By Robert V. Levine
Two Paths to Persuasion
Triggers and Fixed Action Patterns
The Source of Persuasion: The Triad of Trustworthiness
Manipulating the Perception of Trustworthiness
Testimonials and Endorsement
Presenting the Message as Education
Word of Mouth
Other Tricks of Persuasion
Commitment and Consistency
A Door in the Face
And That’s Not All!
The Sunk Cost Trap
Scarcity and Psychological Reactance
Defending Against Unwelcome Persuasion
- Book: Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational. New York, NY: Harper.
- Book: Cialdini, R. B. (2008). Influence: Science and practice (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Book: Gass, R., & Seiter, J. (2010). Persuasion, social influence, and compliance gaining (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
- Book: Kahneman, D. (2012). Thinking fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
- Book: Levine, R. (2006). The power of persuasion: how we\'re bought and sold. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
- Book: Tavris, C., & Aronson, E. (2011). Mistakes were made (but not by me). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
- Student Video 1: Kyle Ball and Brandon Do's 'Principles of Persuasion'. This is a student-made video highlighting 6 key principles of persuasion that we encounter in our everyday lives. It was one of the winning entries in the 2015 Noba Student Video Award.
- Student Video 2: 'Persuasion', created by Jake Teeny and Ben Oliveto, compares the central and peripheral routes to persuasion and also looks at how techniques of persuasion such as Scarcity and Social Proof influence our consumer choices. It was one of the winning entries in the 2015 Noba Student Video Award.
- Student Video 3: 'Persuasion in Advertising' is a humorous look at the techniques used by companies to try to convince us to buy their products. The video was created by the team of Edward Puckering, Chris Cameron, and Kevin Smith. It was one of the winning entries in the 2015 Noba Student Video Award.
- Video: A brief, entertaining interview with the celebrity pickpocket shows how easily we can be fooled. See A Pickpocket’s Tale at
- Video: Cults employ extreme versions of many of the principles in this module. An excellent documentary tracing the history of the Jonestown cult is the PBS “American Experience” production, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple at
- Video: Philip Zimbardo’s now-classic video, Quiet Rage, offers a powerful, insightful description of his famous Stanford prison study
- Video: The documentary Outfoxed provides an excellent example of how persuasion can be masked as news and education.
- Video: The video, The Science of Countering Terrorism: Psychological Perspectives, a talk by psychologist Fathali Moghaddam, is an excellent introduction to the process of terrorist recruitment and thinking
- Central route to persuasion
- Persuasion that employs direct, relevant, logical messages.
- Fixed action patterns (FAPs)
- Sequences of behavior that occur in exactly the same fashion, in exactly the same order, every time they are elicited.
- Foot in the door
- Obtaining a small, initial commitment.
- Gradually escalating commitments
- A pattern of small, progressively escalating demands is less likely to be rejected than a single large demand made all at once.
- Mental shortcuts that enable people to make decisions and solve problems quickly and efficiently.
- Peripheral route to persuasion
- Persuasion that relies on superficial cues that have little to do with logic.
- Psychological reactance
- A reaction to people, rules, requirements, or offerings that are perceived to limit freedoms.
- Social proof
- The mental shortcut based on the assumption that, if everyone is doing it, it must be right.
- The norm of reciprocity
- The normative pressure to repay, in equitable value, what another person has given to us.
- The rule of scarcity
- People tend to perceive things as more attractive when their availability is limited, or when they stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms.
- The triad of trust
- We are most vulnerable to persuasion when the source is perceived as an authority, as honest and likable.
- Trigger features
- Specific, sometimes minute, aspects of a situation that activate fixed action patterns.