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Surprise! Cialdini Adds 7th Principle, Unity

By Roger Dooley

Excerpted with permission from

Two years ago, I spoke to Dr. Robert Cialdini, the “godfather” of persuasion science and the creator of the celebrated Six Principles of Influence. I asked him if, thirty years after completing his seminal book, Influence, he’d add on another one or two. He declined, saying that while there were many influence techniques, the important ones mostly fit into his original six. (Check out our 2014 conversation for some great persuasion insights.)

Now, things have changed.

Cialdini has written a new, major book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. In it, he acknowledges that one more influence technique rises to the level of being a major principle. He writes, “… now I believe that there is a seventh universal principle that I had missed — not because some new cultural phenomenon or technological shift brought it to my attention but because it was hiding beneath the surface of my data all along …”

Unity: It’s All About Us

So what is this principle? Cialdini calls it “Unity.” By that, he is referring to a shared identity that both the influencer and influencee are part of. The more we perceive people are part of “us,” the more likely we are to be influenced by them. This fits with the entire theme of Pre-Suasion, which is to create a favorable state of mind just before the actual persuasion effort occurs. Reminding someone of a shared identity makes you more persuasive.…

Unity-Based Tactics

Cialdini provides examples of … ways to employ unity. One of the most remarkable comes from wartime Japan. In 1941, the Japanese didn’t follow the lead of their Nazi allies in brutalizing Jews. This was due, at least in part, to a Jewish scholar making a single persuasive statement to Japanese leaders debating the issue: “We are Asian. Like you.” This shifted the mindset of the leaders, and they rejected the pressure to adopt Nazi tactics toward Jews.

“Co-creation” also builds unity. People who are involved in the creation of something feel better about it. Their self, to some degree, is merging with their creation. (Remember the IKEA effect?) Sometimes, even simple language tweaks make a difference.

Cialdini describes the market research for a new fast-casual restaurant concept, Splash!. Consumers were shown a description of the concept, and asked for feedback. But, the exact language varied – a survey taker might be asked for “advice,” “opinions,” or “expectations.”

The final question of the survey was how likely the consumer would be to visit a Splash!. Those asked for “advice” were significantly more likely to answer positively. Asking for advice put the survey-takers in a “togetherness” frame of mind. They were helping create the new concept, not just commenting on it.

Shared ethnicity, location, and other factors can be emphasized to build unity. With a little creativity, you can find a factor that will unite you with your customer .…

For more about unity and the other important new concepts in Pre-Suasion, check out my brand new Brainfluence Podcast featuring Robert Cialdini. You’ll spend a persuasion-packed 40 minutes with the scientist who created the field. And, if you don’t have time to listen, just grab the nicely formatted PDF transcript to read later.…

Want to get the full Pre-Suasion story? Pick the format of your choice from our friends at Amazon: book, Kindle, or audio.

Roger Dooley is the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing (Wiley). He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and writes Brainy Marketing at Forbes. He is the founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Learn more at Follow him on Twitter at @rogerdooley.

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