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The Power of Persuasion: How We're Bought and Sold [Paperback]

Robert Levine
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 23 2006 0471763179 978-0471763178 1
"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). . . . 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."
--Slashdot.org

"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

"Levine puts [his] analysis in the service of his real mission--to arm the reader against manipulation."
--The Wall Street Journal

"This wonderful book will change the way you think and act in many realms of your life."
--Philip Zimbardo former president, American Psychological Association

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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 bout 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

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), 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 bout 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. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, February 24, 2003)

"an interesting book". (The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2003)

"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's website, www.globeandmail.com --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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When I was growing up in Brooklyn we had a standard put-down for intellectuals: "Good school smarts, no street smarts." Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm sold! July 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
I found this book via a reference from Slashdot, and decided to read it for myself. It's a useful primer on persuasion. Levine's insight and explanation of the mechanics of manipulation can serve as either inoculation against hucksters, or inspiration to try these tricks yourself. It's an engaging read. Levine lays out principles which are simple and practical (e.g., the triangle of trustworthiness: authority, honesty, likability), and he avoids the dry, academic tone that saddles many Ph.D.'s writing. You don't need a GED to enjoy this book.
I had two minor complaints, neither sufficient to reduce my rating from five to four stars. While the book is replete with fascinating anecdotes and synopses of various studies, Levine also peppers the text with tongue-in-cheek remarks. Most of them are funny, but he spends a few paragraphs too many chuckling at his own jokes (or his pal, Lenny). More significantly, Chapter Nine ("Jonestown") comes from left field. For 200 pages, Levine writes about sales and marketing -- and then suddenly he spends 20 pages pontificating about a religious cult. It's interesting, but misplaced. If I'd wanted to read a book about Jonestown, there are dozens. I wouldn't have picked Levine's.
That said, I recommend this book. There are no surprises (apart from Jonestown): If you're intrigued by the teaser, you'll like the book. Aside from a general education about impressionability, I took away several specific notes. Levine's comments about Matisse struck a chord with me, and I'm currently reading Paco Underhill's "Why We Buy" based on Levine's reference. This is a worthwhile book. I'm glad I bought it, and I expect to pick it up again in a few years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Persuasion : How We're Bought and Sold April 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
A well-known social psychologist and experienced writer (A Geography of Time, 1997), Levine (California State Univ., Fresno) has produced an authoritative, entertaining, and perceptive analysis of persuasion in the marketplace. He examines the ways that people can be coaxed, prodded, seduced, or debased into taking actions they previously were not attracted to. The book is an engaging read, a real page-turner. Levine mixes an expert's knowledge of contemporary research in social psychology with real-world examples of situations where effective persuasion is in play. His analysis identifies a set of core psychological principles that are the basis for all forms of persuasion, from selling Tupperware to electing politicians. The book concludes with suggestions for resisting persuasion. The clear, entertaining writing style makes the books accessible to all mature readers, but it will have special relevance for those with backgrounds in the social sciences. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All libraries, academic and public; all levels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, eye-opening, and un-nerving Oct. 16 2003
Format:Hardcover
The first chapter is this book made me sweat. I thought I would read this book to continue my study in persuasion just to make me a better marketer, that I was in fact immune against most persuasion. Not so, says the author. His opening chapter about the illusion of invulnerability, shook me. It made me realize I'm just as easily swayed by ads and marketing as the next person. And so are you. This book is a great warning, a powerful education, and a great research tool. I'll use it to improve the marketing I create, but I'll also remember it the next time someone trys to market anything to me. Great book. Get it. Read it. Use it. - Joe Vitale, author of way too many books to list here ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! Oct. 16 2003
Format:Hardcover
I absolutely loved Power of Persuasion!
Levine writes and gives due credit to everyone from his students (by name) to the many researchers who make the field more fascinating and understood year by year.
I can't say enough about this book. When I wrote The Psychology of Persuasion in 1996, I knew that persuasion was a field that would become more fascinating and important as each year would come and go. 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
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to psychology of persuation, NOT a guide book on how to persuade. Jan. 12 2006
By Victor Vorski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A very intersting introduction to the psychology of persuation, how everything from car salesman, education, religion, through to cults manipulate their victims. The book has certainly made me curious to find out more about the subject and I intend to read guidebooks on how to apply these principles in everyday life.

In other words this is an intro to the psychology, but not a guide on how to apply it. For example the book talks in general terms about the process that car dealerships design for persuading a customer to commit to a sale, but gives not enough detail to how to design such a sales process.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm sold! July 17 2004
By Stephen A. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I found this book via a reference from Slashdot, and decided to read it for myself. It's a useful primer on persuasion. Levine's insight and explanation of the mechanics of manipulation can serve as either inoculation against hucksters, or inspiration to try these tricks yourself. It's an engaging read. Levine lays out principles which are simple and practical (e.g., the triangle of trustworthiness: authority, honesty, likability), and he avoids the dry, academic tone that saddles many Ph.D.'s writing. You don't need a GED to enjoy this book.
I had two minor complaints, neither sufficient to reduce my rating from five to four stars. While the book is replete with fascinating anecdotes and synopses of various studies, Levine also peppers the text with tongue-in-cheek remarks. Most of them are funny, but he spends a few paragraphs too many chuckling at his own jokes (or his pal, Lenny). More significantly, Chapter Nine ("Jonestown") comes from left field. For 200 pages, Levine writes about sales and marketing -- and then suddenly he spends 20 pages pontificating about a religious cult. It's interesting, but misplaced. If I'd wanted to read a book about Jonestown, there are dozens. I wouldn't have picked Levine's.
That said, I recommend this book. There are no surprises (apart from Jonestown): If you're intrigued by the teaser, you'll like the book. Aside from a general education about impressionability, I took away several specific notes. Levine's comments about Matisse struck a chord with me, and I'm currently reading Paco Underhill's "Why We Buy" based on Levine's reference. This is a worthwhile book. I'm glad I bought it, and I expect to pick it up again in a few years.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! Oct. 16 2003
By Kevin Hogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I absolutely loved Power of Persuasion!
Levine writes and gives due credit to everyone from his students (by name) to the many researchers who make the field more fascinating and understood year by year.
I can't say enough about this book. When I wrote The Psychology of Persuasion in 1996, I knew that persuasion was a field that would become more fascinating and important as each year would come and go. 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
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be a sucker again! July 23 2004
By Wei Ho - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This should be a book that every consumer should read. What I find very interesting was that many of the techniques employed by sales people or con artist that was used on me was discribed step by step in this book. Though I didn't fall for them back then, it was eye opening to see 'their' textbook on persuading you.

Most of the information and studies in this book are quite old. But nonetheless it is still revelant today. This most fascinating part for me was how retail stores and supermarkets showcases their merchandise. Or how simply by putting a more expensive item next to the cheaper item will generate more sales on the cheaper item. Sounds simple, but it isn't, that is why companies spend so much money on marketing and research.

More rational people will generally not fall for tricks illustrated in this book. But unfortunately, these tricks do work because there are enough irrational people out there that are susceptible to them.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academic and real-world insights April 1 2006
By Phil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you like books on influence that have a strong academic foundation and plenty of real world examples, you'll like this one. And I loved reading it.

Just before starting to write this review, I saw something that illustrates how each of us often sees certain things differently. Another reviewer believed the book's example of a car dealer's sales process lacks the details a reader needs to design a sales process. That example is precisely the one I'd decided to mention to you.

Levine uses ten pages to detail this nine-step process. It's a terrific, practical example of getting the customer to make a series of small commitments that greatly increase the likelihood of a sale. You'll get enough info about each step and the overall process to adapt to your sales system to the extent you want. Most of us will choose to borrow parts of this and other processes you read about. One reason is that this particular process included unsavory steps.

Sure, it will take some work and thinking on your part to improve your sales process. That's part of customizing sales systems so they work best for you.

Interestingly, the book gives the real name (Mike Gasio of Fresno, CA) of the super-slick salesman...and notes that he left the auto sales business and became a teacher and counselor for at-risk young people. Mike now uses the same process of gradually increasing commitments to help these troubled youngsters make healthy changes in their lives. What a great story. And illustration of how we can effectively adapt persuasion tools to create either sleazy or healthy results. Once we have the information...the choice is ours.

One of my favorite books on persuasion.
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