Throughout the history of our human species, context has always changed: different ways of life, different inventions and technologies, war- and peacetime, and all in all changing circumstances. But the fundamentals of human nature haven’t changed one bit since five thousand years ago, only the circumstances we live in have varied. We may tend to believe that we have evolved a lot over the last couple of centuries and that we’ve transcendent the simple animal mind we once had, but this is completely false.
We’ve never been more animalistic than we are now and we can see this in a couple of ways:
With social media making terrifyingly proficient use of our lizard brain by feeding us the correct amount of dopamine with each post to stay on their platforms as long as possible; With the woke movement, where people tend to confuse their personality with their emotional responses, something coming directly from the most animalistic part of the brain.
We are still more like animals than we may like to believe, and certain principles of human nature still work exactly as they did when we were hunter-gatherers.
It’s important that you recognize this and know what these principles are so that you can be aware of them when they are activated. We often believe that we make rational decisions, but by nature, we are very irrational beings.
In the book 'Influence', Robert Cialdini goes over the six main principles of how humans can be influenced. You can use these principles to influence others or to make sure you don’t become influenced by other people. Either way, it’s crucial that you know the principles, how they work, and how you can fight them. Here are all of the six principles summarized:
Reciprocity is the act of giving before you take and it’s something no human alive can resist. When you give a person something, that person immediately feels compelled to give something back. This is simply something that is biologically wired in every human being. It stems back from when we were living in tribes, thousands of years ago. We had to do things for each other to survive, we had to grant each other favors, and in return for those favors, we gave something of value back, whether it was a service or a commodity.
The remarkable thing about this principle is that it doesn’t have to be an equal value exchange to work.
See it like this: I give you a very small gift, some foolish key chain that has cost me twenty cents, and in return, I ask you if I can borrow your car. With this simple gesture, you’re more likely to say yes than if I didn’t give you anything. This may be an exaggerated example, but there is a great example given in the book that illustrates this principle perfectly:
A person goes to a museum and takes a seat beside another man, and gives him a Diet Coke, for free, just because he’s nice. Then later on, this person asks the person drinking the Diet Coke if he would like to give some money to a charity.
The result of this experiment was that most of the time, this person would say yes to making a donation, more often than he would if he didn’t receive a Diet Coke beforehand. The most remarkable aspect about this was, that the amount given in donations, was way out of proportion with the gift they received. They got a Diet Coke worth $0.50, and they donated sometimes up to hundreds of dollars. The person gave them something and now they felt compelled to give something back. When you up the ask the success rate does come down, but the chances of success are still significantly higher if the principle of reciprocity is applied.
The scary thing about reciprocity, and about all of the coming principles of influence, is that marketers and businesses use it to persuade people to buy as much of what they sell as possible. They know that they don’t have to give you very large gifts to make you buy more of their products. If you receive a simple gift from such a store, you feel like you should give something in return, which is your money. Even everyday businesses use the principle of reciprocity all the time.
For example: When you go onto an online store, you get the option to sign up for an email list. Now what do you always see when you sign up for an email list: 10% off your first order, free gift card, free this, free that. They want to give you something that doesn’t hurt their profit margins much so that you are willing to spend more money with their company.
Perhaps you’re still a bit skeptical of this principle, maybe you still think that you do not feel compelled to give back to million-dollar companies. If you still are, pay attention to these free gifts that you’re getting from them and analyze your reaction, and perhaps even your actions after receiving such a gift. You may be surprised.
If people like you, you have the power to exert influence over them. If you are a likable person and you get along with everybody, then persuading people and making them do what you want or buy what you sell is that much easier. But likability is something you can learn, it’s not just some genetically predisposed gift that you need to be born with to succeed. Yes, some people are more likable than others by nature, but you can learn what they do and get the same results. Here are a few things you should pay attention to when you want to become more likable:
People like other people who look well-groomed, are in shape, and have clothes on that are good-looking and fit properly. This is because of something that no one is willing to hear today: People judge you on how you look. Everybody does this the first time they see you, and every time thereafter. A lot of people are complaining about this nowadays, they think it is shallow and unfair: “You should not judge a book by its cover, you should only care about what’s on the inside.” This sounds very nice and fair, but it’s not realistic, and just not what happens in the real world. We judge people on their appearances all the time, so knowing this fact, we should take care of it.
Another reason why being physically attractive is important is because of the Halo effect, combined with the first impression. When we meet someone who we can see has one positive quality, and in first impressions, this quality will always be physical attractiveness, we ascribe to them dozens of other positive qualities instantaneously. When we see someone who is handsome, we immediately think that they are trustworthy, have a warm personality, are smart, charming, and have good taste. All of these positive qualities are immediately ascribed to someone who looks good physically.
When you’re ugly, or you don’t take care of yourself, you get the exact opposite effect. People associate all kinds of negative qualities with you, from being cold, to stupid, to incompetent. Do you really want them to associate these qualities with you the first time you meet? What do you think your chances are that this person will give you an opportunity, give you a job, a loan, or go on a date with you? That’s right, the answer is zero. So start taking care of your physical appearance and you’ll notice a dramatic difference in how people treat you when they meet you for the first time.
We like people who are like us, it shows us that we have good taste and that we make the right choices. We enjoy talking to people who have something in common with us, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but a common ground immediately creates some type of connection and understanding.
You can use this principle to your advantage by always looking for common ground with anyone you talk to. Show a sincere interest in them, ask them what they like to do, and find the things you share with them, whether it be interests, hobbies, opinions, or personality traits. When you find similarities between you and someone else, the other person will immediately like you more for it.
We tend to like things we get to see more. The common belief is that you would get sick and tired of someone or something you constantly see and that you come to loathe it, but in fact the opposite is true. We like something more the more times we see it. It’s called the Mere-exposure effect. When we see commercials about some product all the time, we tend to like that product more, and there’s a bigger chance of us buying that product.
You can use this principle in day-to-day life by just showing your face more, whether it be through social media, showing up in person, or calling people on a consistent basis. We like people who we see or hear from more often. So show your face, interact with people more and they will like you more for it.
The world is based on supply and demand, the principle doesn’t just apply to economics, but to everything in life. It works this way: if there is more being supplied of something, but there are not more people who need it, the price goes down. When the supply is low, but a lot of people want it, the price goes up. This is one of the unchangeable laws of the world. But supply and demand can create a very important and powerful principle: Scarcity.
When something is scarce, we immediately believe it is more valuable, no matter what the product or service may be. This is because we have a fear of loss, something I also talked about in this blog. We do not want to lose things we have or might have.
We fear missing out on something, so we feel compelled to get it before we can’t anymore, even though we may not even believe it’s that important. We just don’t want to miss having something that will be gone soon. “What if I wanted this item later but then it’s gone, might as well buy it now.”
There was a very telling experiment done about this which concerned cookies in a jar:
The participants were given the choice between two jars of cookies. The cookies in these jars were exactly the same, the only difference was the quantity. In one jar, there were dozens of cookies that almost pilled over the edge of the jar. In the other jar, there were one or two cookies, both jars had the exact same cookies.
When the participants had to decide which cookies were more valuable, they chose the scarce cookies each time, they always picked those as the more expensive, and the most tasty ones. The cookies that were abundant were seen as cheap and standard because there were so many of them, which would mean that they were not that valuable.
This experiment shows you that scarcity literally brings value. When something is scarce, people value it a lot more. Especially when it is combined with another principle: Urgency.
Once something is scarce we want it more because we think it will not be available for much longer. But when we add a time frame to this by adding a sense of urgency, it instantly becomes significantly more valuable. Now it is urgent, “There are only three items left in stock, better buy it right now before it’s gone, it could be gone pretty quick.” A sense of urgency drives a buyer more towards buying it right now or extremely quick, because we wouldn’t want to miss having that product, because when stock runs out we can never have it again.
When we feel a sense of urgency, we have to act fast, and the part of our brain that turns on when we have to react fast is our lizard brain, the emotional part of the brain. We all know how well we make decisions when we are under the influence of our emotions. Think about every bad decision you’ve ever made in your life, and you’ll find out they were all emotional decisions. This is exactly the reason marketers use this sense of urgency, because when you react emotionally, you’re more likely to act, and when it comes to a product, you’re more likely to press the button: 'Purchase Now!', which is exactly what they want.
This principle has been showcased numerous times throughout history now, and it’s still as powerful as it ever was. Since the dawn of human time, people have blindly obeyed authority. An obvious example is that the Nazis executed Jewish people simply because some authority figure told them to do so, befehl ist befehl. In every country ever, people have obeyed authority without asking questions, and this is where most of the disasters and mistakes in a society stem from.
We saw it recently with COVID, where people just wore the masks, took the injections, and locked themselves away in their houses, because the government and some authority figures from the WHO said so. It’s not because people really thought for themselves, did their research, and believed that these measures were truly the best. No, they just listened to some authority figure who told them they should do it, so they complied.
Blindly listening to authority figures stems from something that is actually very useful, but as we saw and experienced can be very destructive. We listen to figures of authority because of their status and expertise. If someone is an expert in their field, we are more inclined to listen to them because they’ve spent much more time on the subject than us, so the chance of them being correct is much higher. This is mostly a good thing, because we need to listen to people who know more about certain things and do as we’re told. But sometimes this expertise is deceiving, or simply fake. By listening to the so-called vaccination experts (the ones who have a stake in selling as many vaccines as possible) we tend to be misguided. They promote these products under the guise of being experts, but while they may have the credentials, their judgment is clouded by the fact that convincing people to take these injections benefits them.
But a figure of authority doesn’t always have to be an expert. A King or an Emperor is seen as the absolute authority figure, most of the time on everything, but does he really know about everything? No, of course not, and people know this but listen to these figures anyway. Why?
The mistake we mostly make with authority, is that we confuse expertise with status. Just because someone has a certain status, he must know what he’s talking about. Or so we say. If a person has a high status, like an actor or a famous politician, we tend to listen to his opinions on every subject more than someone with a lower status. Even though this person is clearly not an expert and clearly hasn’t thoroughly researched the subject. Still, we will always listen more to those who have a higher status, so how do we combat this tendency?
Well, simply ask yourself two questions: Is this person really an expert in the field that he’s talking about and why does he want me to believe what he’s saying?
If the first answer is no, and the second answer is because he benefits from it, then you shouldn’t listen to that person.
If the first answer is yes, and he wants you to become a better person, make you healthier, or help humanity, then you may listen to that person.
It is however very hard to discern between the two, people can be remarkably deceptive and will conceal their motives very well. So you have to be careful, and you’re not going to be accurate all of the time. But with this understanding, you do stand a better chance of not blindly following the wrong authority.
5- Social Proof:
We humans are social animals, we like being with other humans and cooperating with them, and we learn and copy behaviors from others.
This is how we’ve always survived, we weren’t the strongest or the fastest, so we needed to form a group for our protection, and with this group, we additionally noticed that we could get a whole lot more done. We could bring in much more food, much faster if we did it as a group effort. Social cooperation has always been the underpinning for civilization and is still as active, if not more today.
Because we are social animals and want to belong to the group, we tend to copy the behavior of others in the group, because we see that this behavior is judged as acceptable by others. This is called social proof: because someone else is doing it, he must know more about that than me, so he’s probably right. Most of the time this principle is actually very useful. We don’t know everything, and we can’t, so it is easier to follow people who do know what they’re doing and copy them. The chance of correct behavior is then generally pretty high and we don’t have to go through any trial and error and make tons of mistakes before we display the correct behavior.
But social proof also has its negative and less useful sides. Let’s first start with the fact that we can be easily deceived by this principle illustrated with an example of a study that was done:
There were people walking in a big mall, but for one store, there was a huge line. People were suddenly joining the line, making it longer and longer, wanting to see what the fuss was all about. Nobody really knew what the line was for, or why people would stand in that line, they just thought, that because a lot of other people were doing it, it must be something worthwhile. This line turned out to be fabricated and wasn’t meant for anything, but people joined anyway because they saw other people doing it. This illustrates that the principle of social proof is not always correct. If other people are doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing it for a good reason.
Social proof also has an amplifying effect, which can make it very dangerous. This is how cults and ideologies form, and how they amass such a large audience. When a group of people comes together on a certain common ground, let’s say 'world peace', when people see that there is a group for that, some will want to join in. When those people join in, the group becomes bigger, and the bigger the group is, the higher the probability that people may be right to join and the more attractive the group becomes. Now everybody wants to join that group and it grows bigger and bigger, until it evolves into a cult or an ideology. This happened with Nazism, Maoism, the Bolsheviks, and is happening right now in a similar way with the woke ideology. From history, we have learned that these ideologies can be very dangerous and destructive, so when we see a different ideology pop up as we see right now, we should be very cautious with how far we let it grow. Once it’s too big, it can take over an entire country and cause irreparable harm, as we’ve seen numerous times before.
The other side of social proof, is that when you solely rely on it, you become a number instead of an individual, you simply become one of the sheep in the herd. This way you’re never going to become any better than any other person in the group, and the group will bring you down to their level and destroy your potential. Your individuality is the only thing you own in this world, and once you neglect it for the sake of going along with the group, you’ll find yourself miserable and lost. Use social proof in your life carefully, never blindly follow others, and stay an individual.
6- Commitment and consistency:
We all want to stay consistent with what we say and who others think we are. This is because people see others as more trustworthy if they can rely on them to do something. People can rely on you more if they see you are consistent in what you do and say. This way your next actions are predictable, they can assume that you're going to do what they think you're going to do. This is also why being a man of your word is so important, people can trust you if you say that you are going to do something, that you’re actually going to do it.
This also works on a larger scale with your personality. If you say you are some type of person, or the actions you perform are those of a certain type of person, in your next actions you will not want to deviate from being this person. In that case, the actions you’re going to take are those consistent with the personality that you’ve already established.
If we say we are a helpful person, we want to stay consistent with that image of being a helpful person by performing the actions that a helpful person would perform.
Consistency also provides us with a shortcut for our actions. If we just act in accordance with what we have done before, we don’t really have to think or consider all of the options before doing something, we just act based on what we’ve said or done before. This makes life infinitely easier, and some behaviors just happen automatically without us having to think about them. It also makes sure that you have limits in place, because without any limit, with too much freedom, you can’t make any choices because there are too many. You do need a limited amount of options to be able to even make a choice.
A lot of salespeople also make use of the consistency principle. For example:
The salesperson asks you if you are a coward, if you’re reading this I assume that the answer is no, so then the salesperson asks if I would be interested in going into a fighting cage with Mike Tyson.
So, I’ve just said that I’m not a coward, but I’m probably a coward if I decline this offer, so I’m almost forced to say yes, just to prove I’m not a coward, to stay consistent with the commitment I made earlier of being a courageous person.
Now this is an extreme example and obviously, many people would say no to this despite the fact that they made a commitment. But I hope you get the point.
On a smaller scale, this principle genuinely works, people want to stay consistent with the image they presented earlier, no matter what it may cost them.
Salespeople used this in an experiment with people walking by on the street. They asked them if they were a helpful person at the start of the conversation, and they noticed that if they made that commitment to being a helpful person, they felt that they had to take the actions of a helpful person. So they were much more likely to give money to charity, or help people in a retirement home. All because of one commitment that they made, that they felt they had to be consistent with.
"The brain of a modern man does not differ in essentials from that of the human beings who fought and lived here millions of years ago. The nature of man has remained hitherto practically unchanged.
Under sufficient stress - starvation, terror, warlike passion, or even cold intellectual frenzy - the modern man we know so well will do the most terrible deeds, and his modern woman will back him up." ~ Winston Churchill