April 28, 2024
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Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence” and “Presuasion” has studied how people’s decisions are molded by various “principles”.   We would like to think that we are intelligent and rationale actors, making decisions based on the ‘facts”.  Dr. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for integrating the psychological research into economic science.  The research is clear…people can be manipulated without them even knowing.




The principles of influence can be practiced ethically, as it ismost commonly practiced in healthcare, or it can be plied unethically as we’ve seen with Sam Bankman-Fried and Bernie Madoff.  These same principles have been used by the worst criminals in history, like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalinresponsible for killing millions.

So, understanding these principles and how they can be used nefariously is a survival tactic.  It can help one avoid being manipulated and encourage truly rational decision-making. It’sstudy can also shed light on current events.

Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 book, “It Can’t Happen Here” fictionalizes a scenario in which many of these persuasion principles are employed by politician Buzz Windrip resulting his rise as afascist dictator in a dystopian America.  One can’t read thatbook and look at what’s happened after the October 7th massacre in Israel and not see striking similarities.

Dr. Cialdini teaches that when negotiating, or even presenting options, the science of Influence maintains that it’s best to present the most aggressive, expansive, or expensive option first.  Then, a compromise position can be perceived as ‘reasonable’.  A tactic of presenting the most “acceptable” option first often precludes the ‘best’ option.

Look at the evolution of pro-Hamas protesters’ signs.  While they were first blatantly antisemitic and even anti-America, they have morphed.  On most college campuses the signs now call for, “Free Palestine” or “Divest”, a request for universities to impose economic sanctions on the Jewish State.  The antisemitic rants of “From the river to the sea” or “October 7th again” are mostly gone.  They’ve receded to their fallback position, one that is more palatable to the masses.  Who can argue against the death of innocent children?  Isn’t that alone a cause for compromise?


Make no mistake, the people behind these protests, the ones responsible for the encampments with the same brand of tents, have a more sinister agenda.  They inflamed the situation and are now stepping back to a more “reasonable” tactic.  The student-pawns’ signs say one thing but the organizers’ goals are something else and something quite dystopian.  It’s the same as it has been since the Mufti of Jerusalem supported Hitler’s “Final Solution”.

Below is the first emblem of what is considered by most Americans as the most moderate of all the Palestinian factions, the PLO, or Palestinian Liberation Organization.  Below it is Hamas’.

Look at the maps on these emblems.  Depicted, on both is themap of Israel.  All of it, not a compromised 2-State solution. That is the position the mainstream Palestinian public supports.  It’s the reason why Yasser Arafat, when presented a compromise he asked for, reneged.  It’s the reason Hamas was voted in as the governing body of Gaza when elections were held after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005. It’s the obstacle moving forward because there has never been a Palestinian leader whounderstood how to use the principles of Influence, negotiate a reasonable compromise, and avoid being killed.  Look what happened to Anwar Sadat after Egypt made peace with Israel.

Egypt has a border with Gaza.  Why have they not opened uptheir border to relieve the humanitarian crisis?  Why has Saudi Arabia and other moderate Middle East countries not made a bigger ruckus?  What do they understand that college students do not?

Egypt knows the challenges within Palestinian politics and want to prevent them from again infiltrating Egypt, where sympathies towards the Palestinian cause is high.  They know the power of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that spawned Hamas.  They’ve banned the group since 2013.  They appreciate the complexity and are looking out for their own political survival.  The same is true in Jordan, where the Palestinian majority is held at bay by the Hashemite government.

A ‘reasonable’ option can be further strengthened by also presenting negative consequences of not making any decision or taking action.  This strategy is promoted by moderate supporters of the Palestinian cause by arguing that if nothing is done, the number of Arabs inside of Israel will grow and pose a risk to the Democratic Jewish State and lead to its eventual dissolution. Sounds reasonable many say.  ‘Something’ must be done andafter all, they say, the real problem is Netanyahu, so regime change is warranted, a theme recently promoted by President Biden and Nancy Pelosi.  That’s naïve thinking at best.

There’s a smokescreen being laid covering up a movement that will result in a mental compromise among the majority whichwill lead down the path towards the ultimate goal, which has been already stated by the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the Ayatollah in Iran; “From the River to the Sea”. This is what they truly want. They’ve modified and moderated the messaging, but don’t be fooled.

On college campuses, where learning should be taking place, others’ agendas have been coopted resulting in shouting,demands, preventing education, cancelling graduation and encouraging indoctrination.  Where’s the dialogue? Where’s the discourse?  As a former Columbia University professor, I am appalled at the equivocation.  As an American, I am frightenedof the future.  As a Jew, I’m disappointed but not surprised, as I have studied the long, painful history of antisemitism.

It CAN happen here.  It’s starting.

Towards understanding, rational behavior, and removing the mask,


P.S.  Stay tuned for my upcoming book “Influence In Action” in which my fellow Cialdini Institute Founding Members discuss how to ethically use the principles to get proven results.

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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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