It's important to learn how our mind works. This books helps you understand why we do the things we do. I highly recommend it - especially if you haven't read anything like it.

6 min read

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." — Albert Einstein

We have certain 'triggers' that make us do things that we wouldn't be likely to otherwise.

A well known one would be that we're more likely to do someone a favour if we are given a reason. It's, specifically, the word because that's our trigger word here. So when you ask for something, end with because this and that. It works even if you don't add any new information to your sentence.

A lot of people think that "expensive = good", which is a form of the "you get what you pay for" mentality. This can be used to boost sales by increasing prices.

Why does all of this happen? We live in a complex environment. We can't analyse every single thing. Therefore, we have these 'rules of thumb' (or stereotypes, or mental shortcuts) that help us navigate this complexity. But these stereotypes also fail us sometimes. When a pattern that we recognize emerges, we mindlessly respond to it with this inbuilt procedure.

Another example could be offers. If we're told that something is an 'offer', we automatically think that we're getting a deal — something at a reduced price. A good deal. But (often) respond that way, even if the price hasn't actually been reduced; it just says 'offer'.

The Contrast Principle: If something is different from the first thing, we perceive it to be more different that it actually is. Try it — put your hand in cold water, and then lukewarm water. The lukewarm water would feel hotter than it actually is. This is often used to sell things. You're shown the most costly item first, such that you're more likely to find the less expensive option(s) more attractive. Or if you are purchasing multiple items, you'll be shown the more expensive items first (a suit, for example). Then you'll be likely to spend more on another item (a sweater, for example), which you otherwise would be more resistant to. Real estate salesmen use the contrast principle as well. They show you a 'run down' house before the one that they actually have in mind for you (which is probably good enough looking). Then you find that one very attractive — in contrast to the first 'dump'. This is also why car salesmen sell the extras after selling the car. The prices seem insignificant compared to the price of the car. But they sell these separately, such that the prices don't 'add up'.

"Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill" — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rule: we try to repay, in kind, what another has done to us.

An experiment was conducted wherein holiday letters were sent to strangers. They sent some back.

We don't want to be seen as someone who doesn't give back.

A study was conducted wherein it was found that the subject would pay double in a return-favour to 'repay' a favour given by someone. Give someone something, and they'll feel indebted to you. Then they'll give you more back, than if you had given them nothing. It doesn't even matter if the person likes you or not. They'll feel indebted either way — and therefore give more back.

Free samples = reciprocity invoking.

Even uninvited favors can spark a sense of obligation.

We feel obligated to receive — we can't say no.

Small favors can lead to large return favors.

People are more likely to agree to do something for you if you lead with a bigger 'ask', and if they say no, ask for something smaller (what you originally wanted).

Be careful about agreeing to trivial requests. Such an agreement can not only increase our compliance with very similar, much larger requests, it can also make us more willing to perform a variety of larger favors that are only remotely connected to the little one we did earlier.

We convince ourselves that we made the right choice, even if we were unsure in the beginning.

We fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with our actions and decisions.

We want to be seen as consistent.

Our behavior tells us about ourselves; it is a primary source of information about our beliefs, values, and attitudes.

Technique used by Amway to help sales people sell more:

"Set a goal and write it down. Whatever the goal, the important thing is that you set it, so you've got something for which to aim — and that you write it down. There is something magical about writing things down. So set a goal and write it down. When you reach the goal, set another and write that down. You'll be off an running"

Public commitments tends to be lasting commitments.

When we take a stand in front of others, we are likely to want to maintain it such that we look consistent.

The more public, the less likely we are to change it.

External pressure may make us perform a certain action, but not take internal responsibility for it. So we won't feel committed to it. Same goes for threats. If you want to change someone's mind, or make them change something about themselves, make them think that it came from inside.

When you feel trapped into complying with a request you know you don't want to perform, say no. Call it out. Ask yourself "Knowing what I now know, if I could go back in time, would I make the same choice?".

Social proof: one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. Especially in terms of behavior.

This is why advertisers say "fastest-growing" or "largest-selling". They use the leverage of others who have purchased such that we think that it is a good product. Then they don't have to convince us of it 'directly'.

You can influence people by social proof using films/videos. For influencing yourself, you can use this to program yourself to do things — like exercise. I think this is why people say that we are the sum of our influences. What you consume (online or otherwise) makes you. The people you look up to shape you.

When we are uncertain, we are more likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.

But maybe, others are doing this as well.

If you are a victim, and want to avoid also being a victim of the Bystander Effect, you must do more than just alert bystanders of your need for assistance. You must remove their uncertainties about how that assistance should be provided and who should provide it.

Isolate someone in the crowd. Stare, speak, and point directly at that person and no one else. Tell them do do something. Others are more likely to join in when one is helping, as well.

We especially look at people who are similar to us.

The most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favor.

Which factors make others like us

  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Similarity
  • Compliments
  • Contact and Cooperation
    • The familiarity produced by contact usually leads to greater liking, the opposite occurs if the contact carries distasteful experiences with it
  • Conditioning and Association
    • Shakespeare: "The nature of bad news, infects the teller". We naturally dislike those who bring us unpleasant information — even if that person didn't cause it in the first place.
    • People do assume that we have the same personality traits as our friends.
    • People become fonder of the people and things they experience while eating.

It is a good idea to keep separate our feelings about the requester and the request.

Our obedience frequently takes place in a click, whirr fashion with little or no conscious deliberation. Remember the Milgram experiment.

Authority is dangerous to always automatically follow; but often good to, as well. Not everyone is out to get us, but we have to be careful of those who do.

We often fall prey to authority in the shape of:

  • Titles
  • Clothes (uniforms)
  • Trappings (material items; cars, nice things etc)

To avoid this, think about how an expert stands to benefit from your compliance.

The scarcity principle: opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.

We are more motivated by the though of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.

Very often in making a decision about someone or something, we don't use all the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single, highly representative piece of the total. And an isolated piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes — mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse.

Enjoy my book notes? Join the newsletter

I'll send you an email when I release new notes. No spam, ever.