Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Quick Thoughts:
  1. This is an older book, originally published in the 1980's.  You can tell because many of the author's examples come that period and earlier.  However, this really doesn't take away from the basic power of his arguments, just the points of reference he uses to support his positions.
  2. This book is touted as being for marketing professionals.  I can see why, it deals with how sales professionals get to yes, but it goes further than that by including examples of influence in politics and religious cults.
  3. What is brilliant about this book is the author's approach to the subject.  He is a Ph.D in marketing and psychology.  So he has much original research to bring to the table on persuasive influence, plus he is well read on other studies in the subject.  But, he takes things to the next level when he spends much of his time posing as a new sales hire and working for car dealers, door-to-door sales, and other high pressure sales jobs.  He goes through sales training and learns the techniques that they teach.  And he watches the best sales people he can find in the field.  When he sees a technique 'work', he designs a research experiment to see why it worked and if he can identify the principal that made it work.  This makes him especially well-suited to write this book.  And his technique works because the book is a really great read.
  4. An aspect of the book I particularly liked is that the author recommends specific methods that the reader can use to render the sales techniques useless.  They were a few that I think most of us already know, but a good defense to an shifty salesperson is a worthwhile thing to have.
  5. The writing is convincing, entertaining, and I dare-say useful.  Example examples/anecdotes are sprinkled throughout the book combined with really interesting experimental evidence.  And the author's insights just keep on coming.
  6. If you have an interest in marketing/sales, this book is block and tackle stuff and should be read.  However, this isn't why I picked up the book.  I'm really interested in market failures especially given the cliff diving we went through in 2008.  It seems to me that market failures are really about human failings.  The fact that we are subject to persuasion attempts and will act in ways that are against our interests is another aspect of our failings.  Are these irrationalities enough to discredit the market economy?  I don't think so, but I'd like to believe that we can figure out ways to protect people from the greater excesses of the market while enabling us to enjoy its benefits.  I can't say this book brought me any closer to 'fixing' our free market society.  But it does have some real insights into why we behave the way we do.  For that, it was worth the read.

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