January 25, 2016


Persuasion architecture. 7 mechanisms of user manipulation

By Alexander Sergeev

Asmin7 has prepared a material based on Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”.  

Are you ready to become a persuasion architect?

Cognitive perception of ourselves and surrounding people makes it difficult for us to evaluate what’s going on objectively. We see the world through a prism of our own beliefs and instincts.

Think about how you make decisions? What are they based on: logics, emotions or psychological sets?

For example, Mary thinks that Pete who’s constantly late for work is an extremely disorganized person and can’t manage his time.

But is late for work as he has to make breakfast for his daughter and take her to school. Mary is almost always on time for work. When she’s late, she blames traffic jams, an alarm clock that didn’t go off, relatives who distracted her.

95% of businessman fail in their first 1-2,5 years because they think they know their consumers and can make them buy their products. A thought: “I know how my consumer thinks”, is the main mistake of a beginner businessman.

Actually, a consumer doesn’t know what he/she thinks.

That’s the reason why big companies have several marketing specialists for a realization of their production.

Internet marketing specialists who know the peculiarities of cognitive perception have made up several mechanisms that can “launch” hidden behavior mechanisms.

A hen hearing a chicken’s call will care for any object producing similar sounds. A human brain is far more complex than that of a hen. But still, it’s possible to stimulate a person to do some definite actions with the help of certain sets.


Here are 7 mechanisms that can change human behavior:


  • gift-touch
  • intention confirmation
  • crowd effect
  • authoritarianism
  • deficiency
  • more-less
  • peculiarity

Let’s discuss these mechanisms in detail.


1. Gift-touch


The essence of the mechanism can be expressed in one phrase: “I give you something to you – you give something to me”. Some hidden mechanism given by nature urges a person to do a favor in turn for an unselfish gift. Many people say that they just don’t want to owe something.

Buddhism followers were the first to understand this mechanism. People in bright orange clothes always give something away: flowers, cupcakes, books and then ask to make a contribution. If somebody has done a favor to you, you also want to do something good for this person.

How to use it?


Present users with something useful. For example, book publishers give a possibility to read several chapters for free in the internet. If you sell goods, present a user with a mini-book on how to use them. It may also be a ticket, discount coupon, catalog, etc.

It’s very important to ask about a reciprocal offer. For example, ask them to subscribe to newsletters, leave their emails, vote for your product, leave a comment about your service and so on.

A one-touch method is transferring a user to a purchase offer right after giving a gift.

Series-of-touches method supposes a consolidation of relationships with a potential client with the help of 3-5-7 touches.


2. Intention confirmation


The essence of this method is that every person is responsible for his/her words and if they have confirmed a devotion to a brand in written form, they won’t go back on their words.

Shortly it may be expressed like this: “If I’ve said I like it, then I like it”.

How to use it?


With the help gift-touch mechanism, you can make users leave posts in their social profiles. A post on a “wall” is some kind of an “intention act”. Many people are ready to pay for unnecessary things in order to keep to their words.


3. Crowd effect


A desire to go with the stream and be like everybody else is ineradicable because 1000 people can’t make a mistake.

People are trying to define for themselves what’s a norm in society. When they do, they try to follow the rules they have defined. A crowd always draws in new members because of its mass. There are many investigations on the topic.

How to use it?


A new song with lots of “likes” is downloaded more often and appreciated higher than the same song with a few positive reviews.

A product with a great many of comments is purchased more often. Hits, blockbusters, and bestsellers become popular because they were announced to be popular. It has been noticed long ago that a book is being sold better if it’s written on the cover “bestseller”.

And let’s think how the first circulation can be a bestseller?

In online shops you can often see messages like: “People who purchased this product, also were interested in…” and “We recommend…”.

Here’s another marketing trick: default setups. Our subconsciousness is prone to consider default setups to be the only true ones. As a rule, a needed set is added to such setups. For example, an insurance or an additional product: a TV table or a cushion for a chair.


4. Authoritarianism


People listen to an opinion of a trustworthy specialist in this or that sphere.

Celebrities and prominent people usually take part in promo videos. People in medical uniforms who promote toothpaste make people believe them.

How to use it?


In Twitter people follow links and purchase goods more often, if an account belongs to a prominent person. A comment in a store which has got the majority of votes becomes trustworthy. That’s why some stores allow their guests to rate comments of other users.


5. Deficiency


Psychological effect: “If I go away, I’ll get nothing as others will take it”.

There was an investigation carried out in the USA which confirms the old truth: little is always more valuable. People buy water in small bottles more often.

A consumer has lots of justifications which aren’t connected to the effect. For example, “it’s more comfortable to use a smaller package”, “I don’t need more”.

It’s unknown who created artificial deficiency. But the first successful example of its use is known very well: Carl Rehnborg supplements. He used artificial deficiency in order to spread a product which was unnecessary at that moment.

How to use it?


From time to time musicians and artists have their last concerts or sell out their paintings because of finishing their career. And later on they continue activity till another last concert/exhibition.

Last tickets are always sold better and quicker than first ones. Closed beta-testing of product attracts more users.

We’ve got this mechanism from our distant ancestors when food deficiency was the main reason for high death-rate.

Sales because of closure are the most efficient way to attract crowds of people and sell a product.


6. More — less


The majority of people can evaluate the costs of a product adequately because they compare it with existing offers and choose an optimal correlation of price and quality.

How to use it?


There’s an “anchor dish” in a restaurant business. The price of this dish is always quite high, so other dishes are perceived as quite inexpensive ones.

Internet-providers use several package offers: one of them has a very high price and includes lots of services which are unnecessary to an ordinary user.

When you sale a product, offer several variants to a customer: just a product, a product with a life-time maintenance, a product with additional goods, consultation or 5-year maintenance.


7. Peculiarity


A human brain always tries to optimize resource expenses on information processing. We pay little attention on habitual things, events and objects around us. So only bright and extraordinary elements catch your eye.

How to use it?


A bright button of an unusual form attracts more attention and provides a high sales level.

Specialists claim that it’s a true and false statement at the same time. Such a conclusion was made due to the lack of knowledge and absence of skills for a more detailed and deep study of the question.

A bright button works not by its own, it works because it’s a bright spot on a common background, i.e. an irritator. If there are big red buttons on every site, irritation effect will die out and sales will drop.

The most successful salespeople use interesting, bright design elements on their sites: buttons, order forms and so on. Periodical design change is very beneficial for sales. But it’s necessary to change only separate elements.

Anything you want can be a peculiarity: unusual design, non-standard offer, competition, appeal, gift.

Each method is good and offers lots of possibilities. Test this or that element for each type of business: change price, quantity of goods or an essence of an offer. In the end, you’ll get an ideal formula for your business.

Apply the theoretical knowledge and get positive results. You’ll be able to feel yourself a real architect of persuasion.

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