The response rates among American students was 22%, response rate among Asian students was 10%. Research suggests that while American students relied only on their own experience, Asian students found out that few of their peers responded to the first request to complete the survey, which triggered their negative response.
  50. Response to voice mail differs among Americans and Japanese. When faced with a voicemail message, 50% of Americans, and 85% of Japanese hang up. Respondents from Japanese test group pointed out the personal touch of the conversation (intonation, pauses, volume) was important to them and impossible to reproduce over voicemail.

If you liked reading review of this book, check out my review of Predictably Irrational, which is written by a psychology professor and explores the topic of human irrationality in our perfectly rational world.

  • Ryan Rampersad

    I’ve never heard of the book or author before, but I enjoyed reading this and found it useful. I’m interesting in #40 myself, incentives.


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  • anon

    This is a great ripoff of The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

  • Chantelle Tibbs

    Lol #46! Oh man, I think I’ve heard a few of these arguments…
    This is glorious

  • John Kelly

    Cialdini made persuasion (almost) mainstream. I feei this material has important merit that needs promotion – and also think there’s a genuine new perspective offered in this list.

    I’m a Hypnosis, Communication, NLP ‘geek’ – so I’ve got some background here…

    The reason this stuff is important is because we (as humans) are ALWAYS communicating – so it’s nice to know when you’re being powerful – and when you’re not…

    John Kelly

  • wah

    that was quite interesting and some seemed familiar as well thank you!

  • Phytoplankton

    Foolish human.
    Now I have the psychological tools to control you all.

    I mean, do you mind if I control you all BECAUSE I am in a hurry?

  • Fschoo

    Interesting read. I can see myself been caught out with these tactics before. Will need to check them out better.

    – Fschoo -

  • David Locke

    Free does not work in consumer markets. In tech markets, it will work provided the tech has exit barriers. And, no, giving dog food to a geek for free won’t work, because you’ve turned your geek into a consumer, and the dog doesn’t care, as long as it gets fed.

    We did have a puppy that would only eat Gaines Burger, a fairly premium dog food back then.

  • Tom Williams

    @anon. It’s hardly a rip-off of Cialdini since he’s one of the authors.

  • Keri Scott

    Wow #35 is excellent!

  • miguel

    apparently we are all just a bunch of mindless gits’.

  • Matthew

    I read this book when Guy Kawasaki recommended it on Twitter. I loved it. It has already influenced so much of how I do things at work. Great book.

  • Rick Dean

    Ironically, people read the highest contrast text first, yet this psychology post chooses grey.

  • Mathieu


    Thanks – it’s 1:35 a.m. and your comment made me LOL, waking my wife and getting a stern look.

    Luckily she’s tired, so when I argued that laughing out loud was the only way for me to dispel the little energy I had left and get to sleep myself, she agreed and all was well.

  • Mathieu

    Oh – and Alex – I like your site but would LOVE it if you used the “more” tag to make the posts on your front page shorter and lessening the need to scroll.

  • Madcom

    Great summary. I am printing it out and will read it properly on paper. I am breaking my sustainability habit to do this – a compliment to your work!

  • soap

    ditto miguel. #35 esp is frightening. i’ll have to try it next time i’m in line at kinkos. def doesn’t work when waiting to check in for a flight.

  • Leo

    I’ve been wondering about that rhyming thing for a while. So many ideas seem to get traction because they sound good. “Stress test”, e.g., wouldn’t work nearly as well if it was called a “systematic evaluation of capital requirements.”

    Also, keep an ear out for stupid sayings that only exist because they rhyme … I’ve heard tons of them.


  • Testhaus

    I like #5 a lot.
    Keep it simple stupid!

  • Crayola

    Crayola makes “Cornflower Blue” not “Cornflower Yellow” … which by itself kind of defeats point #41.

  • Jeff Farr

    Great stuff. Sales meeting will never be the same.

  • Mike

    Head and Shoulders “flavors”? You’re not supposed to be drinking that stuff. It’s a shampoo.

  • propitiousmoment

    @Crayola: Cornflowers are blue, not yellow. It’s a species of small plant with soft blue flowers, about the shade of “cornflower blue” Crayola crayons. That’s why they don’t make “cornflower yellow.”

  • stealth

    NOw that media is decentralized, propaganda and persuasion will never be the same. Its quantity is now distributed through the hands of individuals (some the readers of this book surely), the power dispersed, & the humming, growing centralized hub goes hungry. The queen gets upset.

    Does this make ‘persuasion’ more benign, less potent? Is it better for some young girl to have defilement behinds some bar cause she got persuaded than for a whole nation, fixed on their black and whites, to suck in enough fear and complacency that they’re self righteous and enthusiastic perpetrators of a nuclear experience. How is this stuff in the hands of sociopaths, do you think? Oh wait- of course . . .

    Does light use ‘persuasive/hypnotic’ tools – Is there a realm of honesty these could abide?

    Well, as they say, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Good luck ya’ll.

  • Scott Randolph

    This was an interesting and enlightening read. I’m going to have to borrow a few of these ideas and share them with my readers – and see how many I can apply to new landing page designs.

  • katie

    @anon I don’t think an author can rip themselves off.

  • Bas

    I find it a nice read as well, but keeping in mind most of it is only usable or implementable with a few cases, most of it doesn’t concern a person. people are changing, they are more reasoning and most of the young people see through ad’s rather quickly.
    it’s fun this piece, but it’s close to being useless.

  • Alexander Dombroff

    Wow! I haven’t read so great a post in a long time! I tried to explain the greatness to my wife, but she didn’t care…I bet my twitter peeps will like it!

  • Miguel Alvarez

    I’m a big fan of Cialdini… will definitely buy this book now. =)

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  • Hedging

    I an an manager at a very large internet company and it is interesting to see how there are also correlations between this information and the current thinking on leading people. In my experience and also in some of the training I have received, there are definite correlations between what I have read on this page and what I have observed against other team managers at work and even what we were taught in management training. This is fascinating.

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  • tim

    this was not a very persuasive way to sell this book…..but giving away the kung fu was cool

  • Shawn

    Cool, I’ve been trying to get my boys to keep their rooms clean for the last 10 years by daily reminding – now I will just post signs that say:

    A donation has already been made to your future college fund for keeping your room spotless. The Management

  • Susan

    Shawn, wrong approach. They’ll simply say, the contribution has already been made, no since in cleaning up . Maybe a more persuasive idea is to say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea! I’ve been looking for a place in the house to store all our crap. You dont have to clean your room, anymore. We’ll just keep your door shut and I’ll put all my shit in your room. Then turn around and yell out, “Honey, I know where we can keep put your dirty gym closes.”

  • Busines

    Very nice! I think I will be buying the book. There’s one rule I live by in the business world, forgot where I heard it, maybe Seth Godin, but it’s, “Don’t make me think.” Pretend you’re talking to people with attention spans of a… mayfly (lifespan of 30 minutes).

  • ben morgan

    That book mentioned in the previous post is by Steve Krug and it is well worth reading. As was this whole article. One of the most fascinating things on the web I’ve read in a while.

  • H

    Quite a few of the results of the experiments or practices listed here can be given valid alternative explanations, and some are due to simple maths rather than psychology. I really hope that the book offers more comprehensive proof to these claims because all these can be knocked down by logic in a matter of minutes.

  • Uncle Al

    #51: You make more friends with a handshake and a gun than with a handshake alone. That is how the government sells social activism. The inevitable result is that people become independet contractors re Martin Luther, Al Capone, and Jesse Jackson’s fiefdom in Chicago.

  • Sib

    Propitiousmoment, you didn’t read very closely. “Crayola” is correct. There is no “cornflower yellow” color produced by Crayola, even though it was described as a selection in this article.

    Still feel superior?

  • spence

    bullet points are more easily retained…but these are helpful reminders all the same

  • Rob Lewicki

    RE: 21. Lower starting prices attract higher bids.

    So true. Starting an auction at $0.99 creates excitement and gets people bidding. This creates competition and higher bids from the aggressive competitors. Also the more bids you have, the more trusted your auction is.

  • acm

    #25 makes me wonder — might the same results support the conclusion that we internalize anecdotes better than generalities? Seems true in many other settings…

  • Deedra

    I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, the post or all the comments from readers. Thanks to you all for giving me a laugh today. I wish I had something clever to add…

  • hrobbins

    Interesting, some of these conflict with others I’ve observed/read about recently, namely:

    *) Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (aka FUD)
    – Examples too numerous to count

    *) People look to the loudest, most confident person for direction, even if that person proven wrong repeatedly
    – Jim Cramer, Bill O’Reilly, etc

    *) Nothing like manufacturing an (often imaginary) enemy to rally people into action
    – Go Shopping or the Terrorists win!

    Perhaps these are so obvious and common place they don’t require a mention?

  • scientist

    #23 is incorrect… Watson and Crick pilfered their female’s colleague’s (Rosalind Franklin) data while she was absent from the lab, because they knew they could get away with it. There are surely better examples of the open-mindedness, and discovery, that come from humility. Those two people are not it…

  • kath

    Loved these examples even though I agree with the last comment.
    The restauramnt mints were amazing.

  • Mark Klein

    after you’ve read about half of it, it starts to sound like crap. it’s written in that annoying infomercial way. after the first dozen “rules”, i was loving it and thinking i would save it. now i’m not so sure.

    in fact, i’d like to see the published research to back up these claims. those percentages seem made up.

    sorry, kid. i was loving it till about number 30: “there are three times as many dentists named dennis as any other name.” bullshit. bullshit. show me that study. let me look in the yellow pages – er, a search engine – and see if that holds up. even a 2:1 ratio in my search engine study would be convincing.

    #28 is true, except when it isn’t. it all depends on how/when you present things. sometimes admitting your mistakes makes you look more honest and confident, other times it make you look like a fuckup.

    to illustrate the two-sided nature of so many of the statements in this list, let’s make a broad generalisation and back it up with facts:

    1. as a leader, dressing humbly makes people respect you more. mohandas gandhi, a highly-educated indian lawyer, dressed in rags to show that he cared more about higher causes and callings than about mere materialism. as a result, people respected him as a man of ideas who shunned petty things. if you want to lead, dress badly!

    2. as a leader, dressing in expensive clothes makes people respect you more. kofi annan, a highly-educated man from a piss-poor nation, dressed in designer suits and dazzled the international community. although he was from a shit-ass third-world country, his sartorial style accentuated his charisma, his cosmopolitan nature, and his facility with disparate ideas and cultures. if you want to lead, dress snazzy!

    and on and on.

    there should have been a #51:

    fudge facts, including supposed studies backing your claims, and people will trust you. example: after reading this list, composed of false studies used to convince people of certain ideas, people were 91% more likely to buy my bullshit book, making me rich!

  • Case Everaert

    I agree with the previous writer. The authors should have taken heed of the fifth article, “too many options”. After about fifteen articles I stated to get restless and frustrated.

    One important point that often reappeared in different guises is that humans identitfy with real people. Real people are fallible and make mistakes. We don’t trust ‘smooth and polished’. In the book “Hit me again! .. I can still hear him!” written by my colleague John Miers, he stresses how great speakers are often those who laugh at themsleves when they forget what they were going to say or when they make a mistake.

  • Lucas

    I am going to try this on my kids…

    a sign on the wall…
    68% of the children living in this room make their own beds.

    I already use “because”…
    Go clean your room… Why? Because I SAID SO!

    A hand written post-it note…
    Please hang your towels up when you are done with them…

  • K Greenhaw

    Very interesting and informative!

    Good to know from two fronts: A. As a marketer trying to improve response rates and revenue. B. As a consumer learning to be more shrewd by learning the tricks of the trade.

    Either way you look at it, I think when you study human psychology and use its techniques to better communicate with your audience or customer, then both people win because there is more trust, understanding and satisfaction between both parties.
    AKA everybody wins!

  • randy

    @ #30

    So what profession are people named Randy most likely to dominate?

  • Laurie Sheppard

    Enjoyed this read. It’s certainly not the “only” 50 persuasive methods and probably not the only scientifically proven ones. Even so, this is an interesting compilation with several unique ones interspersed that I’ve not heard of or didn’t know the statistics of, such as the message machine stats in Japan and the U.S.

    I also appreciated the reminder that “…People are generally not thrilled to change their viewpoints…” and convincing them to see the merit in their earlier decision at the time they made it, “…allows them to be more responsive to the messages that imply a new product/idea.”

    Good work and appreciate the list.

  • Ben

    I like Rule # 51,
    I just want to add # 52 In any form of presentation, an error in an irrelevant fact (like cornflower yellow) will be pointed out by someone that thinks it makes them look important. My guess is at least 50% of the people either reading or listening to this person think they are full of themself.

    P.S. I made the grammatical error on purpose.

  • royniles

    Note that most of these techniques involve using the power of inference so that in the end the person being “persuaded” has been induced to take the final step on their own and thus thinks or at least feels that the decision was theirs and not made for them.

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  • Jason Wietholter

    This is a great set of tips. Thanks for the list. The “because” item really intrigued me.

  • Mike Stenger

    This was an extremely well put together post! I tweeted it from @mikestenger.

    Thanks once again,


  • Tony Gilbert

    Re “Ads quoting negative behavior en masse reinforces negative behavior”. I have been trying for years to get this same point across about tv shows that popularise anti-social behaviours. For example, a small group of teens in a borough of New York decides it’s fun to decorate parked cars with graffiti. Without mass media, this behaviour would be isolated to this small area, with minimal organic spread by observation. In our mass media world, it only needs to be mentioned on a news broadcast, videod for YouTube, or parodied on South Park, and suddenly there is no place left in the world where it’s safe to park your car any more. It’s gone from social abberation to social norm in 24 hours.

  • John Townsend

    Thanks Alex. You have provided an excellent summary.

    I read Caldini’s first book which inspired me greatly. He’s obviously added a lot more of his research findings in his latest book.

    Great work!

  • http://...... JoeBanana

    What a great contribution!!

    I totally agree with Tony Gillbert. But the investigation seems to point out a workaround for this: Accenting the fact that one should not do that, or that punishment is unavoidable once having done so, could counteract this behavior.

    I think…

  • Al Culo

    There is a way to get an extra item in a restaurant without having to pay the full price.

    If you order a sundae ice cream, it would cost 2 dollars. Instead, order 2 balls of ice cream and while the waitress is leaving, tell her ‘can you add some whipped cream on it too?’.

    It only works when the waitress is already going away to the counter, it will not work if you tell her this while she is taking the order because she will advise you to order a sundae instead of 2 balls of ice cream with whipped cream (both things are exactly the same, but you won’t pay the same price).

  • Al Culo

    I forgot to mention in my example that when ordering the 2 balls of ice cream with whipped cream at the last second it would be cheaper than a sundae, eventhough both products are exactly what we would call a sundae.

  • Ahmed

    I noticed a similarity between 45 and 46.
    He could have easily made these the same one or named 46 something along the lines of “people on caffeine are more receptive to arguments”.
    Agh I have read too many of these things. Now whenever I see any ad I’m going to find myself analyzing it.

  • Craig

    I think we have a lot to learn from children. Especially persuasion, the first couple of techniques I read exhibit this. I remember as a child I’d say “Well so and so gets to stay up until 10″ or “So and so gets £5 pocket money and he’s younger than me” or the old “Everyone else is allowed”. Obviously to have this attitude in adulthood wouldn’t work, however subtle phrasing could perhaps be beneficial in day to day communicating. It’s very interesting and a good article.

  • M.D. Wood

    After reading this well presented topic, I can’t help but be reminded of NLP (Neuro-Language Programming). Although it is basically used for therapy some of the 50 samples above are simply summarized in some of NLP”s techniques:

    a) Nos. 1 to 5, 8, 12, 14 to 16, 18, 20,26 and 35 will be under “Reframing”.
    b) Samples 29 to 32 will be in “Rapport” and “Anchoring”.
    c) 22, 25, 28, 43, 44, 45 47 will be under “Ecology/Congruency”.

    I might be wrong in relating the samples to the technique or I might have put the wrong sample in the wrong technique. If that is the case, my apology.

    Now, assuming that the samples compiled by Mr. Martin’s and Mr. Cialdini are factual, as a consumer, my question is: How do we protect ourselves from being sucked-in and not be “persuaded” unfairly? Personally, I think the answer will be based on ones common sense. If you know you don’t necessarily “NEED” something then don’t purchase. If it’s a matter of “WANT”, then I guess the choice is yours. BUT, when you think you are in doubt… simply DON’T!


  • Minority Fortune

    It’s a great list. Hadn’t even realized how many times I’ve unconsciously succumbed to these techniques. Very powerful stuff.

  • Tom

    For a more academic (but still fun) take on persuasiveness and rhetoric, take a look at ‘Thank You for Arguing’ by Jay Heinrichs. The study of persuasion has been around since Arostotle, and this book lays it all out. I find myself thinking about and using this stuff at work, it’s great.

  • Best Antivirus

    Well, let’s put it this way, “Demons I get, but people, they’re crazy”.

  • Layton Everson

    Do you by any chance have any sources for this information? I would love to be able to use it in school papers and the such.

  • Layton Everson

    Just kidding… :)

  • Jerry’s Mens Shirts

    What a great list… I spent 20 minutes on this page and wrote a couple of these down.

  • Jethro

    It works

  • Don

    Would you please provide a citation for each of these points? Thank you.

  • Yeda

    Many of the points above fail because they are based on the opinion of the subjects rather than on what the subjects actually did.
    Marketing research has to be based on what people actually do instead of what they think of a scenario presented to them.
    For instance, if you have two different AdWords advertisings for the same product and you ask a number of people which one they would be more likely to click through, you might expect a very different result if you actually publish those advertisings and take a look at their click through rates.
    This is because such decisions are made on impulse rather than pondered.

  • Stanley Rozewski

    I found these 50 ways to be interesting, enlightening, in most cases, a self portrait of my behavior. Some I’ve heard before. An interesting look into the minds of people in the general population and why, how, and what we think and act the way we do. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to understand how a psychologist thinks.

  • Morris72

    I think the citation is the first paragraph.

  • ssork

    love learnin techniques for persuasion. its ok about the sources i dont care. ill take it as a fact.

  • Kirjoshi1999

    Thanks for the post- very informative and doable indeed. Is it extra special to read the book too as you seem to have given the crux of the matter above anyway!!

  • Craig Leontowicz

    Really great list on the wonderfully strange behavior of the humans.

  • Anthony Wiley

    Hello this is a very interesting, I have to give some of this a try, Tony.

  • Davidara

    i cant believe i read till the end (i skipped a few, calm down)

    #6 is my fav

  • Peter L Masters MCIM

    A great list and very useful. I was told (and believe) this week that list with odd numbered content (i.e. 49 and not 50) get more response. I love knowing things like that!! Great stuff and immediately Stumbled! Best regards, Peter

  • Stevie

    It’s all subjective.

  • Brad Johnson

    Great content, thanks for sharing Alex.

  • Ryan Biddulph

    #5 resonates with me.

    Offer too many options and you won’t be able to make a decision. Make many possibilities a few possibilities, and your readers tend to select one of the options. Most have a difficult time concentrating in the midst of clutter; declutterize and make it easier for your customers.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Hells_mullet

    ya know what’s frunny? i do all of these things naturally in every day to day things. it just seems logical for some reason. i seriously didn’t realize there’s an apparently, unconscious motive behind these things that i do. go finger?

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    research suggests that while american students relied only on their own experience

  • Stye Treatment

    Yeah i agree, most of the ways really work…but #34 is my favorite :)

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  • Henjilyn Kho

    nice review. keep it up

  • Bangcok

    great article.
    but couldn’t understand # 40.

  • polo big pony

    we think and act the way we do. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to understand how a psychologist thinks.

  • Patricknoone

    hugely informative thanks for passing on the research

  • Nathan McGee

    Yes is one of the books I’ve been meaning to get to and I love your summary.  Like Cliff notes! I’ll still read the book, but now I have this to go back to when I’m searching for quick reference inspiration!

    You should also check out the book Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath (a lot of the same case studies there too).

  • Mark Zhang

    Thanks for summarizing. I was listening to the audio book and thought I had to do it myself…but you did the work for me =)

  • Edward

    If you read the full book it will become clear that the points are indeed based on what people actually did.

  • Chris

    Thank you for the summary. Listened to the audio book and wanted to do the summary on paper to read again, but you did all the work for us. Thanks.

  • Andréa Raquel

    No easy share button?

  • Djibril

    avrything is posible 

  • samuraiwriter

    Interesting ideas for marketers. Read also, ‘Influence’, by Prof. Cialdini.

  • samuraiwriter

    Interesting ideas for marketers. Read also, ‘Influence’, by Prof. Cialdini.

  • Payday Loans Online

     I agree with all points

  • Oodylife

    Thanks for Good Content..

  • Impanjtani

    Excellent info , i learn too much new ideas ,

  • SEO

    It’s so expensive, i had difficult, but i’ll try to fully learn, because i need it. thanks for this post.

  • John Loopmaster

    These are some interesting observations. I think many of them have worked on me in the past. Now that I am enlighten perhaps I be more aware of the persuasion around me

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  • Keyur Amin

    Reading was worth but lots of distractions in English as some of the letters are turned into symbols which is like a bump on the highway.

    But the content is top notch.

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  • Ashely Smith

    Wow very interesting read! I have seen the name thing many times and I have always thought that it is so odd. As a matter of fact, my gynecologist is named Gina!

  • Donne Roma

    Very informative list! Thanks for sharing!

  • satheesh wilson

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  • Miguel Roberg

    Great list. I only have one note on number 44. “Negative emotions make people pay more. Group A was exposed to an emotional movie about the death of someone close to the main character. Group B saw no such movie. Both groups were asked then to name a fair price at which they would buy the object presented to them. Group A tended to give prices 30% above Groups.”

    I feel this is not very accurate because I feel the buying response is based on empathy they felt for the many character and not because of negative emotions. Also, not enough information is given on the product. If they are trying to sell life insurance and they show someone struggling with a death of a close friend or relative then the buying behavior will be much higher because the viewer can easily connect with the main character. The content resonates with the target market.

    Overall, interesting list. Thanks for the information.

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