Robert Cialdini Explores the Neuroscience of Influence
Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. His books including, Influence: Science & Practice, are the result of decades of peer-reviewed research on why people comply with requests.Influence has sold over 3 million copies, is a New York Times Bestseller and has been published in over 30 languages.
Because of the world-wide recognition of Dr. Cialdini’s cutting edge scientific research and his ethical business and policy applications, he is frequently regarded as the “Godfather of influence.” Dr. Cialdini received his Ph.D from the University of North Carolina and postdoctoral training from Columbia University. He has held Visiting Scholar Appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University. Currently, Dr Cialdini is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. Dr. Cialdini is CEO and President of INFLUENCE AT WORK; focusing on ethical influence training, corporate keynote programs, and the CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer) program. Dr. Cialdini’s clients include such organizations as Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Bayer, Coca Cola, KPMG, AstraZeneca, Ericsson, Kodak, Merrill Lynch, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, AAA, Northern Trust, IBM, Prudential, The Mayo Clinic, GlaxoSmithKline, Harvard University – Kennedy School, The Weather Channel, the United States Department of Justice, and NATO.
Question: What influence does neuroscience have on your work?
Cialdini: I am taking a special interest in neuroscience, the neuroscience of influence and persuasion. So, for example, there’s one classic study in social psychology called the [Ashe] Study in which people go around a table and choose between three lines, which is the one they think is the longest. And the researchers have rigged the data so that the first five people who are all confederates of the experimenter say the wrong line, and then they get to the sixth person and they find a very high percentage of those six people that that sixth person will go along with the crowd instead of believing their own eyes. It’s a clear difference, perceptually. They replicated that study. Since then, a new study has been done to replicate that procedure with people who are hooked up to brain imaging devices, and what these researchers found was that when people came upon the situation where they were out of sync with their fellows there in the room, two things happened in their brain. One is the area associated with puzzlement lit up, and so did the area associated with physical pain. Being out of step with the group was physically painful for those individuals. Now, here’s the brilliant thing about the study. They also did it with being out of step with five computers. With the computer set, you got puzzlement lighting up in your brain but no pain. That’s why it’s so difficult for us to be out of step with the crowd, with our group, with our subculture, because it’s painful to be… the social consequences of being out of step are painful to us. There are no social consequences of being out of step with computers, but there are social consequences of being out of step with your friends, and it registers as pain. I thought that was a very important insight from that brain imaging study.
Robert Cialdini on how your brain tricks you.
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