'Science of Influence' is in the Air at Safety 2008

Dr. Robert Cialdini, W.P. Carey Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Regents' Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, is headlining this morning's General Session, discussing the art and science of influencing people and how the sometimes subtle powers of persuasion can benefit their program. Cialdini has spent more than 30 years researching the science of influence and has earned an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. He is best known for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, recommended by Fortune Magazine in its list of most important books for business. In writing the book, Cialdini spent three years going "undercover," applying for jobs and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations, telemarketing firms and the like, observing real-life situations of persuasion. The book also reviews many of the most important theories and experiments in social psychology.

Either many of the attendees here at Safety 2008 have already read Cialdini's work or they've acquired the necessary skills some other way. Evidence of this observation is on display in many of the forums and sessions on this week's agenda. At the Key Issue Roundtables held each day, for example, professionals with mutual interests in a particular area of expertise gather for the express purpose of sharing ideas, challenges, and successes, giving attendees a chance to speak up and share their lessons learned. Often the sessions are lively and informative, and they regularly bring to mind what Cialdini refers to as the six "weapons of influence": Reciprocation, the idea that people tend to return a favor (and thus the pervasiveness of free samples at virtually all the booths here in the exposition hall); Commitment and Consistency, which holds that if people commit, verbally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment; Social Proof, the observation that people will do things that they see other people doing; Authority, the figures of which people tend to obey; Liking, the phenomena of how people are persuaded by others they like or find physically attractive; and Scarcity, the idea that a perceived lack of something will generate demand for it.

"In the last 30 years, we have identified, tested, and deployed core principles of influence proven to create positive change across organizations and industries," Cialdini says. "In fact, they are the subtle, yet powerful 'gears' capable of transforming virtually any interaction." ASSE, aware that the success of its SH&E professionals' endeavors depends upon their ability to exert influence, has given its members a box of such gears by making Cialdini a part of Safety 2008.

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