Public Opinion Through New Media

Liking (Richardson)

The issue: The “Liking” principle tells us that people are more likely to say yes to or do favors for people they know and like.

Major Strength: One of the most powerful examples of the “liking” principle at work in this chapter is Cialdini’s anecdote about how Oprah Winfrey’s support of Barack Obama caused his approval ratings to rise. People like Oprah; and therefore are more prone to liking what Oprah likes. Additionally, the idea that we reference sports teams as “we” instead of “they” is a very relevant and relatable example. Many people do this and don’t question the semantics.

Major Weakness: Rating physical attractiveness is not a quantitative measurement, which makes evaluating it a subjective matter. The “halo effect” makes perfect sense, but it seems rather difficult to prove scientifically. With that in mind, I am somewhat skeptical of the data gathered in the Stewart study and the others that based their research on the subjective evaluation of physical features.

Underlying Assumption: The underlying assumption is that we can’t control these click, whirr reactions. We automatically are more trusting of people that seem personable and likeable. Subconsciously we all do it, and as much as we try to be unbiased, that’s just the way it is.

Provocative Questions:

Is it a bad thing to favor people we like? If we are less likely to comply with someone we dislike, it seems like that is a natural and valuable defense mechanism that exists to protect us.

What the hell is a Tupperware party?

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The issue:  Once individuals make a commitment they face personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with their decision.

Major strength: Cialdini’s arguments for an individual’s behavior and actions to commitments are valid and can be proven true in situations like attending events if committing to the power of a written statement.  However, the part I most identified and found interesting was the part about fraternity rituals and hazing.  As a member of a sorority I find myself in two different types of situations.  When I meet another member of a sorority we automatically bond due to the similar experiences and have immediate conversations topics like philanthropies and sorority events.  On the other hand, when I meet someone who is not a member of a sorority I often get asked why I joined and scolding looks as to judge my want to be a part of Greek life that carries a stigma.  Cialdini summarizes the experience of going through pledging nicely by saying, “persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum effort” (pg. 78).  We had non-Greek fraternities on our campus like the Engineering frat or the choir fraternity but membership was simply showing up to meetings.  Earing your way into something heightens the positive association with it, helps define you as an individual, and enhances your commitment and consistency to uphold that organizations values.

Major weakness:  Although Caildini gives various examples that support the idea that commitment drives individual behaviors, he lacks to see the differences in impact and scale.  For example: the college students who volunteered for an AIDs educational program and signed forms stating their willingness to participate probably felt committed due to a fear of looking dishonest, unreliable, unstable, and irresponsible to their college and the program administrators.  On the other hand, did the soldiers behave the way they did because of a commitment they gave to their Chinese captors?  Or did they comply due to fear, the stress of being a held prisoner in a foreign place, the stresses of war, etc.?  I don’t see how Caildini can compare these situations equally and use them as the quota for all situations concerning commitment.

Underlying assumption:  I think an underlying assumption within this chapter is that individuals are willing to do anything that serves their best interests.  People justify their actions and behave in ways consistent to their commitments just so they don’t have to admit their ideas or perceptions by others are wrong.  We all want to be seen as honest, respectful, and held-highly by others, and in doing so we participate in actions that will achieve those results.  Admitting faults is much harder than attempting to ignore them.

Provocative questions:

1) What happens when the outcome of an individual’s behavior is opposite of that than what they convinced themselves it would be?  For example: What happens after the betters lose money on their token horse at the racetrack or when the individuals find out the meditation program they paid $75 for actually doesn’t fix sleeping disorders?

2) Does commitment and consistency work the same way if it is self-administered?  Suppose I know the power of a written statement and I address a note to myself that convinces me that I need to donate more money to charity in order to be seen by others as trustworthy and caring.  Do I change my behaviors and try to adhere to what is in the note even though I don’t have to justify my actions to anyone else but myself?

3) Did the example with the Christmas toys remind anyone else of “Jingle All the Way” with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

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The Issue: People tend to respond differently to requests based on their relationship to the person, their physical attractiveness, and similarities.

Major Strength: As usual, I enjoyed Cialdini’s examples in each section.  I liked his example of the successful car saleman that sent “I like you” postcards to his customers.  I never thought a simple card once a month could have such a huge affect.  In fact, I would find it rather bothersome and wasteful. However, Cialdini pointed out the power of flattery and compliments.

Major Weakness:  I have no idea what a Tupperware party is and am not really sure if I understood correctly. Cialdini should have explained first what that sort of party is before giving it as an example.  Instead, he explained it in parts while explaining the liking rule.   Cialdini makes it seem like looks gets a person really far in life. They’re more intellectual, have better personality and are more liked.  Is this when people aren’t well acquainted with the person? I’ve seen many pretty people that have horrible personalities…

Underlying Assumption:  Liking someone can influence a person’s decision.  It’s true that the halo effect exists and people can make assumptions simply by the appearance of a person or any other favoring factor.  Compliments and similarities help persuade a person to respond in the other’s favor.

Provocative Questions:

I didn’t like hearing about the court trials ending in favor for  certain people simply because they were attractive.  In order to cancel out the halo effect, is it possible to have a trial without the judge or jurors being able to see what the person on trial looks like?  Sounds ridiculous, yes, but it’ll be fair.  Is there another way to prevent the halo effect in court, therefore justice is served.

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The Issue:
Cialdini discusses the concept of Liking in Chapter 5 of Influence. He discusses how things such as physical attractiveness, similarity and friendship can dictate how a person responds to a request.

Major Strength:
The section in this chaptered under “Why Do I Like You? Let Me List The Reasons” was very intriguing and very informative. I thought that the way Cialdini explained each of the different aspects to why we like someone was very helpful in understanding the concept of liking in regards to influence. A lot of the statistics he used furthered the strength of his discussion. One of the best examples, in my opinion, was under the subheading Contact and Cooperation and was about the photographs of women. The example clearly showed how familiarity was a factor in liking and it was something I would never have thought of before.

Major Weakness:
I think in regards to liking, Cialdini’s major weakness is the “obvious” factor. A lot of what he was arguing are ideas that seem very common knowledge. While the examples were interesting and the way he explained each idea was great, I felt as thought I kept saying “well, of course” in my head. I think it is pretty clear that physical attractiveness is a factor in getting people to think favorably of you, which is why people dress a certain way and why there is so much emphasis on beauty standards.

Underlying Assumptions:
I think the underlying assumption in this chapter is that as long as you like someone, they all of a sudden have a major way to influence you. While I can agree that liking someone does have a place in influence, I do not think it’s incredibly strong. People have other factors that play into decision making that can be much stronger than simply liking the person who requests something.

Provocative Questions:
If someone was trying to sell you an item and you liked them a lot (they were attractive and similar and familiar and complimentary) but the product was something you did not want or need or was in your budget, would you still be compelled to buy it due to liking?
Do you think there is a reverse halo effect? As in, if you a person has one negative characteristic, that can dominate the way their entire persona is perceived.


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Commitment and Consistency

The issue:  People make decisions every day based on prior commitments and consistent ideas.

Major strength: Cialdini undoubtedly makes valid arguments for why people do what they do in terms of the commitments they have already agreed to. It’s something we tend to not think about consciously (just as the American soldiers didn’t realize they were slowly committing to Communist ideas in their writing) but we are affected by it every day. I could relate to his story about the woman who wrote cards saying she would never smoke another cigarette again and gave them to loved ones so she could uphold her commitment. There’s something to be said about sharing your commitment with other people so you can feel more accountable. I got into running about three years ago and noticed I do this when I want to achieve a goal in terms of my distance or time. I’ll tweet out that I am going to run 6 miles today, or I’ll track my mileage and purposely try to get a certain pace so I can tell others later, hence encouraging myself to run faster and longer in the process.

Cialdnini’s discussion of that feeling in the pit of your stomach is incredibly valid as well. We tend to phrase a question a certain way or get a person excited about something before we drop the ball on them that we’re trying to coerce them into making a decision (thus making them feel obligated). One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone at my part-time wait staff job purposely asks me “What are you doing tomorrow?” When I automatically say I have nothing planned, they ask if I can pick up their shift. I feel like I have to say yes because I already told them I had no plans. It’s smarter on their part to ask me that question they did rather than simply “Can you work for me tomorrow?” I don’t have time to think of an excuse because I literally just said I have no plans. Therefore that person has the day off and I have to go into work when I originally was looking forward to that day off for myself.

Major weakness:  I felt like Cialdini had very valid points in his chapter on how we are coerced into following through with commitments, but I had to question his argument about the people who agreed to having the signs put up in their yard after committing to a lesser request of signing a petition. He says: “Signing the beautification petition changed the view these people had of themselves. They saw themselves as public-spirited citizens who acted on their civic principles.”

In recent research of “Slacktivism” for my case study about the Kony 2012 campaign, I would argue that Cialdini’s comment might be a sweeping generalization. It seems that a majority of the time, an organization can get people to commit to a small request, such as signing a petition on social media or changing their profile picture for a cause. But when it comes to getting these people to actually going out in their community to fundraise or physically doing something to support the campaign, people tend to not be as proactive, even if they had already signed that social media petition.

Underlying assumption: People tend to go through with commitments based on the fact that they feel they have an obligation to that commitment. Also, people are inherently uncomfortable when “backed into a corner” about a commitment they feel they have.

Provocative questions: In terms of disciplining children, compliance with parents is somewhat based on the individual child, but how much does that child’s personality affect outcomes of rule-following?

How has technology and social media affected the way we stick to commitments? Is there something to be said about the fact that we can more easily back out of commitments or compliance because we don’t have to do it face-to-face as much anymore?

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The Power of Commitment

The issue: In Cialdini’s book Influence he talks about the issue of commitment and consistency and how it affects us in our daily lives.

Major strength: Cialdini’s major strength in this chapter is the example of the toy companies. I found this example to be an example that I could relate to and it really showed how commitment and consistency affect us in our daily lives. Toy companies have found a great way to help spike their profits after the holiday season and this just shows how we are victims of many marketing strategies. I had never thought of this working but it makes total and complete sense. Companies make children get really excited about something so their parents commit to saying they can have it for Christmas. Companies then undersupply the stores of that item so parents buy something else. They then run more adds about the toy after Christmas and have children tell their parents that they made a promise so parents feel obligated to buy the toy after Christmas, spiking the sales of the toy company. This example shows that if companies can get us to commit to something then the majority of the time we will follow through on that commitment and buy the item. This theory is a well-proven fact and is used in many marketing campaigns around the world. It is also used a lot with politics. If a politician can get someone to say they will do something then they are more likely to complete that action then they were before they said they would do it.

Major weakness: The major weakness in this section is the example about the Chinese and their POW tactics. They used different methods in order to get the Americans to talk badly about their country and to extract information out of them. I believe that their tactics of using the consistency theory and commitment were genius but I believe there are a lot of factors in this example that didn’t work. It is hard to imagine that this is a great example because of all the other factors that are happening when an American is captured by another country. I believe that as human beings we are going to try to save ourselves in order to stay alive so we are more likely to comply with the people that are holding our fate. I do not believe this was a great example to show how commitment and the consistency theory work.

Underlying assumption: The underlying assumption in this chapter is that if a human commits to something then they are more likely to follow through with that commitment more then if they do not say they will do something. Another assumption is that as humans once we commit to one thing we tend to consistently commit to allowing other things happen. This is called a foot in the door technique and it has been proven to work very well. This is shown in the example where the people committed to displaying a small sign in their yard that read, “Be a safe driver”. Two weeks later they were asked to display a massive “Drive safe” sign in their yard and they all said that was fine as well. The people who had been asked right away to display the massive sign all turned them down. The reason why the people who displayed the small sign did not turn them down was because they had already complied and didn’t see the harm in adding a larger sign. This foot in the door tactic is a large tactic used to get people to comply with things that they most likely are not going to be okay with if they are asked to do it right from the start. If one starts out small then eventually they are more likely to comply with the larger request.

Provocative questions: Why do we comply so much more after we have committed to something?
Do you think companies have a whole team of people that think of ways to use these theories to get people to buy something or does everyone in the marketing department just know each of these theories and how to apply them?

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Elections and Polling

The issue: In Asher’s book Polling and the Public, he talks about polls and elections. He goes into detail about the different polls used during elections.

Major strength: Asher’s major strength in this reading is his section about focus groups. I had no idea that they used focus groups to help candidates with debates and seeing where they stand in the public’s eye. Most voters never hear about focus groups when it comes to polling but they are very important. Candidates usually take ten to twenty people that generally represent a broad demographic group and use them to their advantage. The most helpful use of a focus group is having the group sit down and watch a candidate’s debate and have the focus group comment about their strong points and what they could use to work on for their next debate. This helps the candidate hear what the general public thinks about the debate rather then just their campaign advisors. Sometimes the media will use focus groups but it is important to note that the media often fails to recognize the limitations of the focus groups. Focus groups suffer from not representing a broader population well when it comes to the media. It is important that the media does not see a focus group as the public’s whole opinion. There are both benefits and disadvantages to focus groups and Asher states these both very clearly in this chapter.

Major weakness: The major weakness of this chapter is the explanation of what is a push poll. I believe Asher did not explain this concept to the best of his ability. I had a lot of trouble understanding what a push poll is and I wish he would of gone into more depth with this section. He gives a lot of examples of push polling but he does not give a direct definition. Towards the end of the section he gives citizens a way to protect themselves from push polling. If he gave a definition then this section would be great but I had a very hard time understanding push polling.

Underlying assumption: The underlying assumption about elections and polls is that the way we poll people during elections is greatly changing due to the advances in our society. There are so many different ways that we can vote now-a-days that we are finding that some ways of polling that used to work really well are now failing due to the differences in how we vote. Exit polls are now no longer an accurate source because so many people can mail in their votes and some skew the data by saying they voted for a different person then they actually did. However, Asher has found that exit polls in general are an accurate source. The challenge is finding which poll will best fit what solution when it comes to polling and elections. Finally, Asher found that cultural reason affects many other countries when it comes to polling but in America it has little to no effect on us.

Provocative questions: If exit polls are shown to be extremely misleading and misrepresented of the data why are we still using them?
What is the definition of push polling?

Which election poll is the most effective?

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The issue:  Cialdini addresses how scarcity effects human thought process and decision making. When something is perceived as scarce, a higher value is placed upon it and are more willing to invest time/money for that thing.

Major strength:  Overall, Cialdini frames the argument very well by starting on smaller topics and expanding outwards. The section on censorship made a very strong connection I would not have generally thought about. The decision to build upon the scarcity from a numerical stance to emotional and political was a wise decision.

Major weakness:  There were several examples I did not find to be entirely convincing. Cialdini uses the example of answering an unknown call. I feel like this goes against the habits of most people I know who always check caller ID before answering. The terrible two argument also seemed weak as the footnote admitted this wasn’t the same case with girls. While it is hinted that some of these practices might not be ethical (i.e. car salesmen), that issue is never fully addressed.

Underlying assumption:  When an item or information is considered to be more scarce, it is assigned a higher value.

Provocative questions:  This section made me think of how companies or organizations will have a yearly or ‘one time event’. On that thought, how do donation drives handle the idea of scarcity? While I’ll take note of an upcoming blood drive, I always remind myself that another will be coming soon and don’t make it a priority. On the other hand, I always make sure to buy a raffle ticket during one charity’s yearly function. Do more drives automatically equal more donations or are they better off trying to promote only one opportunity?

Price gouging often occurs when there are shortages of supplies. How do the laws against this, effect opinions on scarcity? On that same idea, how does it effect sales when companies purposely do not stock enough items like on ‘Black Friday’?
How would brands without a consumer product (limited edition or 50% off) be able to use the idea of scarcity?

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The issue: Cialdini talks about the scarcity principle, which states that people place higher value on things that are more limited or rare.

Major strength: As per usual, Cialdini’s greatest strength laid in his examples and providing ones that the reader can relate to. I immediately thought of some of the T-shirt websites I found earlier this school year that sell shirts for only a week or two at a time. Making those shirts so scarce made me want the shirt more and ultimately influenced my decision to buy them. Another example could be Disney, who only releases DVDs of certain movies for a limited time (see the Jungle Book and the Little Mermaid) before they are “locked away in the vault for good.”

Major weakness: Seems like other people were as bothered about the ethics behind using the scarcity principle to push products in the way Disney has. I understand that the principle works and it helps push product, but it is really the best way to do that? Surely there’s a better and more ethical way to make your product more wanted. But that’s not so much a weakness as it is something that bothers the heck out of me.

Underlying assumption: He seems to assume that natural human behavior is to want something more as soon as they find out that it is limited or rare.

Provocative questions: When are times that the scarcity principle failed or backfired? How often are the general public aware that a company is using the scarcity principle? Isn’t it risky to use the scarcity principle online, where people can find nearly anything at anytime whether it is on your website or somewhere else?

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The Principle of Scarcity

The Issue: The seventh chapter of Cialdini’s book Influence discusses the principle of scarcity.  This is the idea that when there appears to be a limit of something, people will desire it more and perceive it to be better.

Major Strength: A major strength in Cialdini’s argument of the principle of scarcity is his wide range of real-life examples. Rather than just citing research studies, he is able to represent scarcity as a tactic through more relatable examples. He shows the scarcity principle working when he discusses the twos and the teens. He talks about two year olds wanting something that is harder to get and teenagers tendency to rebel against their parents wishes. Both these show that people are affected by scarcity because it is a cognitive act.

Major Weakness: An issue with the scarcity principle comes when it regards businesses using it in a sales pitch. I  know there are times when I have given in to the fact that a product was running out, but most of the time it comes across as cheesy and a lie when I see an infomercial saying something like “Call now and get half off your order.” It just never comes across as a trustworthy tactic; it always seems disingenuous and like the sales people are trying to pull one over on me (which I suppose they are). Due to this, I would have liked to see Cialdini discuss how companies use this and still maintain a reputable brand.

Underlying Assumption: The scarcity principle assumes that people are more heavily influenced on a product or idea when they can only receive it for a limited time or in limited amounts.

Provocative Questions: Can scarcity be equated to false advertising and therefore reduce the trustworthiness of a company?

Does the scarcity principle even affect those who are in the business of advertising? Cialdini explained that the defense against this principle of influence is difficult, so even people who know the appearance of scarcity is a selling point should have a difficult time saying no to a product that seems limiting, but I feel like this has to be incorrect.

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