Science of Persuasion: Principles that guide human behavior

Have you ever wondered why one person is more successful than the other? If you’re thinking that their success is solely because of their luck, position and power, you’re wrong. Although these factors are important, psychology plays a significant role. So, what is Science of Persuasion?

Before I start with the six principles that guide human behavior, I’d like to tell you that what you’re about to read is amazing, fantastic and very much profitable in your daily lives.

The science of persuasion basically comes from social psychology. The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Ciadini shows us how to develop our behavioral skills which influence the decisions of individuals.

So, let us now look into the most wonderful principles which you can apply in your life ethically.

1] Reciprocity

2] Scarcity

3] Authority

4] Consistency

5] Social proof

6] Liking


People are obliged to give back the form of behavior (gift/service) that they have received first.

It is similar to the good old saying – You give before you get.

For example, if you invite your friend to a party, then they have an obligation to invite you to their future party.

Another example that is common in the business world is giving away free samples/services. Once the company has offered a good quality content/service for free, you are more likely to make a purchase of a product from their company in the future. How many of you have experienced this effect with OLA CABS (India)? They used to provide us with free taxi rides initially (Using mobile app codes and coupons). Then they gradually started converting those taxi riders into potential customers.

In a study conducted at the restaurants, giving a chocolate increased a waiter’s tip by 3%. Two chocolates gave an increase of 14% in the tip left. But, if the waiter gave one chocolate, walks away but turns and says “But for you nice people, here’s another chocolate”, tips increase by 25%. This increase was not influenced by what was given, but how it was given.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE is to be the first to give that is PERSONALIZED AND UNEXPECTED. It is important to create a feeling of debt and to maintain that feeling.


People want more of those things that they can have less of.

For example, we often hear the phrases “FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY”, “LAST 10 PIECES LEFT, HURRY!!” in the advertisements. This is a way of increasing their product sales by making the availability limited. Amazon’s lightning deal offers use the same principle.

This applies for us humans as well. When a person is available to everyone all the time, they’re considered less valuable.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE while negotiating with someone is not to simply say the benefits they’ll gain, you’ll also need to point out what they stand to lose. People are always drawn to things that are exclusive and hard to come by.


It is the idea that people will follow the lead of credible and knowledgeable experts.

For example, if someone popular and knowledgeable gives a positive comment on you publicly, you’re more likely to influence people than before.

Academic titles like PhD., Professor tend to give us a feeling that they have extensive knowledge about something even without knowing what achievements they have done.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE is to understand that it’s important to signal to others, what makes you a knowledgeable person before you make your influence attempt. Demonstrate that you are great at what you do, and people will show you respect.


Activated by looking for and asking for small initial commitments before influencing in the long run.

Let us take YouTube channels for example. The video creators create videos such that when you watch one of their videos, you’ll be bound to click on the other from the same channel. Each click and a view is a commitment. It will help them in the long run by having millions of views. That is basically saying that each drop counts while forming an ocean.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE is by asking/giving small initial commitments before influencing people in the long run. This gives a sense of familiarity and you can subconsciously reach the minds of many people.


People will often look to the actions of others to determine their own.

The best example is App store. Before installing any app, what do you usually do? You look out for other reviews right? Can you see this principle in action? App reviews, Movie reviews (IMDb), Online shopping, Trip advisor are some of the common social proof examples that we see in action every day.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE is to simply point out what others are doing, especially the similar ones. Give as many as examples which are similar to yours, people are more likely to get influenced. People often tend to look out for the actions of other people which have a direct influence on their own behavior.


People prefer to say YES to those they like.

But what causes a person to like another? Persuasion science tells us that there are 3 important factors:

  1. We like people who are similar to us.
  2. We like people who compliment us.
  3. We like people who cooperate with us towards a mutual goal.

In a series of experiments carried out at two business schools, a group of MBA students were told to adapt “Time is Money” idea and get straight down to business. In this group 55% were able to come to an agreement with another person. The second group were told to exchange some personal information before they started negotiating. In this group 90% were able to reach successful outcomes.

We can see a similar real life application of this principle in Apple Inc. stores. The sales people at the store wear jeans and t-shirts. Even though it’s informal, it gives the customers a feeling of similarity and they’re more likely to purchase the products.

THE KEY TO USE THIS PRINCIPLE is to create a sense of delight by looking for areas of similarity that you can share with others and by giving genuine compliments before you start influencing.


The above mentioned principles of persuasion that provide for small, practical and cost less changes can lead to big differences in your ability to influence others in an ethical way. Let me know in the comment box if you have experienced any of these principles in your lives.