Psychological Persuasion Techniques

Persuasion Techniques That Really Work

Smiling businesswoman talking at a conference table of colleagues

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We are confronted by persuasion in a wide variety of forms every single day. The average person is exposed to thousands of advertisements per day. Food makers want us to buy their newest products while movie studios want us to go see the latest blockbusters. Because persuasion is such a pervasive component of our lives, it is often all-too-easy to overlook how we are influenced by outside sources.


Persuasion is not just something that is useful to marketers and salesmen, however. Learning how to utilize these techniques in daily life can help you become a better negotiator and make it more likely that you will get what you want, whether you are trying to convince your toddler to eat her vegetables or persuade your boss to give you that raise.

Because influence is so useful in so many aspects of daily life, persuasion techniques have been studied and observed since ancient times. It wasn’t until the early 20th century, however, that social psychologists began to formally study these powerful techniques.

Key Persuasion Techniques

The ultimate goal of persuasion is to convince the target to internalize the persuasive argument and adopt this new attitude as a part of their core belief system.

The following are just a few of the highly effective persuasion techniques. Other methods include the use of rewards, punishments, positive or negative expertise, and many others.

Create a Need

One method of persuasion involves creating a need or appealing to a previously existing need. This type of persuasion appeals to a person's fundamental needs for shelter, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization.

Marketers often use this strategy to sell their products. Consider, for example, how many advertisements suggest that people need to purchase a particular product in order to be happy, safe, loved, or admired.

Appeal to Social Needs

Another very effective persuasive method appeals to the need to be popular, prestigious or similar to others. Television commercials provide many examples of this type of persuasion, where viewers are encouraged to purchase items so they can be like everyone else or be like a well-known or well-respected person.

Television advertisements are a huge source of exposure to persuasion considering that the average American watches between 4.9 to 5.7 hours per day.

Use Loaded Words and Images

Persuasion also often makes use of loaded words and images. Advertisers are well aware of the power of positive words, which is why so many advertisers utilize phrases such as "New and Improved" or "All Natural."

Get Your Foot in the Door

Another approach that is often effective in getting people to comply with a request is known as the "foot-in-the-door" technique. This persuasion strategy involves getting a person to agree to a small request, like asking them to purchase a small item, followed by making a much larger request.

By getting the person to agree to the small initial favor, the requester already has their "foot in the door," making the individual more likely to comply with the larger request. For example, a neighbor asks you to babysit their two children for an hour or two. Once you agree to the smaller request, they then ask if you can just babysit the kids for the rest of the day.

This is a great example of what psychologists refer to as the rule of commitment, and marketers often use this strategy to encourage consumers to buy products and services.

How "Getting Your Foot in the Door" Works

Once you have already agreed to a smaller request, you might feel a sense of obligation to also agree to a larger request.

Go Big and Then Small

This approach is the opposite of the foot-in-the-door approach. A salesperson will begin by making a large, often unrealistic request. The individual responds by refusing, figuratively slamming the door on the sale.

The salesperson responds by making a much smaller request, which often comes off as conciliatory. People often feel obligated to respond to these offers. Since they refused that initial request, people often feel compelled to help the salesperson by accepting the smaller request.

Utilize the Power of Reciprocity

When people do you a favor, you probably feel an almost overwhelming obligation to return the favor in kind. This is known as the norm of reciprocity, a social obligation to do something for someone else because they first did something for you.

Marketers might utilize this tendency by making it seem like they are doing you a kindness, such as including "extras" or discounts, which then compels people to accept the offer and make a purchase.

Create an Anchor Point

The anchoring bias is a subtle cognitive bias that can have a powerful influence on negotiations and decisions. When trying to arrive at a decision, the first offer has the tendency to become an anchoring point for all future negotiations.

So, if you are trying to negotiate a pay increase, being the first person to suggest a number, especially if that number is a bit high, can help influence the future negotiations in your favor. That first number will become the starting point.

While you might not get that amount, starting high might lead to a higher offer from your employer.

Limit Your Availability

Psychologist Robert Cialdini is famous for the six principles of influence. One of the key principles he identified is known as scarcity or limiting the availability of something. Cialdini suggests that things become more attractive when they are scarce or limited.

People are more likely to buy something if they learn that it is the last one or that the sale will be ending soon. An artist, for example, might only make a limited run of a particular print. Since there are only a few prints available for sale, people might be more likely to make a purchase before they are gone.

Notice Persuasive Messages

The examples above are just a few of the many persuasion techniques described by social psychologists. Look for examples of persuasion in your daily experience. An interesting experiment is to view a half-hour of a random television program and note every instance of persuasive advertising. You might be surprised by the sheer amount of persuasive techniques used in such a brief period of time.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Time Use Survey Summary.

  2. Cialdini R, Cliffe S. The uses (and abuses) of influenceHarv Bus Rev. 2013;91(7-8):76‐132.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.