How is psychology used to manipulate and influence people in their daily lives?

How is psychology used to manipulate and influence people

6 Principles of Influence on People

How is psychology used to manipulate and influence people

By manipulation, I’m going to interpret this to mean influence people.  Robert B. Cialdini is a social psychologist known for his work on what he calls the six universal principles of influence.  By knowing how these principles work you can influence people and realize when you are being influenced.

  • Reciprocity – People have a strong need to repay favors.  If you wish to influence someone later it is important to label, verbally, the things you do for them as a favor.  For example, instead of saying “no problem” say something like “you would do the same for me”
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit themselves to a position, especially in public or in writing, they are more likely to follow through later. So if you want someone to do something get it in writing or get them to clearly say yes I’ll do X where others can hear.
  • Social Proof – People follow the crowd or more simply people tend to assume that other people are making good choices.  So having plants or shills who will play along with what you want someone to do will influence them.  Perhaps a simple example is parties, people are more likely to come if they know/believe others are coming.
  • Authority – People tend to believe experts or people they perceive as holding positions of authority. I.e. Nazi guards who were just following orders.
  • Liking- People tend to be more persuaded by people they like, i.e. an affable sales guy, a charismatic politician or an attractive booth babe.  However, just spending lots of time in close proximity with a person tends to breed liking.  Want that guy/girl to go out with you?  Hang out with them a lot.
  • Scarcity – People value things they perceive as scarce or rare more.  For example exclusive offers, special models or limited sales.


Marketing Manipulation

Marketing supplies a product or service that resolves the customer’s problem/dilemma whether real imagined or generated by the advertiser. If you consider this with regards to the points below, you may never watch another commercial without feeling deceived, misled and abused.

1. Sexuality: When we view someone attractive, our body responds by discharging hormones. Our mind subsequently links this pleasurable feeling with the product or service being sold. Now you can understand why Carl’s Junior shows so much “skin” when selling their hamburgers.

2. Humor: You can always tell how bad a product is by the amount of humor the marketing company used to sell it. Generally speaking, the more humor in advertising, the worse the product or service is for you. Look at companies like Hershey’s, Frito-Lay and Bud Light.

3. Anthropomorphism: There really is a psychological term for those smiling cats and dogs. Giving human characteristics to animals and inanimate objects gain your trust and confidence. The next time you down a Heineken, look very closely at the smiling “e” on the bottle. This is highly suggestive of a favorable brand perception.

4. Insecurity: If marketers can make us feel insufficient, we will try and find a way to fill the self-doubt. This is a notorious practice of the cosmetics industry. The only difference between you and the model is a few minutes with Photoshop and their newest cosmetic miracle.

5. Reverse Psychology: This technique is largely tied to a buyer’s resistance. It involves influencing you to do what they want by pretending not to want it. Patagonia applied this concept to their print advertising by telling you, “don’t buy this jacket”, which of course worked in reverse as the public purchased the product in droves.

6. Rebates: Fifty percent of all rebates over $50 are never redeemed, and those under $10 are redeemed less than 10%, so why do we fall for this practice with the likes of Sears, Bausch & Lomb and Maytag? Did you know that unfilled rebates go back to the manufacturer and the clearinghouse that transacts the rebate?

7. Social Proof: The ever-popular consumer review sites are evidence of how much we value (reported) positive feedback. Companies know and understand this, which is why they use “likes” and “upvotes” to advertise their products and services. Unfortunately, when is the last time you actually read the reviews?

8. Fear: In all its forms and uses is a formidable advertising tactic. Better use Listerine if you have bad breath. Use clinically proven Clinique Dark Spot Correcting Lotion to eliminate those horrible “age spots”. Safeguard your children by using Broadview protection services. And the ever so annoying, “all the other kids have one” advertising directed at your children.

9. Pseudoscience: The cosmetic industry makes ridiculous claims that they can repair “DNA damage” speed “cell rejuvenation” and “turn back the clock”. When the cosmetic industry partners with doctors, where can you and I turn to protect us from this psychobabble?

10. Misleading Visuals: A so-called “infomercial” shows just how different an advertisement can really be from reality. From fast food, body image, vacation hotels and products directly marketed to children. Either by using potatoes in place of ice cream, spraying food with high gloss lacquer or using Photoshop to make the model perfect. Misleading visuals may be the worst of all advertising practices by virtue of the psychological damage it does to our children.

11. Priming: This kind of manipulation (also known as foot in the door) is tricky as well as exceptionally subtle. With this method, you are asked to provide an answer to a very simple question. The inquirer will then follow up with his or her real request.

When at a mall or shopping center be careful of people asking questions such as: do you happen to know the time please, where did you get that dress, or how did you get such a beautiful complexion?

12. Social Exchange: Con artists, unethical marketers, and so-called friends use social exchange quite often. Exchanging favors and doing things for others is a basic part of our society, but aggressive people often manipulate this. As an example, a friend might remind you about that time they bailed you out of a particular situation, then use that leverage when they need something in return. Or, someone who knows a personal secret of yours could intimidate you into doing something they want in return.

13. Help Me: Another technique is to always begin a dialog by requesting help. Be very weary of people starting a conversation by asking: “I need your help, please. I am trying to find anyone interested in X. Would you happen to know anyone?” People inherently want to help and will either acknowledge that they are in need or give you a referral. When the salesperson does this correctly, this approach works like a charm.

14. Colors: The following list colors are reflective of how humans react:

Red is the color of power. It gets people’s attention.
Blue is trustworthy. Mix blue with complimentary colors for best results.
Pink is best used to get the attention of young females.
Yellow is powerful, but it’s also dangerous. Use yellow to command attention.
Green is versatile. It’s warm, inviting and encourages a pleasant feeling.
Purple is the color of royalty, elegance, and prestige.
Gold is also elegant and prestigious.
Orange is a powerful attention-grabber.
Brown is an earthy tone known for comfort.
Black can be modern or traditional, exciting or relaxing.

15. Euphemisms: The tendency to obscure the truth is a favorite marketing tactic for the real estate trade and online marketing firms. Advertising a home as a fixer-upperin need of loving care, or within walking distance are prime examples of real estate euphemisms. While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) instead of increase unpaid search engine traffic, Landing Page instead of lead generation page and RSS instead of syndication and subscription technology are prime examples within online marketing circles.


Manipulation Tactics

Manipulation Tactics

Here are a few manipulation tactics that could be used to exploit peoples’ blind spots, biases, and presumptive assumptions:

  1. Attributing negative (but false) characteristics to something already unpopular  This involves taking something that is already deemed unsavory by a large percentage of the population and attributing additional characteristics that can neither be proven true or explained scientifically.
  2. Framing peoples’ enemies and adversaries for wrongdoing – If you frame someone or a group of people who have a history of questionable behavior for an offense along the same lines, the mark who’s being manipulated has a reasonably high chance of taking those accusations at face value without conducting further investigation.
  3. Exploiting the sunk cost fallacy – If someone’s already invested a considerable amount of money, time, and effort into a mission, belief system, etc., it’s often easier to continue on that path in the face of all rationality rather than admitting to themselves that they may have walked into a huge, costly mistake.
  4. Linking someone’s self-image with future, desired behavior – This works by invoking someone’s “higher self” by calling attention to such traits as wisdom, generosity, courage, teamwork, intelligence, skill level, etc., and then slyly linking those characteristics with behavior that benefits the manipulator.
  5. Giving people a false sense of entitlement – Convince someone that they’re somehow special and superior because of the demographic they’re in, not because of any notable achievements. Get them to believe that everyone who does not like them is inferior—even subhuman if you want to go that far with it. Not only will this boost their confidence, they might depend more and more on your soothing words and the smoke you’re blowing up their chimney if this unwarranted sense of entitlement starts to backfire.




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