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Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence
Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence
Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence
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In his seminal marketing book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr Robert Cialdini laid out principles to help people wield influence over others. 

Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, commitment, liking and consensus. 


Cialdini's research spanned years of practical experience in various sales domains including used car dealerships and telemarketing firms and his work is still widely referenced today, decades after it was first published.


The six principles are: 





Based on the idea that if you receive something, you are more obliged to give back to others in kind. This might be expressed through respect, attention, kindness, or anything.

Give gifts, information or benefits. In a product context offer free trials. 


The principle of supply and demand states that the more scarce a resource, the more valuable it becomes, assuming that it has some level of demand. 

Offer limited windows for action, and limited numbers of an offer. Also, highlight the unique and special. 


You are more easily convinced when you see an authority figure in a respective field advocating or endorsing the point.

Use testimonials and quotes from respected experts. 

Commitment and consistency

Also known as the ‘foot in the door’ technique, this approach focuses on establishing a commitment from you and relying on your need to be consistent to benefit from that commitment. 

Encourage a commitment to ‘sign up later’ or make a public declaration.  


It’s probably no surprise that you prefer to say ‘yes’ to people who you like. And you tend to like people who you can identify with and have a level of similarity with you. 

Focus on similarities with people to form connections, and look for opportunities for sincere and specific compliments. 

Consensus or Social proof

When you are uncertain, you will tend to look at how others behave to determine your own behavior. You use the ‘herd behavior’ as a cognitive shortcut. 

Highlight popular or in-demand choices. Stress that ‘people like you’ tend to make this choice.



Most recently Cialdini has added the principle of Unity. This plays on a sense of belonging and even tribalism and it's the difference between saying "Bob is like us" versus "Bob is one of us." The latter will create greater cooperation and influence.

Cialdini cites the example of a woman trying to get donations on a University Campus. When she added the words "I'm a student here too" to her sign, donations doubled. 


These principles have broad connections with a number of models, especially relating to cognitive heuristics and behavioural economics. You can understand many of these principles in the context of Fast and Slow Thinking, in particular models such as Anchoring and the Halo Effect

Many of the techniques might be considered in the context of Nudging and the EAST Framework. You might also consider other persuasion models including Challenger Sales, Aristotle's Rhetoric, and the Trust Equation

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Actionable Takeaways
  • Offer ‘freemium’ options to people’s problems (reciprocity)

Offering free services or content greatly builds a positive image and relationship.

  • Book in an action (commitment).  

Asking people to state a specific time and place when they will take action will make it more tangible and likely to occur.

  • Cite relevant testimonials (social proof). 

Providing testimonials from relevant peers or people in similar situations will leverage social proof. 

  • Establish expertise (authority). 

Effectively and quickly establishing or referring to expertise will increase your influence.  

  • Identify things in common (liking). 

In conversation to marketing material, when trying to establish likability a key tactic is establishing what you have in common with the other person. 

  • Limit availability (scarcity). 

Provide a set time for purchase, a limited window for services or a closing time for a deal. 


These principles could easily lead people into pitfalls if used for evil instead of goodness. It might encourage predatory behavior, indebting people through favours and using manipulation techniques. Cialdini 

In Practice

Reciprocity: free mints to increase tips

One study seemed to show the impact of reciprocity, with a slight increase in tips as a result of diners receiving free mints at the conclusion of their dinners.

Commitment: Writing down the appointment

One study showed that missed appointments at health centres were reduced by 18% when patients wrote down the appointment rather than staff. 

Liking: closing the deal 

According to Cialdini, in a study on negotiations of MBA students, one group was told to focus on getting the deal done, the other group was told to identify something in common before they began. The first group came to an agreement 55% of the time, the second group came to an agreement 90% of the time.

Consensus: nudging tax payments

The Behavioural Insights Team in the UK, or original Nudge Unit, discovered that by tweaking the wording of letters to taxpayers to reference the fact that most people in their town paid tax on time, resulted in a 15% increase in timely tax payments. 

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This model will help you to:

These principles are often used in sales and marketing and tend to play on common unconscious biases. They have been further explored by cognitive psychologists exploring behavioural economics. That said, they can be used in developing relationships and influence. 

Use the following examples of connected and complementary models to weave Cialdini’s six principles of influence into your broader latticework of mental models. Alternatively, discover your own connections by exploring the category list above. 

Connected models: 

  • Fast and slow thinking: which underpins many of these approaches.  
  • Social proof: as it relates to liking and even authority.  
  • Supply and demand: as it relates to scarcity. 

Complementary models: 

  • 4Ps of marketing: considering the combination of these methods with the 4Ps. 
  • Hanlon’s razor: to support the development of effective relationships. 
  • Non-violent communication: to help uncover needs and connect.
Origins & Resources

Find out more from Dr Robert Cialdini’s book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ and his broader services at his website  Influence at work.

My Notes

  • profile
    529 days ago Amin
    "Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, commitment, liking and commitment. " One of the commitments was meant to be concensus...
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