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2018 Book #22 - Influence: Science & Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

This is a social psychology text, but written in a fairly breezy style; it's sold several million copies to the public. The author explains the principles by which "compliance professionals" manipulate consumers, voters, prisoners of war, experiment subjects, etc., (basically all of us), into going along with their wishes, even when it's not in our interests.


It was written in the 80s but I don't think there have been any major upheavals in its subject matter, though I am aware of some recent studies (mostly using FMRIs) that seem to me to strengthen the notion that most of our decision making is nonconscious and subject to manipulation by well-understood techniques. Interestingly, the techniques that work are the same, whether you're an Amway recruiter reeling in "distributors" (suckers) or a Chinese communist trying to get American POWs to give propaganda radio broadcasts. They're depressingly effective.

He's great at elucidating the principles and how bunco artists, sales people, TV execs, politicians, and cult leaders use them. Very convincing. He's much less persuasive in his instructions on how to protect yourself from them.

If you're interested in social psychology, this is a great overview of a major area of it. For a more in-depth & frightening study, I recommend Stanley Milgram's Obedience To Authority, which he refers to at some length.

Tags: 2018 book reviews
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