Influ­ence: The Psy­chol­ogy of Per­sua­sion is Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book dis­cussing what he calls the six fun­da­men­tal psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples of com­pli­ance: con­sis­tency, rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion, social proof, author­ity, lik­ing and scarcity.

The con­clu­sion to Cialdini’s book points out why, in this increas­ingly com­plex world, resist­ing attempts at “enforced com­pli­ance” (decep­tion) through these key prin­ci­ples is as impor­tant as recog­nis­ing and respond­ing to truth­ful instances of their implementation:

Because tech­nol­ogy can evolve much faster than we can, our nat­ural capac­ity to process infor­ma­tion is likely to be increas­ingly inad­e­quate to han­dle the sur­feit of change, choice, and chal­lenge that is char­ac­ter­is­tic of mod­ern life. More and more fre­quently, we will find our­selves in the posi­tion of the lower animals—with a men­tal appa­ra­tus that is unequipped to deal thor­oughly with the intri­cacy and rich­ness of the out­side envi­ron­ment. Unlike the ani­mals, whose cog­ni­tive pow­ers have always been rel­a­tively defi­cient, we have cre­ated our own defi­ciency by con­struct­ing a rad­i­cally more com­plex world. But the con­se­quence of our new defi­ciency is the same as that of the ani­mals’ long-standing one. When mak­ing a deci­sion, we will less fre­quently enjoy the lux­ury of a fully con­sid­ered analy­sis of the total sit­u­a­tion but will revert increas­ingly to a focus on a sin­gle, usu­ally reli­able fea­ture of it.

When those sin­gle fea­tures are truly reli­able, there is noth­ing inher­ently wrong with the short­cut approach of nar­rowed atten­tion and auto­matic response to a par­tic­u­lar piece of infor­ma­tion. The prob­lem comes when some­thing causes the nor­mally trust­wor­thy cues to coun­sel us poorly, to lead us to erro­neous actions and wrong­headed decisions.