The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold
Updated paperback edition: John Wiley & Sons, 2006
Robert Levine offers readers an incisive new take on the mindsets of those who prod, praise, debase, and manipulate others to do things they never thought they’d do—and are sometimes later sorry they did. He takes a hands-on approach by attending training sessions for magicians honing their craft and by taking jobs as a door-to-door salesman and a used car salesman. Levine explores the remarkable effect and power of subtlety on effective persuasion, the great illusion of personal vulnerability, and the unlikely similarities across a wide range of persuasive strategies, from parents to con men to lovers to religious leaders.
—from the publisher
This valuable and nonacademic guide reveals the extent to which we are surrounded by persuasion, and how we can resist. Levine (A Geography of Time), a professor of psychology at Cal State Fresno, opens by demonstrating that all of us (including himself) can be persuaded under the right circumstances. He goes on to study financial manipulation and the use of the sense of obligation (which exists in all cultures, even if it is most strongly visible in Japan), and then proceeds to a nuts-and-bolts analysis of salesmanship by describing what he learned and did (and had done to him) as an automobile salesman. He offers an admirably concise and unemotional analysis of the famous Milgram experiment, involving the (claimed) administration of ever-stronger electric shocks to test the impulse to obedience. Inevitably, he moves to cults, the Moonies and the ultimate persuasion horror story, Jonestown. Not so inevitably, he avoids hysteria and demonization, even of Jim Jones, and points out that brute force is required at the extreme end of the persuasion spectrum. Levine's final chapter offers ways of dealing with unwelcome persuasion while remaining part of a society in which some persuasion is part of almost any social interaction. The final results are about as far as possible from the shrill Hidden Persuaders tradition or the cult deprogrammers who become cult gurus themselves-and quite persuasive about the author's credentials, common sense and ethics.
Levine puts such analysis in the service of his real mission—to arm the reader against manipulation.
—The Wall Street Journal
If you're like most people, you think advertising and marketing work—just not on you. Robert Levine's The Power of Persuasion demonstrates how even the best-educated cynics among us can be victimized by sales pitches."
—The Globe and Mail
One of the ten most influential books of the year.
Read this book if you’re interested in how to persuade others and reduce your own chances of being manipulated.
Written in a jovial style, not just for the psychology reader. . . Levine's style of writing makes the reader feel as though they are in the story with him, often feeling ‘cheated’ themselves when he tells of yet another incident when his or his student's naivete was tested by a good persuader. . . An excellent read and well-recommended to those particularly interested in advertising, group dynamics and occupation psychology.
Levine's fluid non-academic language is based on solidly scientific observations. . . show(s) how even the most educated and rational can become gullible if the persuader is skillful enough. . . Levine brings up situations that almost every reader is sure to have been in on a daily basis and demonstrates how readers might have been persuaded quite unwittingly.
—IIMB Management Review
Happily, Levine does not write in the academically pretentious style often found in books by college professors. Instead, he provides authoritative insights into the way persuasive words and images affect the thinking of most Americans. “The Power of Persuasion” will help readers convert attempts to influence their thinking into a sensible perspective.
. . . an engaging, highly readable survey of the sophisticated methods of persuasion we encounter in various situations. From television to telemarketing and from self-deception to suicide cults, Levine takes a hard look at all the ways we attempt to persuade each other - and how and why they work (or don't). . . Besides being a cracking good read, it's fully footnoted, indexed, and so stuffed with information as to make a worthy addition to anyone's reference library. The next time you wonder what possessed you to pay $50 for a medallion commemorating the series finale of Friends, you'll know where to turn.
He repeatedly amuses the reader with his rueful descriptions of occasions when he has been conned; but then analyses the experience in detail to show the persuasion technique used.
This book is essential reading. When (the lessons are) marshalled in toto, and arrayed in systematic order, it becomes startlingly clear just how many ways we are vulnerable as social animals and how mindful we must be, if we truly wish to think for ourselves.
—The New Humanities
The distinguishing features of this book are its readability, clarity, timeliness, and use of many examples. . . Highly recommended as a concise sourcebook to learn the negative aspects of manipulation in sales, advertising, politics, and religion.
—Cultic Studies Review
If you've ever felt manipulated by smooth-talking salesmen, but didn't understand the psychology behind his pitch, you'll be fascinated by “The Power of Persuasion.”
Be sure to read “The Power of Persuasion,” a hypnotic work by psychologist Robert Levine. It's being hailed as the successor to Cialdini's classic work on influence. Levine studied everyone from magicians to con artists to discover how they so easily manipulate us. And don't think you don't need his book. His first chapter is titled, “The Illusion of Invulnerability.” Read this one to better protect yourself, as well as to better understand the process of persuasion and influence.
—Vitale Marketing Newsletter
Granted, this might be the anti-marketing book, but it is a fascinating read. I'm three-quarters through it, and I still vacillate between reading it as a marketer and reading it as a consumer. The Power of Persuasion : How We're Bought and Sold by Robert V. Levine will definitely get you thinking about what we fall for as consumers and what we strive for as marketers.
—Sharon's Marketing Monthly
Robert Levine’s The Power of Persuasion is a fine introduction to the core territory of modern social psychology, an area of study whose public profile seems to be in inverse proportion to its fundamental importance in modern life. . . This is required reading - taking all the techniques analyzed by Levine, and weaving them together into a seamlessly seductive web.
—John Henry Calvinist, The New Humanities website
Endorsements from Colleagues:
Persuasion is powerful and pervasive in our lives, as this wonderful book by Bob Levine demonstrates in a most engaging style filled with wit, wisdom and plenty of street smarts on the side. It is a noble successor to Cialdini’s masterpiece on Influence and my work on Influencing Attitudes and Changing Behavior. It will change the way you think and act in many realms of your life.
—Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University
Levine has written the rare book that is both very important and very interesting. He covers one of the most important topics in psychology—how humans influence one another -- and he does it in a most interesting style. Both our students and the public should read it.
—Edward Diener, University of Illinois
This witty and wise book blends social psychology's hard-wrought persuasion principles with fascinating street-smart examples. I couldn't put it down. A great book for anyone who wants to be a more discerning consumer or a more critical thinker.
—David Myers, Hope College
Bob Levine has a rare talent for combining a discerning eye with psychological knowledge to reveal the secrets of persuasion. Levine's masterful analysis reveals plainly and often shockingly how human nature is manipulated in everyday life by con artists, salespeople, politicians, and others who seek to control our minds and our wallets. Written in clear, no-nonsense language, this outstanding and thoroughly engrossing book provides a must-read survival guide for resisting unwanted influence in the 21st century.
—Harry Reis, University of Rochester
I can't say enough about this book. This book is like a bible of persuasion/influence and contains an enormous amount of research about how you and I might not know each ourselves as well as we think. Get this book! You will get new ideas and tips that I had not seen prior to this book and that is rare indeed. Buy this book. It is one of the best in the field.
—Kevin Hogan, author, “The Psychology of Persuasion”
Note: An updated, paperback version of The Power of Persuasion was published by Wiley & Sons in January, 2006.
The Professor selling cutlery door-to-door and as a used car salesman
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