Dr. Robert Cialdini - The Art of Influence

The Seven Principles of Persuasion

In this wide ranging episode as Auren chats with the legendary Dr. Robert Cialdini, the mastermind behind the game-changing book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." This top 5 favorite read of Auren's has revolutionized everything from marketing to politics, offering priceless wisdom on the art of influence and its ethical use in our ever-evolving world. The discussion dives into a whirlwind of fascinating topics, making it an absolute must-listen for anyone who interacts with people regularly (so, pretty much all of us!). Don't miss out!


“People do what’s in their best interests. But it doesn’t have to be their monetary best interests – it can be psychological, social, community interests.”

"The single most effective persuasive approach is not to have a single persuasive approach. That's a fool's game to think that the same way, the same technique is going to work for all populations in all situations under all circumstances."

The Seven Principles of Persuasion

Dr. Cialdini outlines seven key principles that form the foundation of effective influence:

  1. Reciprocity: People are more likely to comply with requests from those who have provided something first. This principle can be leveraged by offering value, information, or assistance before making an ask.

  2. Scarcity: Items or opportunities perceived as rare or dwindling in availability become more attractive. This principle is often used in marketing to create a sense of urgency.

  3. Authority: In times of uncertainty, people look to credible, knowledgeable sources for guidance. Establishing genuine expertise and trustworthiness is crucial for effective persuasion.

  4. Social Proof: We often look to others, especially peers, to guide our choices. Highlighting popularity or trends can significantly influence decision-making.

  5. Commitment and Consistency: People strive to be consistent with their past commitments. Securing small initial commitments can lead to larger ones down the line.

  6. Liking: We're more inclined to be influenced by those we like. Building rapport through similarities and genuine compliments can enhance persuasive efforts.

  7. Unity: People favor those they consider "one of them." Emphasizing shared identities or tribes can be a powerful persuasive tool.

talking speed: not too fast now

Ethical Application of Influence Principles

Throughout the discussion, Dr. Cialdini emphasizes the critical importance of using these principles ethically. He advises against manufacturing false scarcity or authority, instead encouraging the use of genuine information and established credibility. The goal should be to guide people towards choices that are truly in their best interest, not to manipulate or deceive.

Practical Applications in Business and Marketing

Dr. Cialdini offers several practical tips for applying these principles in business and marketing contexts:

  • Use multiple testimonials rather than relying on a single "best" authority

  • Leverage trends to show growing popularity rather than static numbers

  • In sales, walk potential clients through a timeline of commitments to build consistency

  • Use reciprocity by providing value before making requests

He also touches on the power of scarcity in marketing, citing examples of how limiting availability can dramatically increase demand.

The Dark Side of Persuasion: Cults and Political Tribalism

The conversation takes a serious turn as Dr. Cialdini discusses the dangers of tribalism in politics and cult-like thinking. He warns that when factions supersede facts, it can lead to a degradation of critical thinking and a vulnerability to manipulation. This phenomenon is particularly concerning in the current political climate, where tribal affiliations can sometimes outweigh objective information.

AI and the Future of Persuasion

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, Dr. Cialdini suggests the need for AI models that can detect deception to counter potentially manipulative AI-generated content. This highlights the ongoing need for ethical considerations in the development and application of persuasive technologies.

The Power of Authenticity and Humor

Dr. Cialdini discusses the role of humor and authenticity in effective communication. He cites examples of public figures like Guy Kawasaki who use self-deprecating humor to build rapport and credibility. This approach can be particularly effective in buffering against potential negative reactions to self-promotion.

Lessons from Charlie Munger

Dr. Cialdini shares personal anecdotes about his relationship with Charlie Munger, highlighting Munger's insights on incentives. He emphasizes that incentives are not just monetary but can also be psychological or social, aligning with the principles of influence he has identified.

Avoiding the "One-Size-Fits-All" Approach

One of the key takeaways from the conversation is the importance of flexibility in persuasive approaches. Dr. Cialdini advises against relying on a single favorite technique, instead advocating for adapting strategies to different situations and audiences. This adaptability is crucial for effective persuasion across various contexts.

The Ongoing Relevance of Influence Principles

As our world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, understanding the principles of influence becomes ever more crucial. Whether in business, politics, or personal interactions, the insights provided by Dr. Cialdini offer a valuable framework for ethical and effective persuasion.

By applying these principles with integrity and adapting them to specific contexts, we can become more effective communicators and decision-makers. As we navigate the challenges of the modern world, from AI-driven content to political polarization, the ethical application of these influence principles can help guide us towards more constructive and mutually beneficial interactions.

The full transcript of the podcast can be found below:

Auren Hoffman (00:24.686)

Hello fellow data nerds, my guest today is Bob Cialdini. Bob is the world renowned psychologist and author. He is the, his seminal work influence. The psychology of persuasion was published, 1984, 40 years ago. And it's a classic in the field. And it's really one of my top five recommended books. in fact, Charlie Munger frequently cited it as one of his all time favorite business book. Bob, welcome to world of deaths.

Robert Cialdini (00:51.891)

Well, thank you, Auren. I'm glad to be with you and your listeners.

Auren Hoffman (00:56.078)

I'm really excited now. I'd like to start with like the basics for people who maybe aren't as familiar. There's these seven kind of principles of persuasion. Can you kind of like walk, you don't have to walk us through all of them, but walk us through some of the ones that maybe people don't appreciate as much and some examples of them.

Robert Cialdini (01:14.035)

Sure, I'll try to do that briefly. The first is the principle of reciprocation. People say yes to those they owe. So the implication for us is that if we go first and give benefits or information or advantages, before we sign a contract, before we have an agreement, people are much more inclined to want to say yes to us because we have given first. Second principle.

Auren Hoffman (01:41.934)

when I ride the subway car and some like cult persons trying to give me a flower, they're trying to give me something small to get me like engaged with them. Is that the way it works or?

Robert Cialdini (01:50.835)

Exactly right. I mean, that when when that happens and you accept the flower, it's very difficult to to give it back. They won't take it back for one thing. But then I used to watch people in airports fall for this and they didn't want the flower. They didn't want the book that they were given or whatever. But if they couldn't give it back, they would wind up giving something in return. It's a very powerful principle exists in all human cultures.

Auren Hoffman (01:59.182)

Yep. Yep.

Auren Hoffman (02:16.654)


Robert Cialdini (02:18.483)

you must not take without giving in return. We can leverage that by just being benefactors before we ask. We arrange a circumstance so that we are providing information or some kind of services to people. They stand on the balls of their feet, ready to say yes to us when we have a request or recommendation to all. Next principle is the principle of scarcity.

Now, no surprise that people want more of those things they can have less of. So if we can arrange to show them that what we have is unique or uncommon, rare, or dwindling in availability, it becomes more attractive for it.

Auren Hoffman (03:10.254)

Sometimes when I go to the grocery store, I'll see something like, the maximum allowed to buy of these is three. And I would have never even thought to even buy more than one. But once I see that sign, I kind of want to buy all three.

Robert Cialdini (03:22.931)

That's such a good insight because it's backed up with research. There was a big supermarket firm that did that exactly. They put that little card below the array of a product. They got twice as much response as they have ever gotten to a, yeah. If you can't have, you know that FOMO fear of missing out? That's what they're leveraging there, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (03:41.55)

my gosh.

Auren Hoffman (03:46.574)

Yeah, yeah. Hmm. Okay, interesting.

Okay, what's the third one? This is great.

Robert Cialdini (03:54.739)

Third is the principle of authority. When we're uncertain, we don't look inside ourselves for answers because all we see is the confusion. We look outside and one primary place is to authorities, the voices of people who are competent and experienced, knowledgeable on a topic. So if we can show them that we have that authority or that we have

testimonials from people who are acknowledged authorities for what it is that we're saying, we significantly increase the likelihood of our success. There's a nice piece of research that shows, by the way, encounter to what a lot of advertising agencies claim, which say, if you've got testimonials, just present your best one, because the...

Other testimonials from other experts will dilute your best argument. Turns out that's not true.

Auren Hoffman (04:56.27)

And the best one, meaning the person with the most authority or, or the, or, or just like the most powerful one or.

Robert Cialdini (05:04.083)

Yes, the one that sings your praises with the most gusto and eloquence, right?

Auren Hoffman (05:10.158)

And what do you think of these like, you know, eight out of 10 dentists agree that my product is the bit like, do you think those are good things or not so good?

Robert Cialdini (05:18.739)

Those are very good things. Research shows, but there's a little caveat there that has to do with your honesty in this. Research shows that if you say nine out of 10 people who purchase our product report favorable experiences with it, if you say 90%, you get more positive reactions.

because you've given something specific rather than just number that you pull out the top of your head or someplace lower. But here's the interesting thing. If you say 89 % do, you get the most.

Auren Hoffman (05:51.722)


Auren Hoffman (05:59.694)

Cause it's, it just sounds more believable or, or, okay.

Robert Cialdini (06:02.067)

It sounds more believable. You are being not just specific, you are being trustworthy in the presentation of this. And the single most effective authority communicator we have ever identified, behavioral scientists around the world, is the credible authority, one that has expertise and trustworthiness. Well.

Auren Hoffman (06:25.134)

Because nowadays we often doubt authorities, right? Like if we, if we see somebody in a lab coat who's pitching a product or something like that, we think, it's an actor or, or, or even if it's not, you know, even if they're a well -known person, like, they're getting paid to do it. And so, you know, how do we, how do you know it's like a trusted authority or how does one convey that?

Robert Cialdini (06:41.843)

Right. Right.

Robert Cialdini (06:46.451)

Right. Exactly. That's why providing multiple authorities rather than a single one works so well. It's clear that you haven't just picked one, you haven't cherry picked one. You've got multiple and they don't dilute the quality of your best one. Your best one is still there. They reinforce that person's opinion and you get the census, a sense of a consensus of opinion.

Auren Hoffman (06:59.246)

Cherry picked, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (07:15.731)

And that out distances a single best one every time.

Auren Hoffman (07:21.102)

Okay, that's the third, what's the fourth one? This is great. Let's keep going.

Robert Cialdini (07:23.187)

Fourth one is social proof. Again, when you're uncertain, you don't look inside, you look outside. One place you look is to your authority figures, experts. The other place you look is to your peers. What are the people around you like you saying or doing with regard to a particular opportunity? If they're all raving about a new restaurant or many of them about a new piece of software, well.

They've beta tested it for you. You don't have to do it yourself. If a lot of people like you, not just many people, but many comparable people, then you assume, well, then this is going to be right for me. So if you have the evidence of a movement in your direction of market share of popularity, you make that, you make that prominent. Now, if you don't have that, there's a little,

Auren Hoffman (07:53.838)


Robert Cialdini (08:23.539)

approach that works. Let's say you only have 20 % of your established customer base to buy your new model, the one that you think is better. If you say 20 % of our customer base, just like you, that reduces success because that means 80 % have not. But if you use the 20 % as the end of a trend,

And you say, three months ago, it was 10%. Two months ago, it was 15%. Now it's 20%. It's the same 20%. But people project that into the future. And you get significantly more compliance.

Auren Hoffman (08:56.75)

Now it's 20%. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (09:04.942)


You know, I found like just selling software, which is what I have traditionally found selling enterprise software is just like the most powerful slide is the logo slide of my customers. Here's the list of my customers that are out there. And the hardest thing for me is sometimes you have customers that won't, that, that say, Hey, you can't put me on your logo slide. and so let's say Goldman Sachs is your customer and you really want to tell everyone in the world, because so that's such a great customer to have.

Robert Cialdini (09:18.611)


Auren Hoffman (09:36.59)

They don't put you on there. Is there, is there a way to like help get your customers to like help them get that social proof?

Robert Cialdini (09:46.611)

There is, and it goes back to reciprocity. What have you done for them first to make them obligated to you, to make them feel, well, I owe something in return for what I've done. You have to reverse engineer that situation so that's in place. And then they say, well, okay, all right, what can I do? In fact, there was a study done by Citibank and they found that in a British -based,

Auren Hoffman (09:50.542)

Mmm, okay.

Auren Hoffman (10:01.55)

Yeah, yep.

Auren Hoffman (10:09.806)


Robert Cialdini (10:15.443)

cultures, the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the single thing that was most likely to lever people in Citibank's management programs, if somebody asked for a favor was, has this person done a favor for me? Then you're just almost helpless. Yeah, OK, then it's my turn. Yeah. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (10:36.046)

Yeah. Yep.

Yeah, yeah.

Yep. Yep. Okay. That makes sense. this is great. Okay. What's the what's the fifth one?

Robert Cialdini (10:47.091)

So the first one is commitment and consistency. The idea that people want to be and to be seen as consistent with the commitments they have already made, especially in public and especially in your presence. So for example, there was a study done in Chicago. A restaurateur was having problems with people who were no showing.

After making a booking, they wouldn't call ahead. They wouldn't cancel. They just wouldn't appear. It was a big problem. He listened to what his receptionist said, which was, thank you for calling Gordon's restaurant. Please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation. He asked her, because he had read my book, he asked her to say, will you please call if you have to change? And that's exactly right. Pause.

Auren Hoffman (11:39.566)

or make them say yes or no.

Robert Cialdini (11:44.787)

Let them fill that silence with a commitment. And unannounced no shows dropped by 64 % that day and never went back up.

Auren Hoffman (11:49.262)

Mm -hmm.

Auren Hoffman (11:58.766)

Interesting. When I've been selling software, usually what we do is we kind of like walk with, let's say it's a three month sales cycle. We'll kind of walk with them backward and say, okay, look, three months from now is, is kind of like when this thing normally gets sold. So, okay. That means that two months from now, we need to have all this stuff done because you have to bring it to your committee. And that means one month from now, we need to have these other things done. And then we kind of walk through and then we all agree. Okay. And they want to get it. They want, they want to get it sold too. So they, they, they.

Robert Cialdini (12:21.459)


Auren Hoffman (12:28.142)

We all work together and we all kind of like sign our name and that that's committing ourself as well. Like we have to commit to work to get done and they're committing theirself to that process.

Robert Cialdini (12:31.411)


Robert Cialdini (12:35.411)

That's right. That's really brilliant. That's really brilliant because both sides have to commit. Have you ever had somebody back out after you've, you know, here's how you can, all right, here's what you can do. Send them an email that says, I'm so glad that we have agreed to this. I'm so glad that I've mentioned it to all my staff and all of my friends that we're going to be working together and now they're publicly committed.

Auren Hoffman (12:45.006)

Yeah, all the time. Yeah, they back out all the time for sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (13:00.174)

My board, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (13:04.659)

to it based on what they've already said. And the more public and that, here's another thing. If you've ever got a meeting that you're running where you assign people a task to complete by the next week, don't let anybody out of the room until you say, will you? Just like in Gordon's restaurant. And pause. Let them say, yeah, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (13:32.782)

Yeah, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (13:33.555)

You significantly increase the likelihood that they will because they're on record. Yeah. Okay. Next is liking. No surprise. People prefer to say yes to those they know, to those they like and well, well, how do you get them to like you? Right. Two things stand out. Similarities that they're, we have, we have the same taste in whatever, you know,

Auren Hoffman (13:37.678)

Yeah, that's great.

Robert Cialdini (14:02.483)

And compliments, genuine compliments that you give them. I used to be a real laggard in this last one. I can't remember. I mean, I remember how many times I've been in meetings with graduate students and I say to myself, well, that was a really smart thing that Aron just said. And I say it to myself. And I lose all of the well -being that goes with announcing it.

Auren Hoffman (14:22.318)


Auren Hoffman (14:29.134)

It has to obviously has to be genuine and kind of unique to them ideally, right?

Robert Cialdini (14:31.731)

Yeah. All of this has to be genuine. There has to be genuine scarcity. There has to be genuine authority. There has to be genuine social proof. Yeah. And then nobody loses. Nobody loses. Two people like each other more now. So similarity that...

Auren Hoffman (14:50.158)

Yep. And it can be, couldn't be off top. Like obviously it could be on topic. Like you mentioned this, but it couldn't be even be off topic. Like you like their shoes or something. And like,

Robert Cialdini (15:00.755)

Yeah, you, yes, you could. I mean, as long as it's, it's real, but the more on topic, the better, the more on topic or, or even something like where you give them a reputation to live up to. You say, you know, I really like how you come to the meetings, prepared. They're going to come prepared to the next one.

Auren Hoffman (15:03.694)

Genuine. Yeah. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (15:16.014)

prepared. Yeah. yeah. Okay. Yeah. Yep. Yep. That's a great one.

Robert Cialdini (15:22.707)

OK, then the last is a new principle that we've developed called the unity principle, which has to do with the extent to which, let's say it this way, people say yes to those they consider one of them. That is, not just similar to them in taste and cuisine or movies or fashion, one of them. They're in a tribe.

Auren Hoffman (15:46.798)

So they're kind of like in the same tribe in a way, or they're in their same. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (15:51.035)

They share an identity, a social identity. And all you have to do is when you see that and you raise it to consciousness, they're more likely than to be loyal. People want to follow and favor those who are in their tribes, who are in their categories that they count. I'll give you an example of a study done on a university campus. Researchers took a young woman about

Auren Hoffman (15:53.998)


Robert Cialdini (16:19.667)

college age, dressed like a college student, and had her stand in front of a table for United Way, asking students who were going by to donate. And she was getting some results because she had liking going for them, similarity, right? About the same age, about the same clothing. But if in half of the cases, she said, excuse me.

Would you donate to the United Way? I'm a student here like you. Donations went up 450%. You don't say no to one of you.

Auren Hoffman (16:58.446)


Auren Hoffman (17:02.67)

Got it. So you felt like, okay, that's part of my tribe. Is there something in a tribe where it's almost like there's something about like, okay, we're together on this thing, but we're also against this other thing. Like part of being in a school at Ohio state is also hating Michigan or something, right? Like, is there something about like, okay, we also don't like those guys together.

Robert Cialdini (17:06.643)


Robert Cialdini (17:22.387)

Michigan, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (17:28.723)

There is. To really solidify the we, there has to be a they that you can distance yourself and distinguish yourself from. And it elevates you and your group, the norms, the values, the beliefs inside that group. It's unfortunate, but that is the case.

Auren Hoffman (17:56.654)

How does one like that? That's what made me like, how does, like if you're in a sales motion or some other type of thing, how do you, how, how do you join? How do you figure out what tribe the other person's even in or something? It's like, are we the, we're the engineers and we're kind of fighting against the management together or something.

Robert Cialdini (18:07.763)

Use that.

Robert Cialdini (18:11.699)

Sometimes, yeah, yeah, right. Sometimes you can do that. That's exactly right. I mean, if you're creative, you can find things where you share an identity. I did it with a long -term colleague. Turns out I needed something from him in the same day because I was writing a grant report and it needed to be completed and sent off the next morning.

And I had a section of it that was incomplete, really wasn't compelling. But I knew that my colleague in the psych department had done a study that generated the data that I needed. But he hadn't written it up yet. It was still in his archives. So I sent him an email. I said, Tim, I really need this. I explained it. It's due the next day. I'm going to call you to try to arrange to get the data to me. And this is the first time I've ever seen a study that was incomplete.

Tim was known as a sour, irascible guy in our place. So I call him up. He says, hello, Bob. I know why you're calling. And the answer is no. Look, you're a busy man. I'm a busy man. And I said, but I have to have it tomorrow. He said, Bob, I can't be the correction to your poor time management skills.

Auren Hoffman (19:07.374)


Robert Cialdini (19:32.435)

I'm not responsible for it. And if I hadn't read the research on unity, I would say, come on, Tim, I need it. It's going to do it tomorrow. He had already said no to that. Here's what I said. Come on, Tim, I need it. We've been members of the same psychology department now for 12 years. I had the data that afternoon.

Auren Hoffman (19:55.598)

Hmm. Okay. Cause that's a very exclusive tribe.

Robert Cialdini (20:00.819)

But how many times have we done business with people for long periods of time? As partners, as clients, as coworkers, if we just be, and we have a request, we would be fools of the influence process if we didn't begin by saying, you know, we've worked together well for the last X. I really wish you could do this for me.

Auren Hoffman (20:06.35)

Yep. Mmm.

Robert Cialdini (20:30.291)

That's all. Just bring it to consciousness. Like bringing worse students at the same university. I mean, they probably thought this girl standing next to the thing was a student, but until they were, unity was brought to consciousness. I'm like you. I'm a student here like you. It didn't have an effect.

Auren Hoffman (20:50.006)

Now that you've seen these practice over many, many years, which of these principles or which of these things do you think is the most misunderstood?

Robert Cialdini (21:02.355)

It's the principle of authority. People confuse being in authority with being an authority. Being in authority works in the situa - it's your boss. That's power. That's power. It's not persuasion. There's - maybe it's even coercion, depending on how the boss approaches you and so on. People hate that. They resent it. And when the boss can't monitor the behavior,

Auren Hoffman (21:04.366)


Auren Hoffman (21:12.718)

You just, you're your boss or something.

Mm -hmm. Yep.

Robert Cialdini (21:31.315)

They go around the side of it or they torpedo it because they resent that. If instead you come on as an authority who has information that will allow them to produce better outcomes in their lives, right? They want to follow that when you're gone. We don't have to be there monitoring them. It's

Auren Hoffman (21:32.654)

Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.

Robert Cialdini (21:58.195)

It's the concept that they were a credible source of information. You believe that information more. And it's the one that has legs. It's the one that produces durable effects.

Auren Hoffman (22:09.838)

Now, a lot of people, most of our listeners are in like the tech world or data world. What do you think are some examples like tech companies could apply from some of these principles?

Robert Cialdini (22:20.403)

Well, Apple does it amazingly. Well, the way that they release their new generations, their new models, like iPhones and so on, and they produce long lines of people outside the door all night in sleeping bags. You know what that does? It does two principles. It gets two principles here. And let me explain it by a true story. There was one of those long lines, I think it was for Apple.

Auren Hoffman (22:34.862)

Right. Scarcity. Yep.

Robert Cialdini (22:50.195)

or something like that. And people had stayed. And my local TV station sent a reporter to interview those people. What did you do? Why are you doing this? And by the way, did you have sociable conversations with the people around you? And you built your shared identity as an Apple user? And they said, yeah. And this one woman said, yeah. In fact, I'm number 23 in line right now.

Auren Hoffman (22:58.926)


Auren Hoffman (23:11.054)

Mm -hmm.

Robert Cialdini (23:19.635)

But I used to be number 25 and I had a conversation with the woman who was 23 who admired my shoulder bag. It's a $2 ,800 Louis Vuitton bag. And I said to her, I'll tell you what.

my bag for your place in mine.

Auren Hoffman (23:43.182)

my gosh, what a story.

Robert Cialdini (23:45.395)

All right. Two steps, right? And to her credit, the reporter said, what? Why would you do that? Well, there are two reasons. One is that long line that Apple created also created social proof. People like me want this thing. The second thing it did was to produce scarcity. And she said that...

Auren Hoffman (23:47.374)

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (23:52.622)


Auren Hoffman (24:05.39)


Robert Cialdini (24:14.483)

this woman to the journalist.

I heard they didn't have a lot of them at this location, and I didn't want to lose the chance to get one. Scarcity. That combination produced that trade. Mind boggling.

Auren Hoffman (24:25.902)

My shot.

Auren Hoffman (24:38.03)

No, when I, when I was in high school, it was kind of like pre internet. I used to wait on these long lines for tickets to concerts. that's how you would get concerts and it come, you know, there's a local place and you would just wait forever. And, in fact, in some ways that's how you got rewarded. You could buy the tickets for 40 bucks in and kind of immediately sell them for 60 if you wanted to. but nowadays like these things are like online, it's all, and they're kind of like, maybe they're manufactured like.

Robert Cialdini (24:44.755)

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (25:02.323)


Auren Hoffman (25:06.19)

How does one kind of think about it now that they're online?

Robert Cialdini (25:08.947)

You know who does it? Booking .com, which is this company that provides hotel rooms and so on. They found that at first when they were doing this, they were getting pretty good results. If they added, which you can see now, only three rooms left and six people are looking at them right now.

Auren Hoffman (25:29.454)

a timer or something.

yeah, yeah, I always see that, yeah.

Mm -hmm.

Robert Cialdini (25:39.923)

They did that and the marketing department called the tech group and said, there's a problem. We're getting so many requests. There must be a problem with our technology. They said, no, no. It just happened that one, the competition for a scarce and desirable resource.

Auren Hoffman (25:56.43)


Auren Hoffman (26:09.006)

Yeah. Yeah, okay. That's so it's so much of human nature.

Robert Cialdini (26:09.683)


I saw.

Yes, I saw an article. They looked at 6 ,700 online commercial sites and they did AP tests. What are the factors that most cause people to jump and go from visitor to customer?

Robert Cialdini (26:39.859)

Scarcity, competition for a scarce resource that has limited numbers available was the one that was at the top of the list.

Auren Hoffman (26:54.062)

Yep. Now how's it like, certainly a hotel room makes sense. It's scarce like, you know, or like a limited sneaker thing, like makes sense. But a lot of things that we buy, you know, Netflix or something like that, they have unlimited, they could sell unlimited subscriptions to Netflix to you and I or something like, so how, how does somebody like that think of it?

Robert Cialdini (27:00.403)

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (27:16.659)

Yeah, they use another one of the scarcity principles. It's not a limited number. It's limited time. This is, this, this will be a limited deal or this is scheduled to be off of Netflix in by, this is the last week that it's available on Netflix. And they pile in, that's when they get the most juice.

Auren Hoffman (27:23.87)

you have a deal. The deal is the deal is going to expire.

Auren Hoffman (27:33.87)

Okay, yep, yep, they do that for sure. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (27:40.75)

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Now what do you think of this word influencer? Like that's now a common word and maybe it means something that you kind of different than when you wrote the book. Like how do you, how do you relate to that?

Robert Cialdini (27:51.859)

Yeah, I'm neutral with regard to it. I don't mind people being influencers, provided they've done it ethically, provided they've used these seven principles of influence by pointing to them when they are naturally there in the situation. We have a limited number of these, or this is what the authorities say about this brand of

Auren Hoffman (28:02.446)


Robert Cialdini (28:21.203)

cosmetics or I'm just like you and I love this lipstick or whatever it is. If that's true, I don't mind it. You're informing people into a scent. We've got a trend. If that's true, you'd be a fool not to use it because if I'm a customer, I want to know that. I want to put that into the equation of what I decide on this.

Auren Hoffman (28:28.846)


Auren Hoffman (28:44.782)


Robert Cialdini (28:50.643)

And it's when they counterfeit that information, when they claim product sales that don't really exist, when they cherry pick a single authority who says something good about it, but it's not representative of all the people, when they claim that there's scarcity, when there isn't scarcity. Those are the people who I...

I want to spit in their direction, honestly, because they're corrupting this shortcut that we need in the information overloaded nature of modern life to make good choices quickly.

Auren Hoffman (29:21.81)

What I really like it

Auren Hoffman (29:36.75)

I really liked there. There's a lot of these like influencers who were focused on like very, very, very specific things. Like people are really good at fishing or something like that. And they kind of like talk about why they're good at it, but they also talk about like how to get better at it or I'm great at guitar or something. And what I like is some of them are very genuine. They may, they, they, they may sponsor products, but they sponsor the products they actually use.

And you kind of seen them in other videos, they're using this product because they actually really like it. It's not because they got, maybe they got paid later. They probably used it first and then the sponsors like, wow. They really liked. So, so then I'm going to pay them to kind of put, that's what I like. But when they're showing something that like you could tell they don't really even use, then I'm a little, that's where it kind of doesn't. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (30:05.011)

Yeah. Yeah.

Right. Right. Right.

Yeah. Right. It's just the money, not the favorability. You know, there's a tactic that these people for the, what are these late night TV commercials? What do they call those things? Infomercials. You don't see many of them anymore, but the person who was the queen of infomercials once was doing a study where she changed.

Auren Hoffman (30:35.886)

The infomercials.


Robert Cialdini (30:47.251)

the what she said at the end of a message to instead of operators are waiting, please call now to if operators are busy, please call again.

Auren Hoffman (31:06.094)

that's a good one.

Robert Cialdini (31:08.211)

And it's quite like never before. And you think about it, if operators are waiting, they're twiddling their thumbs. They're smiling their nails. Operators are busy. It means a lot of people like you have decided to do this.

Auren Hoffman (31:14.158)

Totally right. Operas are standing by. Yeah. What are they doing? No one's calling. Yeah.

Yeah. Yep. Okay. Yeah. That makes, that makes a lot of sense. You know, one of the biggest areas like in discussion tech right now are all these like addictive algorithmic feeds that are out there, like on Tik TOK or on Instagram, et cetera. And they're using all these different kinds of persuasive technologies and some times manipulating their users. Like, how do you, how do you think about that?

Robert Cialdini (31:46.387)

You know, again, I'm neutral on it. It depends on whether what they're saying is genuine or whether it's designed to manipulate their preferences without a basis in reality. That's where I draw the line. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (32:05.294)

Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. You know, part of the benefit of understanding the principles of persuasion is also to be slightly less susceptible to being manipulated. and by the way, I admit, I'm still like ultimately always manipulated by these things and I feel like I'm falling for them all the time. Like they still manipulate me, but, are there ways we can kind of like inoculate ourselves a little bit more to being less likely to being taken advantage of?

Robert Cialdini (32:33.843)

Yeah, so I think there are, in fact, in my book, Influence, where I have each of these principles, the last section is how to say no. So I talk to people about how to recognize and resist and deflect these principles when you see them being employed in some sort of undue or unwelcome way. But I think the best way to do it when you might not even

Auren Hoffman (32:44.142)


Robert Cialdini (33:03.507)

be able to recognize that is check the internet first, go online, see what product groups are saying about this, see what evaluations was, see what comments their customers and so on have gotten. And then if they fake that somehow, or you don't know to do that, when you have been

deceived, go online and penalize those people.

Auren Hoffman (33:40.558)

Write a bad review or those types of things. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (33:42.483)

We can't allow them to get away with this, really. They have to be sanctioned. And if they have done things with all respect for ethics and authority and responsibility, compliment them on it so that they're praised for that kind of behavior when it is the case. And we can be as instrumental on the internet as we are simple.

Auren Hoffman (34:06.67)

You know, when -

Robert Cialdini (34:12.499)

recipients of information. We can be the providers of information that shape the reputations of the people we like and dislike.

Auren Hoffman (34:22.222)

And when you think of like these kind of more well -known scams, like the Bernie Madoff or Theranos or FTX or some of these things that, you know, where people go to jail of like, what, what have you learned from kind of like, you know, watching or kind of seeing how these folks operated?

Robert Cialdini (34:42.611)

Yeah. The thing that they operated on, I think there were multiple things. What's surprising is that these weren't just foxes raiding the chicken house. They were fooling other foxes. They were fooling. Yeah. Right. And Madoff had, investors had,

Auren Hoffman (34:47.182)


Auren Hoffman (35:01.374)

Yeah, Rupert Murdoch put $100 million into Theranos. Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (35:11.89)

economists and financial giants investing. It was because he put them in a category of people who he would allow in.

Auren Hoffman (35:29.838)

Mmm. He got him in the club.

Robert Cialdini (35:33.171)

in the club and it was scarce. Not everybody was allowed in.

Auren Hoffman (35:37.038)

Yep. Yep. In fact, he would sometimes threaten that he would kick people out.

Robert Cialdini (35:43.471)

Yeah, the fear, formal fear of missing out.

Auren Hoffman (35:48.654)

Yeah. Yeah. It was interesting. Yeah. If you think of like the board of Theranos, like it was the most well -known as people, George Schultz, like Henry Kissinger, like those types of people. Yeah. Yeah. it really, really, okay. You've also studied like cult indoctrination, like what are the parallels there? And, and, and I assume there's also some parallels with like the algorithm driven communities as well.

Robert Cialdini (35:58.195)

George Shultz, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (36:16.499)

Well, I know that, yeah, there's some parallels, especially with the ideologically based ones. And the parallel with cults is they degrade all other sources of information except this one. That we have the truth. Everybody else is lying to you. Or everybody else is ignorant or stupid. And so.

Auren Hoffman (36:40.206)


Robert Cialdini (36:44.755)

This is the one place, and just like the cults, that they don't even let you, once you're in the cult, they don't want you speaking to your former friends or family members. They want no information at all, except the information that comes from this source of source, to be seen as credible. They disparage and discriminate against those outsiders. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (36:56.206)


Auren Hoffman (37:13.166)

Yeah. And essentially like that idea of being the same tribe is, is, is, is times 100.

Robert Cialdini (37:20.851)

Yeah, you know, there's a set of academics who did a long set of studies in tribalism, right, this tendency for, and they said, tribalism is human.

Auren Hoffman (37:40.046)

Of course, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (37:40.467)

It's based, I mean, it's deep in there.

Auren Hoffman (37:42.926)


Auren Hoffman (37:47.566)

Yeah, I mean, if you think of politics, it's sometimes not even about how much you like your own team. It's really how much you dislike the other team or something. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (37:54.771)

Exactly. And there's research to support that, that you would be willing to overlook or dismiss or minimize an ethical violation of a politician who is in your tribe, in your party. Right. And what's happened is this is really regrettable.

Factions are superseding facts.

facts don't matter as much as the faction I'm in and the information that's coming from them. What we all believe and prefer to believe. I'm worried.

Auren Hoffman (38:42.446)

And what is there, do you think there's like an antidote to that or like, obviously people have been talking about this for a long time. It doesn't seem like it's going to stop.

Robert Cialdini (38:53.683)

Again, with one individual interaction, you can make a difference. As I say, you can do something for that person first, get them obligated. You can be a listener, a concentrated listener to their position before you ever present yours. And by the rule of reciprocity, if you have listened deeply and asked

non -evaluative questions that get them to tell me what you believe and why. When you stop, it's their turn. They'll listen to you in ways that they wouldn't have before.

Auren Hoffman (39:38.478)

Now, if you think of an AI, like the first thing I'm sure every AI has done is read your book. and we certainly wouldn't want like the AI's to use it as a tool to manipulate humans and stuff. how, how, I don't know if you've thought about this, but is there a way to like design an AI persuasion system so that it respects human agency?

Robert Cialdini (40:02.387)

This I have thought about it, and this is really a good insight because just last week, and I think it was in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there was a study that showed that the newest LLMs, GPT -4, for example, understands what deception is. It understands deception. And if you include a prompt,

for Machiavellianism, it will produce a deceptive communication for you. It knows how to do it. So here's my, the only thing I can think of, we have to fight fire with fire and we have to design models that detect deception.

Auren Hoffman (40:38.926)


Robert Cialdini (40:56.339)

that we can run an answer. Tell me, how manipulative is this? That's where we should be spending our focus.

Auren Hoffman (40:58.894)

back. Okay. We have our own agent. We, yeah. Hmm. Okay. Well, like defensive, defensive things, essentially. Okay. That would be great. I could run every advertisement through it too. Here's what they're trying to get you to do, or here's how they're trying to, get you to, to, to do something. we, we, one of the things, you know, I think like kids are naturally good at deception.

Robert Cialdini (41:14.803)

Right, exactly right.

Robert Cialdini (41:20.019)


Auren Hoffman (41:28.27)

They're naturally good at, you know, slightly changing things or putting on puppy eyes to get used to, if they want to stay up 30 minutes later or have another ice cream cone or something like it just seems, it seems like very wired into, you know, the average six year old or something like, is that just like part of human behavior?

Robert Cialdini (41:50.867)

Yeah, it is because I think they can recognize very early on how much of a sucker we are for our kids. And, and I'm speaking now as a grandparent.

Robert Cialdini (42:07.219)

They can get me to do anything. They can get me to do anything. I mean, and it really upsets their parents who say, no, no, no, they can't have everything. No, no, don't tell them that they can. No, no, that's not how we're trying to raise them. But I'm lost. I actually have some research on this. So I once did a study where I wanted to get.

Auren Hoffman (42:08.814)

Right, right, it's hard to say no. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (42:15.054)

I'm sorry.

Auren Hoffman (42:23.278)

Ahahaha. Ahaha.

Robert Cialdini (42:35.923)

parents of the students in one of my classes to answer a questionnaire. But how could I do that? I mean, parents don't get a grade, right? But I said to the students, send this questionnaire to your parents and tell them that if they return it within a week, I will give you one bonus point on one of the exams in this class. I had...

291 students in the class and I got 296 excuse me, I got 296 students and I got 291 back. Never seen anything like this. And I said, look, the only way I could increase this would be if I asked them to send these to their grandparents. Then they'd get.

Auren Hoffman (43:20.298)

Wow. Crazy.

Auren Hoffman (43:32.174)


Robert Cialdini (43:35.507)

295 of the 296, and the one who didn't would have had a cardiac arrest running through the mailbox.

Auren Hoffman (43:37.518)

Right, right, totally.

Yeah. In a coma or something. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's crazy. What, what now, if you think of like a venture capitalist, so I also have a venture capital firm and we're, you know, one of the things that were, you know, sometimes we send entrepreneurs a cold email and we say, Hey, we really like your company. We'd love to chat with you. or, you know, we're, we're kind of like, we're, we're out there in kind of a sales mode. of course we think we can help them.

And of course we want to give them money, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still like our response rates aren't as high as we'd like them to be. What advice would you have for us?

Robert Cialdini (44:21.715)

Give them examples of other companies like them who have in their space, right, other family -run businesses, other businesses with multiple locations in the same city, something like that. And we have had good, that means we haven't sent you something completely cold. We've res -

Auren Hoffman (44:26.03)

like them in their, in their, in their, like that they would respect or something.

Auren Hoffman (44:35.662)


Auren Hoffman (44:39.63)


Robert Cialdini (44:50.131)

We've recognized who you are, what your situation is, and we have something for you because we've had other...

Businesses like yours respond to us.

Auren Hoffman (45:06.638)

Now, how do, how do like naturally occurring, like, traits in people, like I find there's certain voices that I respond really well to. And even like, when you think of podcasting, there's certain voices you're like, you know, and, or, you know, maybe even a certain look or other type, like how, how does, how do those things kind of play into it? Maybe it's the likeability thing where some of these things play into the likeability.

Robert Cialdini (45:32.787)

Yeah, right. And I'll give you a political example. The two US presidents who were able to do that.

amazingly well to get people who didn't know them to respond positively to them. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, they were both seen as Teflon presidents. They had scandals that would just roll off their backs because they would connect with their audiences. They were able to, as communicators,

People would say, well, he's talking to me. He really cares about me. That kind of thing, that kind of communicator, that's very effective. Right. So also you were mentioning voice. There's research to show that if you increase the cadence of your voice just a little bit, so not your usual, but one step more faster, right. You seem.

more confident and truth speaking. Because you know this, you're convinced that this is the right thing. So speaking a little bit faster than normal turns out to be a positive.

Auren Hoffman (46:51.502)


Auren Hoffman (47:05.614)

When I listen to my own podcast, I'll listen to it on regular speed, but then I listen to it on 2X speed and I'm like, I feel like I'm 10 times smarter at 2X speed than I am at regular speed.

Robert Cialdini (47:16.819)

You know, I would recommend 1 .5 for most people.

Auren Hoffman (47:19.214)


What about like appearance? Like obviously people change their appearance, you know, from simply like dyeing their hair to, cosmetic appearance to, you know, facial hair to other types of things. Like, how do you, how do you think about that?

Robert Cialdini (47:38.131)

I don't object to it. I think that people are allowed to look as good as they can in a situation. I mean, would we object to people taking vitamins to have, or working out, or, yeah, I mean, or, yeah, you know, buying up to date clothing? No, I think that that's fine. I don't have a problem there.

Auren Hoffman (47:51.374)

Yeah, or working out, you know.

Auren Hoffman (48:05.742)

And what, what about in the, in the world that we're living in now, we can change our voice, we could change our actual appearance because on the screen we can do all these other types of things, you know, and maybe you can change it slightly. Like I can get rid of any blemishes on my face or I could change it drastically as well. and almost like, you know, you could be talking to someone who's, who looks completely different than me. Like, how do you think about that?

Robert Cialdini (48:13.651)

Yeah, that one.

Robert Cialdini (48:29.267)

Yeah, I'm not so crazy about that one. That strikes me as using artificial means. You know, it's not really you. It's not really you. And yeah, I'd go to that.

Auren Hoffman (48:40.398)

Okay. So there's some sort of line there. Like you can, you know, maybe dial it a little bit, but not too much or something. Right.

Robert Cialdini (48:46.643)

Yeah, yeah. You're seeing these obituaries where people should have a picture of them at 21 years old. They've died at 71, but they have a picture of them from when they were on the baseball team in high school or college or when they were in the army or something. I always have a, I would much prefer the ones that have a picture of them then and a picture of them now. Yeah. Both are genuine.

Auren Hoffman (48:54.286)


Auren Hoffman (49:01.198)


Auren Hoffman (49:12.654)

Picture now, yeah.

Yeah, I find that something even like if someone's LinkedIn profile, like there was a point actually not that recent, not that long ago where I had like a LinkedIn profile picture from like 10 years ago. And I'm like, this is just not truthful anymore. I just hadn't updated it. I'm like, I got to update this LinkedIn profile because it's, it's really not, it's really not who I am anymore.

Robert Cialdini (49:31.539)

I was

Yes, I was just at a, I gave a platform presentation, a big group, and they had a picture of me from a decade ago. Right.

Auren Hoffman (49:46.638)

There you go.

Robert Cialdini (49:46.963)

And what I did was to say, first of all, I want to thank the designer of that poster. Thank you very much, but that's not me. So admitting to it, but having a little bit of self -deprecating humor really goes a long way in getting you. You know, Guy Kawasaki, everybody, the evangelist for Apple during

Auren Hoffman (49:53.518)


Auren Hoffman (49:58.862)

Yeah, yeah.

Auren Hoffman (50:10.158)

Of course. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (50:17.011)

Steve Jobs, we were on the same panel, same dais a couple of years ago in Romania, in Bucharest. And he came up to me before he said, Bob, I'm going to use your name in my introduction because I'm going to have to say positive things about myself, about how Jobs and I created the brand of Apple. And saying positive things about yourself in person.

makes you lose liking and credibility. So he figured out a way to do it by starting with self -deprecating humor. He got on the stage and he said, I called my wife last night and I said to her,

In your wildest dreams, would you believe that I'd be on the same stage as Harari and Cialdini? In your wildest dreams, would you see me there? And he said, she said to me, Guy, you're not in my wildest dreams. Everybody laughed, and everybody loved him. He had buffered himself.

Auren Hoffman (51:23.79)

That's a great story.


Robert Cialdini (51:33.843)

from the self -promotional things he had to say because he took a... He punctured himself at the beginning with this self -deprecating humor.

Auren Hoffman (51:42.126)

And I meant like, and it's interesting that really even to this point in the podcast, like we're really just getting to humor. like you haven't, you didn't talk about it as much like, you know, when people do use it, it is at least for me, it is so, so I am so susceptible to it. especially on the liking, I tend to like people who are humorous and stuff. is that universal? Is that cross cultures and.

Robert Cialdini (51:59.603)



Robert Cialdini (52:08.147)

I think it is. I've seen a study that said if you start an email message with a funny cartoon, people are more likely to accept the message. They're in a good mood and you've given them something. A piece of joy. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (52:16.942)

Mm -hmm.

Mmm. Okay. Yeah. Yeah.

Yep, you made him laugh a little bit or chuckle or something. Okay. Now you've I've seen you tweet before that you don't have any heroes except Charlie Munger. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship you've had with him?

Robert Cialdini (52:40.723)

About 25 years ago, I opened an envelope, a legal sized envelope that I got in the mail and there was a share, an A share of Berkshire Hathaway stock from Charlie Munger.

Auren Hoffman (52:53.806)

Okay, even 25 years ago, that was actually worth a lot.

Robert Cialdini (52:56.883)

It was 20, it was $75 ,000. And he said.

Auren Hoffman (52:59.478)

my gosh, okay, yeah.

Robert Cialdini (53:03.059)

Your book has made us so much money. By your principle of reciprocation, I owe you.

Auren Hoffman (53:11.342)


Robert Cialdini (53:12.947)

And that was the starting point for our relationship. And so we would go to, my wife and I would go to the Berkshire Hathaway meetings. We'd have, he had a dinner the night before, not just with us, but 75 other people. And we stayed connected over that time. And I learned a lot from Charlie, just watching him operate in a lot of.

Auren Hoffman (53:16.046)

That's amazing. Okay.

Auren Hoffman (53:40.782)

One of the things he was so famous for was talking about incentives of, and in some ways that's related quite a bit to your principles. Like what have you learned from like his kind of incentives theories?

Robert Cialdini (53:49.171)


Robert Cialdini (53:52.979)

What he was able to show is that incentives are not just monetary. There are incentives, for example, associated with giving back to others if they have given to you. There's an incentive to do that. Otherwise you get eliminated of following the lead of comparable multiple others. That's a good, there's an incentive for that. You're likely to make a better choice. So all of these things, I think fit with that larger sense.

People do act in their best interests, but it doesn't have to be monetary best interests. It could be psychological, social self -interests as well. Benjamin Franklin said, if you wish to persuade, speak not to argument. Speak to self -interest.

Auren Hoffman (54:43.982)

Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. all right. We have two questions. We ask all of our audience. first one is what is the conspiracy theory you believe?

Robert Cialdini (54:54.099)

I believe that most politicians are willing to lie to us. And the reason that they do polling and focus groups is to find the lies that we most want to believe. And they'll tell us those.

Auren Hoffman (55:17.358)

Okay, I'm not sure how much of a conspiracy theory that is because I feel like most people probably believe that but it's interesting the way you thought, the way you think. Yeah.

Robert Cialdini (55:24.563)

That's why they do focus groups. They tell us they do in focus groups for other reasons than finding the lies we're willing to believe. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (55:29.486)

Right, right, right, okay.

Got it. And the lie willing believe is X. And so we're, you know, we're going to, and that might move us in some sort of way. Okay. And do you think that's, you know, nowadays a prerequisite to being a politician is to, you know, being able to lie.

Robert Cialdini (55:41.939)

Right. Right.

Robert Cialdini (55:51.027)

Yeah, I'm afraid that although those who are most authentic get the more votes, get more votes for that authenticity, you know. So I think it's wrong -headed in the long term.

Auren Hoffman (56:03.214)


Auren Hoffman (56:09.614)

But is it one of those things like, well, if you fake sincerity, you haven't made or something or.

Robert Cialdini (56:13.011)

Yeah, that's right. That's exactly right. Yeah.

Auren Hoffman (56:17.614)

All right, this has been great. Okay, last question we ask all of our guests. What conventional wisdom or advice do you think is generally bad advice?

Robert Cialdini (56:25.395)

One conventional piece of wisdom or one thing that people typically do with regard to the influence process is to have a, a favorite.

Influence appeal, a favorite approach to getting people persuasive. Yeah, you're right. Yeah. That's a mistake. I have a colleague at the University of Florida, marketing professor who decided that he was going to, he was going to find the single most effective persuasive appeal, a persuasive approach. What would it be? And I saw him at a conference about two years later. He said, Bob, I found it.

Auren Hoffman (56:41.55)

They have like a specific arrow in the quiver that they use.


Robert Cialdini (57:06.995)

The single most effective persuasive approach is not to have a single persuasive approach. That's a fool's game to think that the same way, the same technique is going to work for all populations in all situations under all circumstances.

Auren Hoffman (57:13.102)


Auren Hoffman (57:22.126)

Yeah. And even with the same person, you have to change it up quite a bit or something like that. Okay. This is, this is amazing. thank you, Bob Cialdini for being with joining us on World of DAS. I've been a huge fan of yours for many, many years. Read your book, even when I was in college and, such a great, I follow you also at Robert Chaladini on X formerly Twitter. I definitely encourage our listeners to get you there. This has been a ton of fun.

Robert Cialdini (57:26.035)

Exactly. Exactly.

Robert Cialdini (57:50.675)

I've enjoyed it, I have to say.

Auren Hoffman (57:53.55)


or to participate.