Consider the last two major purchases you made, and list the techniques that may have swayed your choices. Why do you think these techniques impacted your decision?



Persuasion and Influence

Consider the last two major purchases you made, and list the techniques that may have swayed your choices. Why do you think these techniques impacted your decision?

I have not made any recent major purchases, but I have purchased some smaller items. One of my most recent purchases was a pair of shoes at a local shoe store. Although I did need a new pair of shoes I was most likely swayed by the principle of reciprocity. Persuasion through the principle of reciprocity is sometimes provided through gift giving (Cialdini, 2001). I received a flyer in the mail that advertised a free weekend bag with a shoe purchase of at least $49. I typically do not buy shoes from this store but with the incentive of a gift I chose to make a purchase at this store. I also made a special trip to the store and purchased the shoes on the date the gift was available. This is not normal for me because I usually like to get all my shopping done at one time when I need groceries.

Another recent purchase I made was a cold medicine called Zicam. I was persuaded by the principle of authority and the principle of social proof. The principle of authority uses an expert’s opinion to persuade while social proof suggests that people follow their peers (Cialdini, 2001). I took the advice of the doctor and immediately bought the type and even flavor that he recommended. My coworker rants and raves about Zicam so I was also persuaded by her enthusiasm. If I had not had these encounters I probably would never have purchased the product.

What would you do in the future to avoid these psychological pitfalls?

I don’t believe all persuasion is necessarily bad and should be avoided when it comes to purchases. In the case where a doctor recommended something to make me feel better, it was probably in my best interest to try it. If the doctor recommended his favorite cable provider I would not have been so inclined to take his advice. I believe we do seek guidance from others because we are not experts in all areas and we are social creatures.

On the other hand, persuasion can lead to unnecessary purchases. These are the psychological pitfalls that should be avoided. With my shoe example I could avoid this persuasion in the future by throwing away the mailers without reading about the deals. Limiting the outside influences can help you make the decision based on your own ideas. You can avoid social persuasion by not discussing your potential purchases with others. If you do not want the input to sway your decision it is best not to engage in that type of conversation. Instead it would be best to do research on the product and similar products to make your own educated decision. Again, if you were trying to avoid persuasion your research would need to exclude reviews.


Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Harnessing the science of persuasion. Harvard Business Review, 79(9), 72-79. Retrieved from

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