Why you say yes, even when you don't want to

The low-ball technique is solid science. Once you're hooked, you're more likely to pay up, research shows.

Story highlights

  • Six "principles of persuasion" make us more likely to say yes, expert says
  • They can be used against you, but you can also use them to your advantage

(CNN)A few years ago, Robert Cialdini found himself at a large appliance store, standing in front of a big-screen TV that he didn't particularly want and certainly didn't need. That said, it was a great deal on a model that had received high marks from a consumer group.

He recalls the salesman coming up to him and saying, "I can see you're interested in this model, at this price, and I can tell why. It's a great deal, but I have to tell you, that's our last one. And we just got a call from a woman who said she might be coming down to the store today to buy it."
    Minutes later, Cialdini -- the man who literally wrote the book on the power of persuasion -- was wheeling out of the store with a new TV in his shopping cart, wondering whether he'd been duped.
    Scarcity is one of Cialdini's six "universal principles of influence." Along with the other five -- reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority and liking -- a good salesperson can talk someone into buying just about anything.
    Robert Cialdini
    Cialdini, who has been studying the science of social influence for decades, presented new findings on his six principles Friday at the American Psychological Association's annual convention in Washington.
    "We've always thought of successful persuasion as an art -- something that people are born with, a natural gift of saying just the right thing at just the right time," said Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University. "That's true, but what we haven't recognized traditionally is that it's also a science. It's something that can be taught and learned."
    That, of course, is a double-edged sword. It means you could end up being talked into buying something you otherwise wouldn't. But it also means you can harness these principles to your own advantage, to get what you want.