The world's (truly) oldest profession: Social influence in evolutionary perspective

Jill M. Sundie, Robert B. Cialdini, Vladas Griskevicius, Douglas T. Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Consumer psychologists have devoted a great deal of research to understanding human social influence processes. Research on social influence could be enriched by incorporating several evolutionary principles, and viewing social influence processes through an adaptationist lens. Our central argument is that different social relationships are associated with different influence goals; one wants different things from a parent, a mate, a friend, an underling, a superior, and an out-group stranger. Therefore influence tactics should vary in success depending on the nature of the relationship between the target and the agent of influence. We consider different influence goals associated with different domains of social life and examine a set of six proven principles of social influence from this evolutionary perspective. We also consider how an evolutionary approach offers some new insights into why and when these principles of social influence will be differentially effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-153
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Influence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Compliance
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Social influence


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