Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion PDF

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Chapter 1: Weapons Of Influence

I GOT A PHONE CALL ONE DAY FROM A FRIEND WHO HAD RECENTLY opened an Indian jewelry store in Arizona.

She was giddy with a curious piece of news. Something fascinating had just happened, and she thought that, as a psychologist, I might be able to explain it to her.

The story involved a certain allotment of turquoise jewelry she had been having trouble selling.

It was the peak of the tourist season, the store was unusually full of customers, the turquoise pieces were of good quality for the prices she was asking; yet they had not sold.

My friend had attempted a couple of standard sales tricks to get them moving. She tried calling attention to them by shifting their location to a more central display area; no luck.

She even told her sales staff to “push” the items hard, again without success.

Finally, the night before leaving on an out-of-town buying trip, she scribbled an exasperated note to her head saleswoman, “Everything in this display case, price x 2,” hoping just to be rid of the offending pieces, even if at a loss.

When she returned a few days later, she was not surprised to find that every article had been sold.

She was shocked, though, to discover that, because the employee had read the “2” in her scrawled message as a “2,” the entire allotment had sold out at twice the original price!

That’s when she called me. I thought I knew what had happened but told her that, if I were to explain things properly, she would have to listen to a story of mine.

Actually, it isn’t my story; it’s about mother turkeys, and it belongs to the relatively new science of ethology-the study of animals in their natural settings.

Turkey mothers are good mothers-loving, watchful, and protective. They spend much of their time tending, warming, cleaning, and huddling the young beneath them.

But there is something odd about their method. Virtually all of this mothering is triggered by one thing: the “cheep-cheep” sound of young turkey chicks.

Other identifying features of the chicks, such as their smell, touch, or appearance, seem to play minor roles in the mothering process.

If a chick makes the “cheep-cheep” noise, its mother will care for it; if not, the mother will ignore or sometimes kill it.

The extreme reliance of maternal turkeys upon this one sound was dramatically illustrated by animal behaviorist M. W. Fox in his description of an experiment involving a mother turkey and a stuffed polecat.

For a mother turkey, a polecat is a natural enemy whose approach is to be greeted with squawking, pecking, clawing rage. Indeed, the experimenters found that even a stuffed model of a polecat, when drawn by a string toward a mother turkey, received an immediate and furious attack.

When, however, the same stuffed replica carried inside it a small recorder that played the “cheep-cheep” sound of baby turkeys, the mother not only accepted the oncoming polecat but gathered it underneath her.

When the machine was turned off, the polecat model again drew a vicious attack.

How ridiculous a female turkey seems under these circumstances: She will embrace a natural enemy just because it goes “cheap-cheep,” and she will mistreat or murder one of her own chicks just because it does not.

She looks like an automaton whose maternal instincts are under the automatic control of that single sound.

The ethnologists tell us that this sort of thing is far from unique to the turkey. They have begun to identify regular, blindly mechanical patterns of action in a wide variety of species.

Called fixed-action patterns, they can involve intricate sequences of behavior, such as entire courtship or mating rituals.

A fundamental characteristic of these patterns is that the behaviors that compose them occur in virtually the same fashion and in the same order every time.

It is almost as if the patterns were recorded on tapes within the animals.

When the situation calls for courtship, the courtship tape gets played; when the situation calls for mothering, the maternal-behavior tape gets

AuthorRobert B Cialdini
Language English
No. of Pages279
PDF Size3.4 MB
CategorySelf Improvement

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