In February 2000 I was loitering at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, where I stumbled onto a session on the science of baseball. One of the speakers was Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell, who talked about New York Yankees manager Joe Torre's exemplary use of the principles put forth in the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by social psychologist Robert B. Cialdini. For anyone who's been living in a cave (a phrase that used to describe ignorance and not malevolence), the Yankees have been wildly successful under Torre, winning four of five World Series before coming thisclose while losing in 2001. After Boswell's talk, we got Cialdini to write an article for Scientific American, and that's why I owe Joe. (And Boswell.)
Cialdini codified six basic rules of persuasion (discussed at length in "The Science of Persuasion," February 2001). The first is reciprocity: Who are you going to drive to the airport, your mooching brother-in-law or your friend Paul who took you to the fifth game of the World Series? (Thank you, Paul.) Second, consistency: make a commitment, especially in public, and the urge to behave consistently with that commitment will tug at you like a Rottweiler. Third, social validation: if all your friends are doing it, jumping off that building might actually be weirdly tempting, Mom. Fourth, liking: obviously, you're more likely to extend yourself for someone you like. Fifth, authority: Are you going to believe me or Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.? And sixth, scarcity: Which do you want more, a piece of cheesecake or the last piece of cheesecake?
This article was originally published with the title Torre Adoring.