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Chapter 5: Liking

Short Cuts / Judgmental Heuristics

Psychologists assert that we use mental shortcuts, also termed judgmental heuristics, to simplify our thinking (Cialdini, 2009). It’s a way of maximizing our mental efficiency. Bombarded by increasing information - messages, images, disorganized stimuli – presented at accelerating speeds, our minds have formed constructs meant to optimize our responses.

These short cuts are meant to diminish over processing where a quick conclusion can be drawn, to offer processing power where it’s needed. It works well most of the time, but it means we respond in programmed, automatic ways. Cialdini (2009) calls these mechanical responses click, whirr.

Whereas reactions which make use of a thorough and conscious analysis of the information is called controlled responding.          

When time is tight, situations are complex, and sensory distractions continue to overwhelm fatigued minds, people are inclined to rely more heavily on shortcuts. We are just not cognitively equipped to do otherwise (Cialdini, 2009).

Liking is Powerful

One shortcut is liking. Because it’s powerful, influencers –or,  compliance professionals – work to maximize its effect on our thinking (Cialdini, 2009). “People prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like” (Chapter 5, Summary, pg. 1). Examples of this are the Tupperware party strategy, localized and personal fundraising for large organizations, and friends/family plans aimed at getting customers to become referral agents.

Factors that build liking include:

Physical attractiveness - which appears to extend a halo effect of favorable impressions suggesting features such as talent, kindness, or intelligence.

Similarity  -of opinions, lifestyle, personality traits, background, clothing/taste, interests/hobbies, even mood or speech patterns.

Praise – flattery, even when obvious, works to draw our favor of those who provide it.

Familiarity – repeated contact in positive circumstances, especially circumstances of mutual and successful cooperation. However, in one experiment faces were flashed on a screen, but so fast that subjects could not consciously recognize the faces. 

Yet, the more frequently a person’s face was flashed on the screen, the more the subjects found those people likeable in subsequent interactions.

Positive association – includes sexy models in a car ad, commercials that proliferate during the Olympics, the moon landing, other large scale trends, even smells – Essentially any good feeling can be exploited for Pavlovian-like responses in association mapping.

Perhaps, most compellingly, though: People are shown to be influenced by any and all of these features, but are unconscious of the influence upon them (Cialdini, 2009).


How do we defend against this largely unconscious influencer? Cialdini suggests we check in with our own sense of 

liking. If we discover ourselves liking someone too easily, too quickly, we should perhaps be skeptical of those feelings. “The time to call out the defense is when we feel ourselves liking the practitioner more than we should under the circumstances” (Cialdini, 2009, Chapter 5, Defense, pg. 2).

It’s then, we should suspect, maybe we’ve taken a shortcut. It’s time to step back, and use the analysis skills of a more controlled response.



Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice (5th ed.) [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.