Monday, November 12, 2007

Resisting Influence: Authority and Credibility

Cialdini’s Principles of Social Influence

[Context: Credibility]

People naturally respond to authority with compliance

The Basics
  • Milgram’s studies of obedience provide evidence of a strong pressure for compliance with the requests of authority figures
  • Strength of tendency to obey comes from systematic socialization of society members that obedience constitutes correct conduct
  • Frequently adaptive to obey dictates of genuine authorities because such individuals usually possess high levels of knowledge, wisdom, and power
  • Deference to authorities can occur in a mindless fashion as a decision-making shortcut
  • Tendency to respond to "symbols and signs of authority" rather than to its substance
  • Failure to distinguish between Just and Unjust Authority
How It's Exploited
Experiments show that certain authority symbols effectively promote compliance
  • Titles
  • Clothing (expensive suits, uniforms, authority symbols, medals, hats, etc.)
  • Authority Location (Office, carpet on floor, etc. Fancy Stationary)
  • Automobiles (association with wealth, privilege, power with authority)
Best Defense
  • Question yourself - is this authority truly an expert? How truthful is he or she?
  • Direct attention away from symbols and toward evidence for authority status
  • Be aware of attempts of others to appear more trustworthy or credible than they are
  • Seek independent evaluation of authority deserved status
  • Be sensitive to changes in authority behavior, demands over time, from initially acceptable to ultimately abusive and unjust.
Prepared by Philip Zimbardo and Cindy X. Wang
©2006-2007, Philip G. Zimbardo