Principles of Persuasion: Liking

Principles of Persuasion: Liking

In his book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, Robert Cialdini describes 6 principles of persuasion:

These principles can be used to nudge citizens into behaviours that are beneficial to them. This blog post will discuss the Liking principle. 

An introduction to Liking

It’s nice to be nice, but it’s also very rewarding. 

The Liking principle is the discovery that if you like someone, you are more likely to be influenced by them. Cialdini explains many ways that make us like someone; physical attractiveness, people who are similar to us, people who offer us compliments, among others (Cialdini, 2007). 

For instance, Alex Todorov, a professor at Princeton University, conducted an experiment where he showed his students pictures of men’s faces, sometimes for as little as one-tenth of a second. Todorov asked his students to rate the faces on various attributes like likability and competence when doing this. There was considerable consistency in how the students rated these faces. 

The catch to this experiment was that the faces were not a random set but those of electoral candidates. In 70% of the cases, Todorov found that the candidates that the students ranked as highly likeable and competent, based on a brief glimpse of their headshot, won their election for senator, governor, and congressman. Todorov then confirmed these findings with electoral contests in Finland, England, Australia, Germany, and Mexico (Kahneman, 2011). 

This can also be described as the halo effect; when we allow one specific trait of a person or organisation to influence our perception of other unrelated traits about that same person or organisation (Perera, 2021). 

How has it been used?

Organisations use many of the techniques Cialdini outlines to make you like them. For example, digital marketing leaders HubSpot found that businesses using unifying pronouns like ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’ were ten times more likely to convert sales in 2021 because of a sense of togetherness between the brand and customer (HubSpot, 2021). This is initiating similarity to get people to like them. 

There are also many instances of Liking being encouraged through compliments. For example, Virgin Media’s 2020 advertisement blares ‘I really like you’ by Carly Rae Jepsen to its viewers. Or, more famously, L’Oreal’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ evolved from ‘Because I’m worth it’ (Pike, 2021) to utilise direct compliments.

The Liking principle is used so much by organisations because, unlike Social Proof or Reciprocation, which are typically used to influence quick decisions, it can have a longer-term benefit for organisations (Cardello, 2014). 

How can it be used digitally?

The Liking principle is used digitally by many organisations in various ways. For example, by writing an ‘about us’ page that focuses on humble family beginnings, Warburtons utilises the similarity factor to encourage users to like them. 

Additionally, Etsy’s ‘Meet the Team’ page includes images of all its employees. The employees are captured in a friendly and casual style. Casual photographs of real people enable users to relate to that employee and will nudge them to elicit empathy (Cardello, 2014). This will likely make users more tolerant and understanding if they get frustrated with any part of Etsy’s service. 

What to be careful of

Studies conducted by User Experience specialists, the Nielsen Norman Group have shown how participants can react negatively to images (Cardello, 2014). If we are trying to get the public to like us, we need to get it right. To do this, usability testing followed by an interview is vital to understanding if the public likes our brand (Moran, 2019). 

Also, we need to make sure the Liking principle does not encourage negative behaviour. For instance, many are questioning why the public mood is different for Ukrainian refugees than for Afghan refugees in the UK (Erdem, 2022). We need to ensure that using similarities to influence Liking does not exclude religions, ethnicities, or cultures. 

How can this help Welsh local authorities?

Local authorities can utilise the Liking principle to nudge citizens into being more empathetic with the challenges officers face and better appreciate the excellent work they do every day. 

Our research has shown that citizens get frustrated when they don’t know what their council is doing. By being more transparent and open about what they are trying to achieve, who is responsible for trying to achieve it, and why this is their goal, citizens can join local authorities on their journey. 

When local authorities open their doors and citizens can see the hard work officers are doing every day to improve their lives, they will like them and, as a result, work with them. 

How do you think Liking can help citizens or local authorities? Let us know in the comments.

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