Way back in 1984, the era of River Raid* on the Atari 2600 and the newly triumphant Margaret Thatcher, an interesting pop psychology book was released: Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence. It has since become a classic. Cialdini summarises his research in the behaviour of compliance professionals – those individuals whose job it is to persuade you to do things for them, such as salesmen, advertisers and TV executives – and of seemingly unexplained social events such as the spike in air crashes in the weeks after a high-profile suicide in the area.
Cialdini came up with the “click whrrrr” mental model as a handy way to parse the human tendency to follow fixed-pattern interactions that overrule logic and evidence (something Scott Adams included into his “moist robot” hypothesis). He then devotes six lengthy chapters to explaining six such patterns and their triggers, being:
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
What makes the book most interesting to me is that he shows each works by hijacking an otherwise highly-adaptive evolutionary program. The human tendency to follow these click/whrrr programs is actually very smart most of the time. The problem arises when a predator has eaten from the tree of forbidden knowledge and knows how to game them. Cialdini states:
“This feature [of click/whrrr program] is simultaneously its major strength and its major weakness…. It provides a convenient shortcut for determining how to behave but, at the same time, makes one who uses the shortcut vulnerable to the attack of profiteers who lie in wait along its path”
So how can we take advantage of these weapons of influence ourselves?
You thought this piece would apply the six weapons to influencing girls, didn’t you? Admit it! You’re a black-hearted rogue looking for any edge to get laid. But no. I’m occupying moral high ground so elevated that you can barely see me as I sit on a cloud in the stratosphere playing my harp. We are using Cialdini for the Light side of the Force. We are going to apply his weapons of influence to ourselves, to increase our likelihood of sticking to the path and completing our Player’s Journey. Settle in, grasshopper.
This is the principle that if somebody does you a favour, you feel compelled to return the favour in order to balance the books, and to avoid being seen as a welcher. How can we turn this around so we give ourselves a favour and compel ourselves to return it to ourselves? Yes, that sounds tough just trying to write it.
One way is to reduce an outrageous demand to a more reasonable demand. This makes it a concession, and thus a favour.
Cialdini introduces the rejection-then-retreat tactic, which goes thus: A man entering into a deal has his desired outcome. So he initially makes far higher demands in order to anchor his counterparty to this outrageous number/term. He knows full well he’ll get rejected but it’s a ploy so he can then walk back from it and make a “concession” – which happens to end in the terms he is really aiming for from the beginning. It’s like Donald Trump** building the wall and expecting Mexico to pay for it – he can walk back a little and perhaps pay for it with US money but he still gets the wall.
Done skillfully, this triggers the click/whrrr program of “he made a concession to me, so I ought to make a concession to him”. How can we do this on ourselves? The two participants in your internal negotiation are your forebrain and hindbrain. The pre-daygame conversation usually goes like this:
Forebrain: Come on, daygame time. Let’s go out and hit on ten hotties. We need out 10+10+20 this week.
Forebrain: Come ooooooooooon! Please! We need this. Ten hotties.
Hindbrain: No. Let’s play Call Of Duty
And another daygame session is cancelled. You spend the rest of the afternoon earning killstreaks and feeling ashamed of yourself. Let’s rewrite that script for a happier ending.
Forebrain: Come on, daygame time. Let’s go out and hit on twenty hotties. This is going to be a big day. Only the hottest girls. Maybe we’ll do some three sets and girls in lingerie departments.
Hindbrain: Fuck no.
Forebrain: Look, we both want success here. I’m trying to reach a deal. What do you want?
Hindbrain: Call of Duty
Forebrain: Look, I’ll tell you what. I’m probably not supposed to do this and I definitely can’t write it in a field report, but how about this: this one time, as a favour to you, we’ll just hit on ten girls. They don’t even need to be hotties. Nice easy sets – solo dreamy girls with rucksacks. Rattle off ten of them – bam bam bam – and we’ll spend all evening on Call of Duty
Commitment and Consistency
Cialdini found that people are more likely to follow through on a large commitment if they have already actioned a small one. Once the ball is rolling and they’ve become “the guy who does that thing” they continue to do so even after the initial logical reason for starting has been removed. People rationalise after the fact, so once they become committed to a path they’ll find all kinds of new reasons why that’s the right path to continue on down.***
Needless to say, this is very powerful in motivating your Player’s Journey. Once you get moving it tends to become self-reinforcing as the power of Commitment and Consistency works in your favour. Once you’ve normalised a regular daygaming plan – such as 30 approaches a week, an hour or two debriefing your sessions, and of course hitting the gym – it’ll stick. This is why self-help gurus often set ten / thirty / ninety day challenges. If you can will yourself through the “get the ball rolling” period you’ll form a habit and then consistency is on your side.
But what if we could reduce the amount of willpower necessary to form the habit? Wouldn’t that be good?
This is where the small commitment comes in. Have you ever felt too lazy to hit the gym and too daunted by the thought of all that exertion you’ll have to put in once you get there? That’s enough to make a man huddle back under his duvet and watch Tellytubbies. Usually the problem is caused by two things:
- The scope of the task is too large. You’ve defined “a gym workout” as being two hours of grunting and pain.
- The failure conditions are too harsh. You’ve defined “failure” as not completing the entire workout to the very best of your ability.
Isn’t it smarter to employ natural supports that obviate the need for willpower? Here are mine for the gym, when I’m wobbling: (i) put on my outdoor clothes and pack the gym bag anyway, because I know once I’ve started that fixed-pattern, the rest of it will click/whrrr into place (ii) tell myself “I’ll at least step into the gym and do a little stretching. If I still don’t feel like it I’ll go home” (iii) I have optimized my gym workout to hit everything I want it to in just four exercises a session, taking about forty minutes. I haven’t yet failed to do a complete workout under these conditions. The very same workout that I would’ve otherwise missed if I had to set my iron resolve without them.
Daygame is the same. The first thing to do is just put on your daygame clobber as if you were in high vibe and ready to get stuck in. Click/whrrr. Then tell yourself “I’ll at least step onto the streets and have a look around. Put myself in the mix”. Click/whrrr. Lastly, you’ll accept that just one opener counts as success for the session. Click/whrrr.
Cialdini found that public statements of intent were the most powerful for producing commitment and consistency. This is why blogging about daygame, or doing it with some friends, will help further. They’ll hold you accountable and you’ll feel extra incentive not to let them down as well as yourself. Blogging is particularly good because you can tell yourself “I’ll just pop out and do some sets, so I’ve got something to write about.”
The rule of social proof is that when faced with uncertainty over how to act in a novel situation, we instinctively look to other people in our immediate environment and take our behavioural cues from them. The more someone is like us, the more we are influenced.
This is why it’s good to read daygame blogs, watch other people’s infields, and to dip your toe into the daygame community of the area you’re working. The act of cold-approaching is a highly novel situation for the newbie daygamer so he will be naturally looking to others for behavioural cues. Even if you’re paralysed by approach anxiety it’s worth walking the streets a little and watching more intrepid guys opening. Sure, you’ll feel a pang of self-loathing for not approaching yourself but eventually that’ll build up and synergise with the sense of normalisation you feel from seeing men just like you cold approaching girls and doing fine.
Social proof is also the reason why students can often overcome approach anxiety on bootcamps as it just requires a push from the instructor to get the first nerve-racked student to open and suddenly all the rest want in on the act. It’s why pairing up with a wing slightly better than you is more helpful than winging with an advanced guy – the former is more like you, but good enough to get some decent approaches in and thus cajol you into doing so via social proof. (the latter is still very useful, just less so from a social proof point of view).
The other three Weapons of Influence will have to wait because I haven’t finished the book
If you think this blog post used someone else’s influence ideas brazenly, you should see my book.
* The junior school me actually took a photo of his high score and sent off to win this badge. I was very proud when my mum sewed it onto my jacket, unaware of the small commitment I’d been lulled into. I would consistently buy almost all Activision 2600 games such as Pitfall, Chopper Command, Megamania, and Enduro
** Peace be with Him.
*** I suppose my blog, business and lifestyle are one long rationalisation of an initially terrible decision to cut down on my video game consumption. Thanks for playing along and keeping my delusion bubble intact.