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Techniques General persuasion > Cialdini's Six Principles > Click, Whirr

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

 

Description

Principle: We have conditioned responses to some triggers

When certain cues are presented to us, we feel an urge to complete actions that have, in the past, been successfully paired with the cue.

There are some common cues built into many cultures. For example:

  • A person proffering a hand in greeting will cause the other person to offer their hand also, even if they do not want to be that familiar. You can see dictators play this game with world leaders and celebrities.
  • When we give a reason for a request, people consider the request to be reasonable, even when the reason given is weak.
  • People often think that price and quality are related, so a high price must indicate high quality.

Example

A teacher gets quiet by standing up and making a loud noise. Before long, they only have to stand for a hush to fall across the class.

A soldier in wartime learns to throw themself to the ground or leap for cover whenever they hear a shot being fired.

Discussion

This is the principle of conditioning, which was first identified in animals, who are particularly susceptible to simple cues. For example turkey mothers will look after any animal that makes the right 'cheep cheep' noise, even a stuffed polecat (a predator)! But if you just take away the noise and the turkey will attack it. Similarly, a robin will attack a bunch of red feathers, but not a stuffed robin with no red.

As evolved animals, humans are susceptible to similar forces, though our complexity means the reliability of simple stimulus-response pairs may not be very good. While we emotionally may feel an urge that has been conditioned, we moderate such urges with controls based on thinking and complex reactions such as are found in coping mechanisms.

See also

Conditioning

 

Cialdini, R. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Quill

 

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