5 Laws of Persuasion

As a complement to our ongoing series on the framework of negotiation, this week we will look into some of the most basic elements of persuasion that we come into contact with in our daily lives. An expert in the field of persuasion research, Robert Cialdini describes five Laws of Persuasion. You have probably been subject to them without even knowing!

1. Reciprocity.

Have you ever been in the supermarket or in a food court and have been compelled to try the free samples of food? This is the Law of Reciprocity. When people offer products and samples to us we feel some innate obligation to at least give them time to explain their position or to try and sell us their food. If someone takes you out to lunch you will feel much more inclined to listen to them give their proposal than if they had not offered to do something for you at all.

2. Scarcity.

We tend to want things we can’t have, but even more so we want things that seem “rare”. By marketing a product as limited, collectors’, premium, or gold editions, companies use the Law of Scarcity to turn the consumer “on” to a product.

3. Saving face.

If you have promised to do something, the likelihood that you’ll follow through is an important part of persuasion tactics. Consider the time coming up to an election. Not only is the public bombarded by messages about who  to vote for, but also persuaded to register to vote. When someone is registered to vote, they are pushed to save face by actually following through on that duty.

4. Consensus.

This is best described as social pull. When people are informed that other people are doing something, it is an effective tactic to persuade them to do the same. Compliance with recycling hotel towels was most increased when guests were told that most  other guests were recycling their towels. This message was more effective than any money saving or environmental warnings given to guests.

5. Commitment.

The last persuasion technique that we will touch on is the technique of commitment. This is the intense pressure that we feel when someone we care about or respect is expecting something from us. Many of us have had mentors throughout our careers. We have struggled to live up to their expectations or been very hard on ourselves when they are disappointed in us. The power that commitment has over us is the ability to feel guilty based solely on the respect we have for this person or body.

These five Laws are staples in the craft of persuasion. Take note on how they are used on you and others in the future. Can you think of examples where you have seen these techniques applied? Let us know in the comments.


Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: the psychology of persuasion (Rev. ed. ; 1st Collins business essentials ed.). New York:


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Cognitive Performance Group, LLC is a woman-owned small business with offices in Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Dr. Karol G. Ross, Jennifer K. Phillips, and William A. Ross. The three CPG Principals developed the concept for a company to support cognitive performance improvement in industry and government. (more...)

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