Cialdini, Principles of Persuasion and April Fools’ pranks that are believed

As today is the first day of the fourth month, there is a lot of influential communication to be observed in the form of April Fools’ pranks. Clearly, the aim of a prank is to influence another person to believe an absurdity.

But what makes one of these pranks more likely to be believed than another?

Well, the Principles of Persuasion, devised by Robert Cialdini, can give us some clues. One principle is particularly effective; Authority.

Basically, people are more likely to be influenced in their behaviour from someone to whom they attribute relevant expertise or authority.  Think about the most famous pranks, reported or perpetrated by the BBC such as;

 1957: Hoax BBC Panorama reveals spaghetti harvest in Switzerland

1976: Patrick Moore tells BBC Radio 2 listeners that at 0947 a planetary event would lessen Earth’s gravity and if people jumped in the air at that moment, they would float.

What made these pranks so successful was the fact that authorities such as the BBC or Patrick Moore, a leading expert on Astronomy and well known TV personality, were involved.

Of course, fun as this is – or not depending on your perspective – many organisations make use of the Authority Principle in their promotion, as indeed am I.

What’s your experience of this?

Comments welcomed