Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

Gatherings from the Internet

Never mind what people believe—how can we change what they do?

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A chat with Robert Cialdini
Grist Magazine’s David Roberts

When it comes to energy, policymakers are often confronted with human behavior that seems irrational, unpredictable, or unmanageable. Advocates for energy efficiency in particular are plagued by the gap between what it would make sense for people to do and what they actually do. Efforts to change people’s behavior have a record that can charitably be described as mixed.

Many of the experiments that have cast the most light on what does (and doesn’t) drive behavioral shifts around energy have been run by Dr. Robert Cialdini, until recently the Regents’ Professor of Psychology and W.P. Carey Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Arizona State University (he retired in May of last year). Cialdini’s professional focus is not just on energy but on behavior more generally, and the ways behavior is influenced. His seminal 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is used in business and marketing schools across the country, and his most recent book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive (co-authored with Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin), was a New York Times bestseller.

Robert Cialdini.
Photo courtesy wikimedia commons


Cialdini describes six “weapons of influence”:

  • Reciprocity: people will repay favors.
  • Commitment and Consistency: people will stick to commitments made publicly.
  • Social Proof: people will do what other people do.
  • Authority: people obey authority figures.
  • Liking: people are more influenced by those they like.
  • Scarcity: people desire what is perceived as scarce
  • .
    He consults for a variety of organizations, exploring how these mechanisms can be used to produce positive results. Maybe the clean energy crowd should listen in!

    Read the interview here.

    Author: barenose

    Have a look at my web site for ideas about the work I've done. I look forward to hearing from you about your next project, the Internet, the environment, or life. www.barenose.com

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