Robert (Bob) Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. His books, Influence: Science and Practice, Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, and Yes! have earned critical and popular acclaim. He has been credited with pioneering and spreading the importance of the ethical applications of the science of influence into classrooms and boardrooms alike.
Bob was born on April 27, 1945 and raised in an entirely Italian family, in a predominantly Polish neighborhood, in a historically German city (Milwaukee), in an otherwise rural state. In 1963, he began his undergraduate study in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, receiving his Bachelor's of Science degree in June of 1967. That same year, he began his graduate study in Social Psychology at the University of North Carolina where he received a Ph.D. in June of 1970 under the mentorship of Chet Insko. Following graduation, he spent 2 years (1970 and 1971) as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University.
From 1971 until 1975 Cialdini served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1975 and Professor in 1979. During his career, he has served as a visiting faculty member at Ohio State University (1973-1974), the University of California at San Diego (1979), the University of California at Santa Cruz (1986), the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California (1987-1988), and Stanford University (1991-1994; 2001-2001). Since retiring from Arizona State in 2008, Bob continues doing research. He is currently writing two more books and spends much of his time lecturing throughout the world.
Throughout his career, Cialdini received many honors and distinctions. In 1988, he was named a University Regents' Professor at ASU. In 1994, he was a G. Stanley Hall Lecturer at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. In 1996, he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina. In 1996 and 1997, he served as President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. In 2000, he was a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award of the Society for Consumer Psychology and in 2003 he received the Donald T. Campbell Award for Distinguished Contributions in Social Psychology from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. In 2009 he received the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.
Bob has also engaged in much service to the profession. For example, during his career he served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He has also served on the editorial board of that journal as well as Basic and Applied Social Psychology and the Applied Social Psychology Annual. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology honored him in 2008 with its Distinguished Service to the field of Personality and Social Psychology Award and the Society gives an annual prize in Cialdini’s name for a publication that provides an exemplary use of field research methods.
- Bob wasn’t too far removed from his own graduate school days when I became his first year mentee while he was on a visiting appointment in the social psychology program at Ohio State University. As I reflect back upon that time, I can’t imagine a more engaging and important advisor than Bob. Although Bob was already becoming well-known for his high impact field studies, the initial work I did with him was a traditional laboratory study on attitudes. This work, focused on the impact of personal relevance on attitude expression and the malleability of attitudes, set the stage in many ways for the kind of research I would do for much of my own career. I couldn’t be more thankful for his influence. Bob has continued to be a mentor, role model, and friend for over 30 years and it is a joy to continue to follow his work and engagements today.
-Richard E. Petty
- Bob was my secondary advisor during his visiting appointment in the social psychology program at Ohio State. Working with Bob was always exciting and illuminating, and he had a lasting and profound effect on how I pursued psychological science. There is often a division drawn between basic and applied research, with basic research focused on laboratory experimentation and theoretical development and applied research focused on the translation of basic research to specific problems and settings. Bob taught me the fallacy of this distinction. Behaviors, ranging from attention and person perception to aggression and racism, are multiply determined. If one focuses on a particular antecedent in laboratory experimentation, one can determine the causal role of this variable for some outcome of interest, but one cannot accurately estimate the effect size of this variable in everyday life because all the factors that were controlled in the laboratory setting (including heretofore unidentified antecedents and moderators) are now free to influence the outcome of interest. This is where Bob’s conceptualization of a full-cycle social psychology plays such an important role in the development of comprehensive theories. Moving from the laboratory to the applied setting and back again promotes the identification of additional antecedents and moderator variables and, in the process, it promotes the development of increasingly comprehensive theory of the behavioral outcome of interest. It is a lesson I’ve tried to pass on to my students, as well.
-John T. Cacioppo
- Being Cialdini means speaking in paragraphs. Being Cialdini means calmly listening to others discuss a research challenge, and then -- after the rest have finished their yammering -- precisely identifying the critical underlying issue and presenting an exquisite design for solving it. Being Cialdini means sharing clear judgment with friends and colleagues much in need of it, in ways often so subtle that only later do they realize the great gift they've been given. Cialdini's mind is elegant and steely clean. Cialdini's soul is straightforward and giving. Thanks Bob.
-Steven L. Neuberg
- I had the opportunity of doing two studies with Bob during his two separate visits to Stanford, and the privilege of talking to him and asking his advice about research over the years. Three things stand out. First, there was never a question I asked about any aspect of social psychology that Bob couldn't answer and answer with an amazing command of the literature and the relevant research and methods. Second, Bob was and is always exceptionally generous with his time and advice -- he was and is a true mentor to me, to doctoral students involved on the projects, and to basically anyone he came in contact with. And third, Bob Cialdini is one of the nicest and most decent human beings I have ever encountered in any setting, let alone academia where there is often a disproportionate amount of ego per unit of societal contribution. It was and is a privilege to know Bob over the years, and I will be always grateful to the late Gene Webb for first making the connection and getting Bob to visit at Stanford. He is truly one of a kind.
- I was fortunate to be at ASU at a time when Bob was first getting started with the work that would establish him as a major figure in social psychology: full-cycle social psychology, principles of social influence, motivation for prosocial behavior, focus theory of normative conduct. Watching how he thought about his craft and constructed research paradigms in the lab and the field provided the kind of training that a fledgling grad student like me could have only hope for. But the most important thing that Bob taught me was how to be a mentor -- encouraging, constructively critical, challenging, honest, supportive, and consistently showing the fun and excitement of the research enterprise. I have tried to demonstrate these characteristics as I have mentored my own students over the years. To the extent that I have succeeded, they owe a debt of gratitude to Bob. I know that I owe him for whatever success I have had in my career. Thank you, Bob!
-David A. Schroeder
- Among the many admirable accomplishments of Bob's academic work, it is his creativity that stands out to me. In 2001, following the "Energy Crisis" in California, Bob and I began a very fruitful collaboration developing alternative approaches to promote energy conservation. His creativity both in methods and theory was inspirational, and he has left a lasting mark on the field.
- Bob was a terrific mentor. He instilled in all of his students both a sense of what contemporary social psychology is and what it could – even MUST – be to remain a truly viable discipline. I will forever be grateful for his guidance. In doing field, err, parking lot littering research studies, there were a number of memorable moments – from the disgusting flotsam and jetsam (used drug paraphernalia and worst of all, fermenting used diapers) – to the time when a fellow objected to the flyer we had mistakenly placed on his windshield despite his dire warnings not to touch his cherished worn out van – oops, we were just students you know – and Bob had to talk to him while he ranted and waved a pistol around. We were grateful that Bob was not shot, and that he kept all of us as his students. We all should do our parts to keep social psychology from sliding down the slippery slope of inconsequential irrelevance that Bob sees social psychology heading toward. Bob has been, and always will be, a visionary, and we need to heed his advice.
- I have so many happy memories from my graduate school years thanks largely to Bob. To this day, I thank my lucky stars that Bob Cialdini was my mentor. I first met Bob during my senior year of college when he came to give a talk in my Department. I had already been doing research in social influence and meeting him was one of the highlights of my college years. I am fortunate that this initial meeting solidified my future plans and am forever grateful that Bob admitted me to work with him. During our years of collaboration, both in graduate school and beyond, Bob taught me so much about our field, about the value of applied research in Social Psychology, and to believe in myself. His contributions to our field are immeasurable. And, as an aside, Bob is also quite possibly the greatest storyteller that ever lived. My favorite has always been the story of the calcu-tray -- the moral of which was not to give up on what you want, just keep asking nicely until it becomes too hard for the target to say no -- an apt lesson in social influence and perhaps also in life.
- Bob Cialdini represents the best of what social psychology has to offer...a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of social interaction, a full commitment to search and empirical inquiry to support our concepts of those dynamics, and a sensitive focus on making this science relevant to our daily living. He is a living demonstration of "full cycle social psychology."
- Bob brought social psychology to life by breathing life into social psychological research. By showing people how to use psychological levers to change people's behavior, Bob is the rare type of scientist whose work transcends academia and makes a truly lasting impact on our world.
- When deciding where to apply to graduate school back at the start of the new millennium, I re-read my introduction to Social Psychology textbook from cover to cover. I was on a mission to find the most interesting, clever, and creative social psychologist alive. Every time I read about a fascinating study with cool and creative methods—no matter what the topic—I wrote the name of the researcher down on my yellow pad of paper and drew a tick mark next to their name for every cool and creative study thereafter. One name rose to the top and dwarfed the rest: Some guy named Robert Cialdini. The fact that I was tired of living in cold and dreary Ithaca and that Bob was in Arizona was almost like a sign from the heavens that I was destined to work with and learn from one of the greatest and most influential social psychologists of all time. And he did not disappoint. I learned so much from Bob about being a researcher, teacher, speaker, writer, and ambassador of social psychology to the outside world. I am so thankful that I can call him a mentor, a colleague, a co-author, and a friend.