7 Principles of Psychological Persuasion

The principles of persuasion are a set of psychological rules to influence others. In his book “Influence”, Robert Cialdini outlines 6 main principles: Reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus. He later added a 7th principle, unity. Knowing these rules can be helpful to either influence others, or to protect yourself from the techniques when they are being used on you. 

the full story
Principles of Persuasion

The principles of persuasion are a set of psychological rules to influence others. Originally there were six: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus. Later a 7th principle was added.


The first principle is reciprocity. It means that if you give something to someone, it makes them more open to being influenced by you. This is because we don’t like to feel that we owe someone and so we want to return the favor to clear our social debt.


The second is scarcity. When people perceive something as rare or limited, they are more susceptible to persuasion. This is driven by our desire to possess what others value, and the fear of missing out that prompts us to make decisions.


The third principle is authority. We often trust powerful people and their perceived expertise. We seek their guidance, particularly in situations of uncertainty, when we lack direction and need help from someone else to make a difficult decision on our behalf.


Fourth is consistency. We are more likely to do something if it’s consistent with past behavior. This is because we align our actions with expectations. To influence someone, ask for small commitments first and larger ones later.


The fifth is liking. People are more willing to say “yes” to those they are fond of. To make people like you, find common interests, be friendly, and give genuine compliments.


The sixth is consensus. Humans are inherently social. They want to conform to the group. Social proof can therefore persuade people to commit to something, they otherwise doubt. 


Psychologist Robert Cialdini, who came up with the 6 rules, later added another one — unity. Accordingly, people are more influenced by those who share their beliefs, values, and experiences.

Understanding the principle
Understanding the principle

So do you think you understood the principles? Then meet Jane, a young entrepreneur who, after learning about them, established a successful lemonade business. Follow her story and try to tell us which principles she uses and in what sequence.

To start her business, Jane first needs to get funding. To do so, she offers free samples to potential investors. When she later presents her business idea, those who tried her product are now more likely to hear her out.

Jane Lemonade Business

On her first week of business, Jane produces just enough to satisfy some customers but pretends to run out before everyone gets what they lined up for. By doing so, she creates a sense of exclusivity.

Jane then starts to showcase her top customers, encourages positive reviews, invites key opinion leaders to visit her shop, and hosts a local band to play on Sundays. Once her products are popular, customers can’t get enough of them. To ensure she’s not losing anyone, she distributes paper cups to those in line. Those that take the cup, are then more likely to wait for what they came for.

Jane Business Partner

Despite all that success, when Jane tries to open a savings account, she gets laughed at. So she partners up with her supplier, to appear trustworthy enough to get the job done. To strengthen her business, Jane listens to her customers and shows interest in the community. As a result, people will feel more connected to her company and stay loyal despite the competition.

Now tell us in the comments below which of the 7 principles Jane applied and in what order! 

what do you think?
Principles of Persuasion WDYT

Note that if these ideas aren’t enough to get the job done, here is one last piece of Cialdini’s advice: “When we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. Even if the reason is utterly unreasonable.”

What do you think? Will knowing these rules help you resist manipulation, and is it morally acceptable to use them for personal gain? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Dig deeper!

Classroom activity

In the following activity students are going to learn about influence and the 7 Principles of persuasion. 

  • Have the class watch a sales-pitch from the movie Wolf of Wall Street, and identify what persuaded the buyer to purchase the shares. 
  • Show Sprouts’ video on the 7 Principles of Persuasion 
  • Watch the sales pitch again, and ask the class to identify the principles of persuasion in the video as they are being used.
  • Split the class into 6 groups. 
  • Each group will be assigned one of the principles, and they will have to come up with examples where they have seen it being used – or instances when they have used it themselves.


  • Script: Ludovico Saint Amour di Chanaz and Jonas Koblin
  • Artist: Pascal Gaggelli
  • Voice: Matt Abbott
  • Coloring: Nalin
  • Editing: Peera Lertsukittipongsa
  • Production: Selina Bador
  • Sound Design: Miguel Ojeda

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