Learning the Psychology of Online Persuasion

Jun 22 2017

Webs of Influence is one of the most useful books on psychology you will ever pick up. It’s easy to use format covers swathes of research into the psychology of human behavior and what it means for designing marketing programs and websites that engage with people. The second edition has just been published with more useful content updated to reflect this fast-changing field.

In the first section, Nathalie Nahai covers key topics in the science of human decision- making from neuroscience to behavioural economics and beyond. Importantly, she covers both human and cultural psychology with insights into individual as well as cross-cultural differences. Although I’ve just run a training workshop on cross-cultural research for the sixth year running, I still found plenty of useful practical applications of the cultural dimensions. For example, in high power-distance countries, where less powerful members of society expect and accept an unequal power distribution, it helps to provide order and structure in a website, be authoritative, limit choices, reflect a sense of national pride, and be tangible.

The second section of the book covers effective communication, including a very useful summary of the psychology of colour (one of my own favourite topics) and discussion of different content strategies for different media. She also discusses the importance of fluency, whether through repetition, structure, use of simple language and fonts and leveraging the quirks of human perception, as well as the times when it pays to be disfluent  Her discussion of the use of images is very useful, covering Gestalt theories and their application to design, how to get and direct attention, the use of emotions and facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. In the final chapter of this section, the book covers the use of social influence.

In the final section of the book, the author covers six key principles of influence (the book was obviously written before Robert Cialdini published a new book with a seventh principle), as well as the psychology of pricing and the customer journey. This section also covers the principles of many mental heuristics (such as priming and social proof) and how to apply them to your benefit.

This is one of the most readable books I know on psychology as well as one of the most practically immediate to use. For anyone who needs to persuade online (which is pretty much all of us) this book is one of the best investments you will ever make and is a great reference to have on your kindle. If you read the book you will understand that despite the focus on online persuasion, there is good reason why people like me prefer to have a physical copy on our bookshelf to refer to again and again.


Webs of Influence: The psychology of online persuasion by Nathalie Nahai

Influence: The psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Pre-suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade by Robert. Cialdini

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