Robert Cialdini’s Covert Research Methods

Question: Were you ever “uncovered” while conducting research?

Cialdini:    I was uncovered twice.  I was discovered twice.  The first time was…  I was taking training in an organization that was selling very highly overpriced fire detection, fire alarm systems in homes, and they would train us…  I mean, they were despicable.  We would…  They would equip us with pictures of burned children to show to parents and we would sit them on the sofa and say, “Mary, is John and little Jimmy’s life worth $1,200 to you?  John, how about you?  Do you think little Jimmy and Mary are worth $1,200?  Look what happens if you don’t have proper protection, and so…”  Well, I was in this program for a few days and I had been using an alias.  I was always incognito, disguised in identity, disguised intent, and they caught something in the way I had signed in that was different from the name that I subsequently gave to myself weeks later when I actually got into the program.  I had forgotten which name I had used.  And they…  The sales manager and two of his assistants brought me into a side office.  I thought they were going to break my face because they thought I was an investigative journalist and I was going to blow open the story for them.  In fact, I told them, “No.  I’m a university professor.  I’m doing research.”  They said, “Oh!  Oh.  Well you’re…  You don’t have any power.  There’s no potency in what you do.  Okay, then it’s all right, you know, if you’re a university professor.  You don’t really get to influence anybody except a few undergraduates.”  But if you’re a journalist, now you could blow open their whole scheme.  So they laughed.  They chuckled and they said, “Okay, go on.  Get out of here.”

Robert Cialdini talks about going undercover and his books "Influence" and "Yes".

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less