The Power of Persuasion (Book Review)


title: The Power of Persuasion – How We’re Bought and Sold

author: Robert V. Levine

what you’ll learn: how masters of persuasion work and how to guard against them

Why You Must Read It

If you read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and if you want to take your persuasion skills to the next level, you will need to read The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold.

I admit that half of the book is a repeat of Influence. (Think of it like a review of the important concepts.) However, the other half contains powerful, new information that is both a bit dark and a bit unfair for the other guy.

What do I mean? For example, you will learn:

  • How to best set prices (and how to effective raise prices). Why leave good money on the table? Charge the wrong price — which can be off by the penny — and you’ll lose your shirt. Charge the right price, and you’ll bring in the big bucks, while keeping your customer happy.
  • A car salesman’s 10-step, secret sales method. Why do people hate car salesmen? (Usually, they’re men, not women.) It is because they’re sleazy, but oh-so-effective at getting you to part with your cash. You can’t help but get taken advantage of. Well, the book will reveal their step-by-step method for making the sale. Oh, all I gotta say is … it really works!
  • How to lure people into a cult. This is totally nefarious, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to brainwash people. The Power of Persuasion provides examples from 2 – 3 different cults … so you can get a model on how it works.
  • How to maintain power as cult leader. Once you get people into the cult, you can learn how to get them to obey you. You will see how Jim Jones, the founder and the leader of the Peoples Temple, got its members to obey … and even commit suicide for him. That is some crazy, messed-up, and powerful stuff.
  • How the CIA elicit confessions without inflicting physical pain. This stuff is totally insane. I’ve included a portion of it in the “choice excerpt” section (see below).
  • How to guard against persuasion tactics. A lot of the ways people act are very subconscious. They don’t know what they’re even doing, until it is too late. By understanding how people think (and how they sometimes get fooled), you can stop falling for Jedi-mind-trick abilities.

As I have mentioned previously, persuasion is one of the most powerful ways of control. It doesn’t matter what you do, the skill to persuade will bring you far.

To become a master at persuasion …

To prevent yourself from being manipulated …

Read Influence first. Then you better read this book.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – The Illusion of Invulnerability

Chapter 2 – Whom Do We Trust? Experts, Honesty, and Likability

Chapter 3 – Killing You with Kindness

Chapter 4 – The Contrast Principle

Chapter 5 – $2 + $2 = $5

Chapter 6 – The Hot Button

Chapter 7 – Gradually Escalating the Commitments

Chapter 8 – Winning Hearts and Minds

Chapter 9 – Jonestown

Chapter 10 – The Art of Resistance

Choice Excerpt

The Good Cop

The reciprocity-of-kindness effect may be enhanced by contrasting it with meanness. There is, for example, the well-known “good cop-bad cop” routine.

One of the most remarkable mind control texts I’ve come across is the 1963 CIA interrogation manual titled KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, recently made available through the Freedom of Information Act.

The manual was designed to teach operatives “non-coercive” techniques for eliciting confessions and intelligence information from uncooperative detainees. What makes KUBARK so frightening is that it has no references to electric shocks or rubber hoses or other methods of torture. It’s 100 percent applied social psychology.

The KUBARK manual teaches a notable version of good cop–bad cop that it calls the “Mutt and Jeff ” technique. One interrogator takes a “brutal, angry, domineering” stance while his partner plays the friendly good-guy role. The performance begins with the angry interrogator ranting and raving, shouting down anything the subject says, cutting off his every answer, smashing his fist on the table. He accuses the subject of other offenses — “any offenses, especially those that are heinous or demeaning,” the manual instructs. The bad guy “makes it plain that he personally considers the interrogatee the vilest person on earth.”

During the harangue, the nice interrogator tries to appear a little afraid of his colleague. At some point, seemingly having had enough, the nice guy breaks in. “Wait a minute, Jim. Take it easy,” the manual instructs him to say. The angry interrogator explodes at this. “He shouts back, ‘Shut up! I’m handling this. I’ve broken crumb-bums before, and I’ll break this one, wide open.’ He expresses his disgust by spitting on the floor or holding his nose or any gross gesture,” the manual instructs.

Finally, red-faced and furious, the bad-guy interrogator storms out. He shouts at the subject that he’s going out for a few drinks and that when he returns, “You better be ready to talk.” As soon as the door slams, the second interrogator tells the subject how sorry he is. He explains, the manual states, how “he hates to work with a man like that but has no choice, how if maybe brutes like that would keep quiet and give a man a fair chance to tell his side of the story, etc., etc.” At this point, the interrogator hopes, his subject will be so grateful that he’ll do anything asked of him in return.

The manual also describes a variation on the technique in which the interrogator works alone: “After a number of tense and hostile sessions the interrogatee is ushered into a different or refurnished room with comfortable furniture, cigarettes, and so forth. The interrogator invites him to sit down and explains his regret that the source’s former stubbornness forced the interrogator to use such tactics. Now every-thing will be different. The interrogator talks man-to-man.” Obviously, it’s now the subject’s turn to reciprocate.

Interestingly, virtually the same technique was applied during the brainwashing programs conducted in Korean POW camps. A former POW described this during his postcamp debriefing:

I went in and there was a man, an officer he was … he asked me to sit down and was very friendly … It was very terrific. I, well, I almost felt like I had a friend sitting there. I had to stop every now and then and realize that this man wasn’t a friend of mine. … I also felt as though I couldn’t be rude to him. … It was much more difficult for me to — well, I almost felt I had as much responsibility to talk to him and reason and justification as I have to talk to you right now.

The CIA manual adds that the Mutt and Jeff technique is most effective with women, teenagers, and timid men. Oh.

Get it now!

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  1. Looks like its a great read

  2. Hey Alex,
    This looks like a very interesting read; I’ll have to check it out. In case you haven’t read it, I highly suggest reading the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s fairly old but the principles inside it are still very applicable to today’s world.
    Best regards,

    • Hey Bob,

      I read Dale Carnegie’s book. Overall, it was solid, but I feel it is a bit dated. The end was a bit weird too, about not having sex to get more drive to succeed.

      In my opinion, the best book about influencing people is Influence, by Robert Cialdini (which I have already written about). Another good one is Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. I’ll write about that book another day.


  1. On The Power of Persuasion says:

    […] How to lure people into a cult. This is totally nefarious, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is… […]

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