The Science of Persuasion

Key thoughts & take-aways:


  • The more you give, the more you get.
  • People feel they owe someone when they’ve been given a “gift”.


  • When something is in short supply we want it more.

The video uses the last flight of the concord jet as an example. But the most local example I can think of is the LCBO. In the last few years there have been looming strike threats right before big holiday weekends – most recently, just before the big Canada 150. Every time this happens the LCBO has huge sales influx just prior to the strike date, because we Canadians love our alcohol and the thought of not having access to it drives us to go stock up. I’m starting to believe that the LCBO purposely stalls negotiations with unions specifically so they can get this sales bump.


  • People follow the lead of knowledgeable experts.
    This is a reason why blogging and content marketing are so important for businesses these days.
    Showing your that you are an authority in your industry can give you and edge over your competitors.
  • When someone else says you’re the expert, people are more likely to believe that and respond positively. This is why things like testimonials and social proof are valuable.


  • “People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.” The example references a study that showed people were more likely to say yes when a small request was presented in advance of a larger request. So, getting people to agree to a small thing lead to them saying yes to a larger thing later on, when they would have originally said no to the larger thing.


  • Three important factors:
    1. We like people who are similar to us
    2. We like people who pay us compliments
    3. We like people who co-operate with us.

Anyone who has worked in customer service should already know these things. Any good sales person will find a way to ingratiate themselves to potential customers in this way.


  • If other people are doing something, we are more likely to do it to. I think selfies are a great example of this. Suddenly everyone is sharing selfies…because everyone else does it, so it’s OK to do it yourself too. How else can you explain the sudden explosion in selfies everywhere?
  • Another example is every small business website having a blog. Every small business website these days is doing it, so you should too, right? The answer is yes, you probably should. The prevalence of these blogs is the consensus. (Although, just having a blog, and having a really good, useful to your potential customer content marketing blog are two different things.)

The reality is that creating good design and getting good results from that design has a lot to do with understanding human behavior.

All to often I find business owners wanting to do something on their website because they assume the website visitors will do what they want.

This is simply not true. The way to get users to do what you want starts with understanding some basics about human behavior, then adapting your tactics to conform to that known behavior. You’ll get much better results and be more satisfied with your efforts when you start to adopt this approach.

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