Book Review: Cialdini’s Pre-suasion

Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has sold over three million copies and has been translated into thirty languages.  The book brought science to the art of persuasion, and set out the famed Six Principles of Influence: social proof, reciprocation, authority, liking, scarcity and consistency.  This is a good 10 minute summary of the work.

Someone recently recommended that I read his new book Pre-suasion.  This book is about research into “Priming”.  This is the idea that our decisions are substantially influenced by seemingly trivial items.

For example, a company was introducing a new soft drink and had representatives stationed in a mall. Their job was to stop shoppers, explain the features of the new soft drink and attempt to gain the shoppers email address in exchange for the promise of a sample.  The success rate was less than 33%. But when a Pre-Suasion question, “Are you adventurous?” was asked prior to launching into the discussion about the new soft drink, the results were astounding. First 97% of the people responded that there were in fact adventurous.  They all had a better than average sense of humour as well.   But what was really amazing was that once people had affirmed they were adventurous, the success rate shot up to 75%.

A key message of the book is that we like those who are like us, be it liking the same sports or sharing a nationality.  This is also a key message of the Humm-Wadsworth.  If two individuals share a dominant Humm Component, it is highly likely they will get along with each other.

A wonderful example of this “liking” effect were the Lithuanian Jews who had escaped to Shanghai and Japan during WWII after gaining Japanese travel visas.  The Japanese, post Pearl Harbour, had become allies of the Nazis who in turn demanded these Jews be killed.   The Japanese asked the Jews why they were so hated by the Nazis.  The answer by Rabbi Kalisch was telling, “It is because we are Asians, just like you.”  Understanding the social power of saying the right thing at the right time saved a large group of Jews from death.

Another interesting application discussed in the book is when to use “I think” or “I feel.”  Normals and Engineers are logical in their decision making and “I think” is the best approach.  By contrast the other five Humm components are emotional in their decision making and “I feel” is the best approach.  This is a great example of Practical Emotional Intelligence in action.

I found Pre-suasion to be a lively and engaging book. It’s a tour through social psychology.  Note the actual book is 233 pages long but the references and end notes are about 150 pages.  I have given it 5 out of 5 in my Amazon review.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web