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Book Summary – Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

Pre-suasion - Book summary

Pre-suasion is about laying the groundwork in advance, so your recipients are already receptive to your message by the time you present it. Such tactics are based on scientific principles that can be learned and systematically applied. By mastering the presuasion techniques by Robert Cialdini, you can influence and persuade others more effectively, be it to get your kids’ cooperation at home, market your products more effectively, or win over clients in business. In this free Pre-suasion summary, we’ll outline the sources of presuasion and how to apply them to influence/direct people’s behaviors.

After studying professionals in various industries, Robert Cialdini found that the best persuaders spend more time crafting what to say/do before making a request. They influence behaviors not by improving the product features or offer, but by presenting them in a way that’s the most psychologically appealing. In short, to persuade effectively, you must first learn to pre-suade effectively.

Sources of Pre-Suasion (and Why they Work)

The key to pre-suasion is to capture, hold and channel people’s attention such that you can influence them to think and act the way you want them to.

The Importance of Attention

Human beings can only focus on 1 thing at a time—once something grabs our attention, we ignore everything else. In addition, we don’t make decisions based on the most helpful or correct inputs. We make decisions based on the inputs we happen to be focusing on at that moment.

Here’s a quick overview of several important concepts behind the science of pre-suasion.  Feel free to get the full Pre-suasion summary for the detailed insights and tips on how you can apply them.

Pre-suasion summary_Why attention is crucial

  • Privileged Moments are observable points in time when someone becomes especially receptive to a message being communicated. By using biased, one-sided questions (e.g. asking people if they’re helpful or generous), you can create privileged moments where they become vulnerable to related suggestions (e.g. asking for a donation).
  • Focusing illusion: Because of our limited attention, we assume that whatever we’re focusing on is more important. This means that a communicator can get us to place undue importance on something (e.g. a key feature or message) just by drawing our attention narrowly to it. In our complete book summary, you can learn 3 common ways to use this cognitive bias.
  • Assumed causality. The more we focus on something, the more we’re likely to believe that it’s the cause of a problem or behavior, even if these causal links are completely illogical. Read our full Pre-suasion summary to find out how this affects people from their perception of leaders to evaluation at criminal trials.
  • Attention-grabbing stimuli. We’re attracted to stimuli that are relevant to our survival or goals. You can capture people’s attention using sex appeal, violence/fear, changes/contrast in their environment, or by focusing on what’s relevant to them (e.g. info about them or the use of the word “you”).  Do read our full 16-page summary for specific examples and tips of how you can grab your target audience’s attention.
  • Need for cognitive closure. The Zeigarnik effect says that we pay much more attention to unfinished tasks than completed ones. You can take advantage of this effect to counter procrastination, or create a sense of mystery to draw people in and keep their attention. More details can be found in the complete Pre-suasion summary.

The Power of Association

Once you have people’s attention, you can use the powerful effect of associations to influence their thoughts and emotions.

Every idea in our mind is linked to network of concepts, images and feelings. By using certain words, metaphors, or external/internal cues, we can get people to unconsciously focus on associated thoughts and feelings, and hence shape their choices and behaviors.

In our full Pre-suasion summary, you can get specific tips/insights on:

  • How to use language, visual associations and metaphors to conjure mental associations that are favorable to your messages;
  • How to shape behavior by changing people’s external and internal environments;
  • How to create a positive bias toward your message or desired actions.

Putting Pre-suasion into Action

The 6 Universal Influence Principles

Pre-suasive methods only work if they’re aligned with people’s unique goals and circumstances. However, in Robert Cialdini’s previous book, he presented 6 influence principles that’re built on the universal human need for social acceptance. You can use these 6 principles in your messages and to pre-suade people before you even start communicating.  Here’s a quick overview of the 6 principles.

Pre-suasion summary_the 6 influence principles

  • Reciprocation. People tend to say “yes” to those they feel indebted to. Offer a meaningful, unexpected and customized gift/benefit before you make a request.
  • Liking. We prefer to do business with people we like. Highlight similarities and give compliments upfront to lead people to like/trust you.
  • Social proof. When we see others like us responding in a certain way, we’ll think that’s the right response—morally and practically.  Use social proof to make your option seem valid and feasible.
  • Authority. The persuasiveness of a message depends more on the perceived authority of the messenger than the content of the message. Establish authority via perceived expertise and trustworthiness.
  • Scarcity. Inject scarcity to make something seem more valuable.
  • Consistency. We try to act consistently with our past actions and commitments. Get people to explicitly agree to something, so they’re more likely to follow through.

The 7th Principle: Unity & Shared Identity

Besides the 6 principles above, Cialdini discovered a 7th principle that strongly affects people’s willingness to help one another: the sense of unity and shared identity from human relationships. When we share an identity with others, it goes beyond mere liking or reciprocity—they become one of “us”.  In our complete book summary, we elaborate on how to forge this sense of “we-ness” through 2 sets of factors.

Getting the Most from Pre-Suasion

In our full Pre-suasion summary, we also elaborate on several important issues, including:

  • The real (and inevitable) costs unethical behaviors and why you should pre-suade ethically; How to manage the effects of pre-suasion so you won’t be manipulated by others; and
  • How to create lasting change, i.e. to ensure your pre-suasion efforts will continue to deliver results, especially when others also start to use pre-suasive techniques.

Do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 16-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.Pre-suasion summary - book summary bundle

This book includes many other detailed research studies and examples to show how pre-suasive techniques can be used to influence decisions and behaviors, and how you can harness pre-suasion to achieve your goals. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or check out more resources/details at

[You can learn more about The 6 Universal Influence Principles in our Influence summary here.]

About the Author of Pre-Suasion

Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade is written by Robert Cialdini–he Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He was previously a visiting professor at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Cialdini received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, earned his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of North Carolina and received Postgraduate training in Social Psychology at Columbia University.

Pre-Suasion Quotes

“To persuade optimally…it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally.”

“The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request.”

“The guiding factor in a decision is often not the one that counsels most wisely; it’s one that has recently been brought to mind.”

“Anything that draws focused attention to itself can lead observers to overestimate its importance.”

“We want more of what we can have less of.”

“Relationships not only intensify willingness to help but also cause it.”

“When people act in unitary ways, they become unitized.”

“Those who cheat for you will cheat against you.”

Click here to download the Pre-suasion summary & infographic

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