Archive for May, 2010

The Six Weapons of Influence – Part 2: “Commitment and Consistency”

In part one of this six-part article, I spoke about Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence.” They were Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. Now in part two, we are going to talk about the most fascinating influence-trigger out of the six.

Weapon number two: “Commitment and Consistency: A Two-Stage Influencer”

People will tend to behave consistently with choices they’ve already made, even very small choices. If I can get you to commit to something small (e.g. wearing an awareness ribbon, signing a petition, seeing yourself as a certain “type” of person), then you will be more likely to commit to bigger actions (e.g. giving time or money) later on.

For example, if at the beginning of an evening of drinking, I can get you to acknowledge that you’re a “trouble-maker,” then you will be increasingly likely to be dancing on the bar before the evening is over.

Read more…


The Six Weapons of Influence – Part 1: “Reciprocity”

Dr Robert Cialdini

No good discussion on influence and persuasion can go very far without talking about the man who wrote the book on influence…literally.

Before retiring in 2009, Dr. Robert Cialdini was the Regents’ Professor of Psychology and W.P. Carey Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Arizona State University. His book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, was first published in 1984 and is one of the seminal works on persuasion in marketing (and in life).

Cialdini identifies six “weapons” of influence, by which he means six behavioral triggers that tend to induce automatic and predictable compliance. They are Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity.

There are several excellent blog posts on this subject, all taking the weapons of influence and talking about them from a different angle:

PersuasiveWeb talks about the weapons in terms of increasing site conversions and downloads.

Social Media Examiner and Web Marketing Savvy apply the weapons to understanding social media.

Infuse asks how we can tell the quality of an influencer.

Shae Baxter reviews the book from the point of view of never getting duped again.

I’m going to discuss each weapon individually. Here we go.

Weapon number one: “Reciprocity: the old give and take …and take”

Read more…

Everything You Think You Know About Self-esteem Is Wrong

Dr. Mark Leary, of Duke University

About ten years ago, Mark Leary and his colleagues turned the idea of self-esteem on its head. His ideas explain a ton of human behavior that could not formerly be explained any other way.

When I was in school, they were just starting to figure out that there was a link between self-esteem (defined then as how one felt about one’s own personal worth), and positive achievement. They saw that those with higher self-esteem achieved more and seemed more positively motivated, while those with low self-esteem seemed more rebellious and achieved less.

What did they do with this knowledge? For about thirty or forty years, they gave everyone a trophy. They groomed the A-for-effort generation, and stopped keeping score at little league games. As long as children learned to value themselves from an early age – so conventional wisdom told our parents – they would be programmed to think highly of themselves as young adults and go on to achieve great things.

Essentially, the greatest minds of the most well-educated generation up to that time sought to make their offspring into ultra high achievers by – wait for it – removing all challenge and competition from their lives.


On top of this foolishness, old ideas of the self-esteem motive could not explain unmotivated, criminal or sociopathic behavior from people who had abnormally high self-esteem. Nor could it explain the inefficacy of psychological self-esteem therapy, where the patient would try to counter depression and low motivation via positive self-talk.

Dr. Mark Leary is a psychologist at Duke University, but he was formerly at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem when, in 1999, he published “Making Sense of Self Esteem.” His theory is elegant in that it changes the definition of self-esteem and systematically explains a lot of previously unexplainable behavior.

Read more…

How Attraction Works

May 17, 2010 9 comments

When I introduced Johnstone’s concept of the Status Transaction, I suggested that the status hierarchy came from evolutionary biology, and that human were similar to other animals that operated in packs and had a discernable “pecking order.”

One of the precepts regarding the biological pecking order is that those at the top of the order are rewarded for their position with more mating opportunities.

It turns out, attraction is biological (which is to say not a matter of choice), and goes hand-in-hand with the Status Transaction. This is actually true of humans as well as animals.  The Status Transaction goes a long way to explaining why we feel attraction towards certain people, and not towards other people.

There is one columnist for, a dating expert named David Deangelo, who really keys-in on the concept of status transactions and puts it in a dating context.  His writing lets you see easily how status plays into dating.  He believes that attraction to others isn’t a choice, or anything we can alter logically. But it is something we can spark and maintain.

Read more…

Social Validation and the Drive for Success

May 11, 2010 2 comments

Just a quick post this time. I wanted to call attention to some insight that I read on a blog called The Psychology of Success, hosted by Dr. Bakari Akil II. In one of his recent posts, he notes the psychological force of social validation, and how it can act as a motivational force for success.

Akil references the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, who wrote a very famous book called Influence. Cialdini identifies six “weapons” of influence that people leverage upon one another in order to get what they want. One of the weapons he identifies is the concept of Social Proof…the idea that something is desirable and worth more simply because it is desired by many others.

Read more…

The Single Biggest Mistake Actors Make, and How To Fix It Now

May 10, 2010 2 comments

This weekend, I was re-reading Shurtleff in order to talk about some of his guideposts in “People-triggers”. As I was reading, a single point became excruciatingly clear as Shurtleff highlighted it over and over: 99 out of every hundred actors never move beyond a one-dimensional reading of the script, and 50 out of every hundred never even understand the single dimension correctly.

Michael Shurtleff

Playwright and Casting Director Michael Shurtleff

Usually in any given script, the negatives are obvious and the positives are between-the-lines. Drama is written and friction and confrontation, so the most overt elements of a script are the fights and impulses to separate. The characters are deadlocked and hate each other, and that’s all there is to it.  When most all actors fail to realize is if that were the complete and total picture, the characters would simply turn off and walk away, and the scene wouldn’t actually happen.

Read more…

“The Dream”…What We Do For Our Own Secret Ideals

One crucial element of our own secret motivations is the concept of “the Dream”.  This concept applies equally to acting theory, to advertising, and to real life.

Acting Studio ChicagoAmong the many scene analysis and preparation questions that the Acting Studio Chicago indoctrinates into its students is: “what is my (i.e. the character’s) dream, and what can I do to my partner to make this dream come true today?” Every person has a dream for themselves: a secret ideal that is usually impractical but theoretically attainable. These dreams are usually irrational, and at times conflicted, vague and possibly even self-defeating. Most people cannot articulate their dream; it remains stuffed away in the sub-conscious mind. But regardless of how conscious we are of our dreams or how nebulous they might be, we always act to further them. Read more…