- Pre-Suasion – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
- by Robert Cialdini
- Copyright 2016
- Publisher – Simon & Schuster
- 233 pages (+ about 180 pages of footnotes & other “back matter”)
Rating – 6/10
Summary – You can’t go home again. Roughly 30 years ago, Robert Cialdini wrote the outstanding book Influence. 30 years later, he returns with the his follow up, Pre-Suasion. The new book isn’t bad, but you should start with Influence.
Review – One thing that research teaches us is that the higher our expectations, the harder we are to please. Maybe I should have realized that I was setting myself up for dashed hopes when I got so excited about Robert Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion. I’m certifiably cheap, but I went all in and bought Pre-Suasion new and in hardcover.
About 10 years ago, I’d read Cialdini’s Influence and thoroughly enjoyed it. In Influence, Cialdini provides six methods that we use to sway others. (They are 1 – social proof, 2 — commitment, 3 – reciprocation, 4 – liking, 5 – authority, and 6 – scarcity). Unlike most popular psychology books, Cialdini’s six principles are based on solid research. Cialdini made his living as a faculty member in psychology at Arizona State University.
To Be Fair
While I don’t think that Pre-Suasion is particularly good, it does have its moments. The book’s thesis is that the actions that we take before we try to influence people are critical to our success. This is a good point and Cialdini does a good job of showing the implications of pre-suasion.
One interesting point is that people tend to believe that “what’s focal is causal.” This means that if we can see something, we tend to believe that it causes other things that are happening in the environment. For example, if people watch a recording of a police interrogation and the suspect is in the center of the picture, people are more likely to believe that the suspect did it. But if people see a recording of the same interrogation and the camera focused on the police officer, people are much less likely to believe that the suspect was guilty.
Another fascinating finding discusses which advertising appeals work in which situations. Cialdini and his fellow researchers hypothesized that – due to our evolution in a dangerous world – we would be more receptive to appeals emphasizing the popularity of products if we were watching scary TV programs (because there is safety in numbers when we feel threatened).
On the other hand, if romance is possible, we want to be separate from the herd so that we can receive our potential mate’s advances without the presence of competition. (Of course, being alone also gives us a chance to respond to the advances). So, when we are watching TV programs with romantic storylines, we are more receptive to ads that tell us we can “stand out from the crowd.”
Why I Wasn’t Pre-Suaded
I think that Pre-Suasion would be excellent as a 50-page addendum to Influence. But it is “padded out” – there’s just not enough material for a book. Cialdini labors to make it work, but – if you’ve read Influence – you can’t miss the redundancy in Pre-Suasion.
The padding includes a section recounting Cialdini’s six influence principles (pp. 151-172). Also, Cialdini includes a mildly-interesting section on the ethics of persuasion and influence (pp. 209-223). I don’t know if Cialdini really cares about the ethical implications of persuasion or if he just needed more material.
My Advice – Maybe I’ll Influence You
Cialdini is a smart, interesting thinker. If this sort of material intrigues you, I recommend finding a copy of Influence, which has terrific material and is a lot of fun to read. If you enjoy Influence, you might consider also reading Pre-Suasion.
In summary, Pre-Suasion’s worth a look, but I don’t know that I would pay “full retail” for a copy.