September 25, 2005

Influence Techniques: Reciprocity Principle

Humans tend to repay favors done to them. The act of accepting a favor makes us want to repay that “debt” in a suitable manner at the earliest possible time. This works across cultures, across geographies and across time too.

In his book on Influence, Cialdini mentions experiments carried out by Dr. Dennis Regan. Dr. Regan had volunteers working in pairs on a research project that purportedly was measuring art appreciation and reviewing paintings. One of the volunteer’s (Andy) was actually Dr. Regan’s assistant.

Taking a break during the art review process, Andy asked his partner if he could leave the room to get a soft drink for himself. Invariably his partner would say “Yes, of course”. In the control experiment, when Andy came back he had brought a coke only for himself. But in the other case, he would get a coke can for his partner too.

At the end of the art-review, Andy announced to his work partner that he was selling raffle tickets for a charity. What the results from this experiment showed is that Andy sold nearly twice as many tickets to the partners he gave a free Coke to compared to the partners he gave nothing to. Not only this, the amount they spent, was much larger in the cases Andy got them a coke can. This experiment clearly shows the urge people have in them to reciprocate any favor done to them.

This method was exploited quite a bit by ISKON to raise funds. Their method relied heavily on the principle of reciprocity. Typically, an ISKCON volunteer would approach a person coming out of an airport with a flower or a book such as the Bhagawat Gita saying it was a token gift from ISKCON. Most people would accept the gift with a Thank you. Just as they accepted the gift, the ISKCON person would whip out their donation books and make a request for a donation. The unwitting target would inevitably make a donation to reciprocate the favor of giving a “gift”.

This is the principle behind companies giving customer free samples. A free sample allows customer to test the product. But this free gift also helps builds reciprocity. Amway often provides prospective customers with free samples of their products. After having tried the free sample, the percentage of people buying the products increased dramatically.


September 24, 2005

Influence Techniques: Commitment Principle

Once a human mind has made a commitment, it tends to remain consistent to that commitment. If such a commitment is made publicly, the person is even more likely to stick to that commitment. Thus, you can increase compliance to your request, if you were to somehow extract a commitment to a cause/idea before making the request. This makes it an important tool of Influence.

According to Cialdini, Steven Sherman carried out an interesting experiment that demonstrates the power of this technique. In the first case (Control Experiment), he randomly approached people for donations to the American Cancer Society.

In the second case, he first called them up and asked the people if they supported the work done by American Cancer Society. Not wanting to sound uncharitable, everyone said yes. Just by answering yes, they built a commitment to the work of American Cancer Society. A week later, when a volunteer from the American Cancer Society approached them for donations, they donated freely. The increase in donations from case I to case II: 700%

Another example: A restaurant had a unique problem; quite a few of its client would reserve a table over the phone and then fail to show up. This no-show without intimation was close to 30% and resulted in a lot of lost business.

Compliance experts observed that the receptionist would close the phone reservation process with “Please intimate us if you are unable to make it”. By changing it to “Will you intimate us if you are unable to make it” the receptionist forced the party at the other end of the phone to respond with a “Yes”. This built a commitment and reduced the no-show without intimation percentage to just 10%.

The next question that arises is how do we build commitment. Research has shown that the best method to build commitment is by getting the other party to write it down and make it public.

In an experiment, three groups of students were shown a line and asked to estimate its length. The first group had to just think of its length in their minds. The second group was supposed to write the length on a slate and erase it immediately without showing it to anyone. The third group was supposed to write the length on a board publicly and sign it.

After this, the groups were given proofs why their estimates were incorrect and allowed to change their estimates. Those who just thought about the length were the quickest to change the length while those who publicly wrote the length stuck to their guns.

Quite a few organizations ask their sales people to write down their targets on a sheet of paper. This signed sheet of paper is then placed on a public notice board. Guess what happens? The salesmen obviously go all out to meet their targets. Similarly as consultant, if your client has agreed to implement a particular process, ask him to document it and mail to all concerned. This simple step will increase the chances of the process getting implemented.


September 23, 2005

Influence Techniques: Scarcity Principle

Over the next seven days, I will post about the various techniques of Influence. We start of with the Scarcity Principle.

The principle is simple: humans covet that which is scarce. The desirability of things goes up if they are not easily available. This principle can often be used to influence people’s behavior and gain compliance from them.

Shackleton’s Way has a beautiful example of the usage of this principle. During his Antarctic expedition, one of his crew members shot a seal. Shackleton wanted his crew to eat seal meat because it is a rich source of proteins and vitamins. Unfortunately seal meat tastes crappy and he seriously doubted if any of his crew members would voluntarily eat it.

So what Shackleton did was as follows: he posted a notice which reserved seal meat for senior officers. By this act, he made seal meat scarce and a highly desirable possession. He was immediately approached by the crew members who demanded that they be treated as equals and be served seal meat. Mission Accomplished!

Cialdini, the master of Influence Techniques, conducted an interesting study. He called various supermarket managers on behalf of a beef importing company and gave three different sales pitches and took their orders.

- In the first case he made a standard sales pitch.
- In the second case he made the standard sales pitch and passed on the info that the supply of beef was going to be scarce in the coming months.
- In the third case he made the standard sales pitch, passed on info about supply scarcity and also informed the manager that not too many people had knowledge of the impending shortage. That is, the info about beef scarcity was itself scarce.

The managers in the third set purchased 700% more beef than the mangers from the first set, thus clearly demonstrating the power of the scarcity principle.

Have you ever had an experience where you used this principle? Or worse, had it used on you? :)


Wise-Cracks from Scott McNealy

Sun chief takes a few hilarious pot-shots at rivals. From the article:
Shortly after introducing servers based on Sun's new UltraSparc IV+ processor, McNealy showed a slide picturing him in jeans and Ellison in characteristically sharp attire. "That suit! You can buy 14 of our new servers for that suit," McNealy quipped.


September 21, 2005

Book Recommendations

Like Pandora, this site is for Books.


September 19, 2005

Interesting Online Applications

- Browse, modify, and import your RSS feeds.
- Import, download and listen to podcasts without any additional software.
- Check your e-mail on one or many Gmail accounts.
- Stick web notes and weather updates.

Writely is a web word processor that provides simple and secure document collaboration and publishing on the web using only the browser.

Helps you discover more music you will like. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice.

Kiko, via Anand
Kiko is a web calendar that people will actually want to use. Neat application.

Backbase, via Eric
Backpackit allows you to gather your ideas, your to-do lists, photos and files online. It enables you to set email and mobile reminders so that you dont forget important details.

Time Tracker
The Time Tracker was designed to help you keep track of the time you spend on any given task. Use it for time management, to improve the accuracy of your time estimates, or for any other purpose you may find useful.

Zimbra is a collaboration technology that includes e-mail, calendar, contacts and other communication technologies.


September 18, 2005

Email Overload?

Dealing with email overload? Stever Robbins offers some really helpful tips.


God of Anime

For the first time in 10 years, Hayao Miyazaki has agreed to an interview. In a rare interview, he talks to Xan Brooks about life, universe and everything.

From the article:
There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts."


September 17, 2005

Hotaru no haka

Hotaru no haka: Grave of the Fireflies

If a movie has been reviewed 477 times on Amazon and has received an average rating of 5 stars, then it certainly needs to be watched.


September 15, 2005

New Y!Mail Beta

Yahoo is apparently coming out with a new Beta version of Y!Mail. Features include three-pane window with folders in the left vertical pane, mail list top right, and a message preview pane below the headers, an ability to drag and drop mails to different folders, key board shortcuts and new context menus.

If you have a address, get invited to try the Beta.


September 14, 2005

Just Launched

Google Blog Search
Condename Microsoft Max


September 13, 2005

RSS Reader

Can anyone suggest a good open source / free RSS reader application for Windows XP? I rather liked Feed Demon but I dont think I can shell out $30 for an RSS reader application yet. Also Sage is not good enough.


September 12, 2005

365 Tomorrows

365 Tomorrows is a collaborative project designed to present readers with one new piece of short speculative fiction each day for one year.

Check out their archives for some nifty stories.


September 11, 2005


From Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Yet we have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, master of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like.

This is what we mean by optimal experience. It is what the sailor holding a tight course feels when the wind whips through her hair, when the boat lunges through the waves like a colt - sails, hull, wind and sea humming a harmony that vibrates in the sailor's veins. It is what a painter feels when the colors on the canvas begin to set up a magnetic tension with each other, and a new thing, a living form, takes shape in front of the astonished creator. Or it is the feeling a father has when his child for the first time responds to his smile.

Such events do not occur only when the external conditions are favourable, however: people who have survived concentration cams or who have lived through near fatal physical dangers often recall that in the midst of their ordeal they experienced extraordinary epiphanies in response to such simple events as hearing the song of a bird in the forest, completing a hard task, or sharing a crust of bread with a friend.

Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments of our lives are not passive, receptive, relaxing times - although such experiences can also be enjoyable if we worked hard to attain them.
Beautifully put! The ideas mentioned in Flow have quite a bit of resonance with what Scott M. Peck discusses in The Road Less Travelled.


How True: Best Picture Capture

From Daily Kos.

While they were evidently simply quoting Bush but the way the phrase was structured made it perfect for a double entendre. Hats off to the Irish!


September 09, 2005

Digital Photography Tips

Derrick Story, author of Digital Photography Pocket Guide, has listed his top 10 Digital Photography tips. Most of them are the kind that make you go, Aha! The Slow Motion Water tip, in my opinion, is the coolest of the lot.


September 08, 2005


For those who need help getting organized: PocketMod

According to the site:
The PocketMod is a new way to keep yourself organized. Lets face it, PDA's are to expensive and cumbersome, and organizers are bulky and hard to carry around. Nothing beats a folded up piece of paper. That is until now. With the PocketMod, you can carry around the days notes, keep them organized in any way you wish, then easily transfer the notes to your PDA, spreadsheet, or planer.
Just dive in and create your own PocketMod.


September 07, 2005

Addictive Game

Very Addictive: N Game

Arrow keys to move left and right.
Shift to jump.
Space to begin the game.



GTalk's Purpose

Google Talk, in its current state, is hardly something I would expect from the Google stables. While openness is always welcome, GTalk hardly has anything special in terms of features. Trying to connect the various dots, here is what I perceive to be Google Talk's real purpose:

Google Talk is not really meant for the desktop. Google recently acquired Android, a start-up developing applications for smart-phones. I suspect GTalk will eventually be released as an application for mobiles rather than for desktop. With Google's purchase of dark cable, I would suspect it won't be too hard for them to blanket a city with Wi-Fi hotspots and provide Internet connectivity.

Imagine how cool it would be if you could carry a mobile loaded with GTalk, and use these Wi-Fi hotspots to call your friends all over the world.


September 02, 2005

Best Quotes/Conversations from IRC

The Top 100: Hilarious!