Win Bigly, by Scott Adams

A rundown of the persuasion concepts Adams discusses in the book:

Confirmation bias

We assume people who disagree with us need better facts. Then we can see ourselves as the smart ones, and confirmation bias lets us see the world / future anyway we want it to look.

Negotiating positioning / anchor

Your first offer is further out than what you actually want (anchor). This makes your actual position seem more reasonable / acceptable. 

Cognitive dissonance

Rationalization of why someone’s actions are inconsistent with their thoughts and beliefs. 


Humans are hardwired to reciprocate favors. To garner future cooperation, do something for that person today.

Awareness of persuasion

Persuasion techniques are effective even when the subject recognizes the technique. 

Intentional wrongness

Make a claim that is directionally accurate, but has a big exaggeration or error it in. People will focus energy on the error, which causes them to remember the idea. The things that impact you the most mentally will seem high in priority, even if they are not. (Trump does this, Adams did it with his claim Trump was 98% likely to win the election in Aug 2015.)

Mental attention and importance

The things you think about the most will irrationally rise in importance in your mind. Persuaders move your energy to the topics that help them, independent of facts and reason. 


An occasional typo can force someone to reread a sentence to understand it, capturing their mental energy and focus.


Find the sweet spot between apologizing too much (signals lack of confidence) and never (which makes you look like a sociopath). 


You have to surprise the brain or make it work a little extra to form memories. 

Facts and details

Visual persuasion, emotion, repetition, and simplicity influence more than details and facts.

High-ground maneuver

Elevating a debate above the details where everyone disagrees to a higher concept on which everyone agrees.

Pacing and leading

First match the person you plan to persuade in as many ways as possible (thinking, breathing, speaking, movement). Then you can lead/persuade and the subject will be comfortable following. 


Hypnotists see that people are irrational 90% of the time. When feelings turn on, reason turns off.

Mass delusions

Mass delusions are the norm for society. (Ex. Religions, financial bubbles, politics.)

Direction / momentum

People are more influenced by the direction of things than the current state.

New CEO move

Create an early visible victory (even if it’s a reach — like Trump taking credit for Ford factories) to create a sense of momentum and a lasting positive impression. 


Display confidence (real or faked) to improve your persuasiveness.


Persuasion is strongest when the messenger is credible


Guess what people are thinking at the moment they are thinking it, and the subject bonds to you for being like minded. 


If you want the audience to embrace your content, leave out details that are unimportant and make them think "that’s not me." Design blank spaces into your content so people can fill them in with whatever makes them happiest. 

Negative brand association

Carly Fiorina graphically described a botched abortion in a debate. It backfired b/c she tied her brand to a dead baby. 

Pacing and leading

Start your content by agreeing with the audience’s point of view, then lead to a new way of seeing things.

Persuasion stack

The top-to-bottom stack of persuasion techniques, strongest to weakest (visual>oral) big fear, identity, smaller fear, aspirations, habit, analogies, reason, hypocrisy, word-thinking.

Word-thinking is the attempt to win an argument by changing the definition of a word (abortion debate, defining the meaning of "life"). Weakest form of persuasion.


Hypocrisy frames both parties as "bad." Also known as "you did it, too," and "whataboutism." The high-ground maneuver is better. Take argument out of bickering mode and position yourself as the adult, explaining how things work in the big picture.


Facts/policies almost useless in persuasion. Facts work in the absence of emotion, or to support an emotional position/decision. (Immigration="big problem". Facts of policies —which Trump changed—didn’t matter).


Analogies are a good way to explain a new concept. Bad for persuasion. They are imprecise and give the other side lots of ammunition. "Trump as Hitler" worked b/c it 1) played on big fear (top persuasion tool) and explained a new concept to young voters who didn’t know who Trump was. In a negative analogy, the analogy is the holster (not persuasive) and the neg association is the gun (persuasive/effective).

Mental anchors

The first thing you hear about a new topic automatically becomes an anchor in your mind, biasing future opinions. Always mention numbers first, even in a separate context (job seeker talking about another person who got a big salary.) 


To influence someone to try a new product, associate it with some part of an existing habit. (Attaching vitamin taking to morning routine.) Or making a morning show part of a routine (Morning Joe). 

Unpredictable rewards

People respond better / become addicted to random rewards more than routine ones.


You can improve your persuasion by grafting your story onto people’s existing aspirations (Apple = make you more creative. Trump = underemployed will get better jobs, America will be safer, etc.).

Fear (big and small)

Personal fear is more persuasive than a group (or national) fear. Fear you think abt often is stronger than one you rarely think about.


People like to be part of and support a tribe. Humans reflexively support their tribe (race, age, gender religion, team, etc.). Don’t call out someone’s actions — ask them if "that is the person they want to be."


Pre-suasion is that it creates an emotional state that bleeds over from unrelated topics to the topic of your persuasion.

Reticular activation

The brain’s natural ability to filter out information you don’t need, to make it easier to spot the things you do need.

Thinking past the sale

Accepting something as true b/c you are thinking about another, smaller aspect of the assertion (ex.- "lyin’ Ted, not Lying Ted, makes you wonder why it was spelled lyin and not lying. Now you’ve accepted the premise as fact in order to think about the spelling.)


Contempt signals an irrevocable breach. In marriage, for example, contempt is the highest feeling correlated with divorce. 

Direct questions / ask for the sale

Ask for the sale. Trump says "believe me," when he makes a statement he wants people to believe. Directness can work.


Familiarity creates belief/comfort/acceptance


Simple explanations look more credible than complicated ones.

Strategic ambiguity

If you don’t like illegal immigration, you vote for trump. If you have compassion for illegal immigrants, you can vote for trump b/c he’s only focusing on the criminals. Ambiguity enables confirmation bias. Leaving gaps lets imagination fill them in, and imagination can be more persuasive than anything you say.