Today and every day for the rest of our lives, we will be targets of salespeople, marketers, advertisers, fundraisers and (heaven knows) politicians who want to move us in their direction. And they’ll be good at it, because they’ve learned how to put proven influence techniques — glowing testimonials, emotional tugs, last-chance opportunities — inside their appeals.

But recently, behavioral research has shown that, by concentrating so intently on the message, the messengers have missed something crucial. Optimal persuasion is achieved through pre-suasion: the practice of arranging for people to agree with a message before they know what’s in it. Although this may seem like some form of magic, it’s not. It’s established science. In my new book “Pre-suasion,” I describe the psychology behind what pre-suaders say or do immediately prior to a persuasive communication to elevate its effect, often dramatically.

Now, in conjunction with PBS NewsHour, I’ve developed a quiz from material in the book to introduce the concept and allow you to test your understanding of how pre-suasion operates, as well as to improve that understanding. With a better awareness of pre-suasion, you should be able to:

  1. harness its power to boost your own persuasive success and
  2. deflect that power when it’s used on you in an unwelcome way.

In school, I never much liked quizzes. The answers so rarely seemed useful to anything but scoring well on the test (did I really need to know which state was the No. 1 apple producer in the U.S.?). The PBS Pre-Suasion Quiz is designed to be different in that regard by describing a historically little-recognized, yet potent, form of social influence that even persuasion scientists have only recently come to appreciate. If the quiz delivers valuable life lessons, that will be my reward. No need to send an apple to the teacher.

So how did you do?

If you got less than 60 percent, don’t fret. Most of us are unaware of pre-suasion in ads and marketing. This quiz was meant to introduce you to the concept, so you can be more alert to it in the future.

If you got between 60 percent and 85 percent, you have a good initial grasp of pre-suasion and how it works.

If you got above 85 percent, you’re a rare pre-suasion expert. Count me impressed.

This article was previously published on PBS.


A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

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