How Trump Used Psychology To Manipulates the Masses – Win Bigly by Scott Adams Book Summary

Scott Adams made his riches through creating the comic, Dilbert. His life story is inspiring if you find out more about him. It’s a story that shows that you can combine a variety of unique talents in a fresh way and carve out a niche never done before.

Despite being known as a comic book illustrator, he claims he’s had various odd jobs over the years and understands psychology at a deeper level than most people. In fact, he understands it so much that he devoted a whole book to breaking down the psychology and manipulation principles that allowed Donald Trump to win the presidency. It seemed like a rather peculiar book for this person to write, but as a fan of psychology, I was intrigued.

Scott also claims he wrote this book while sitting on a beach, a nod to his wealth and “credibility.” With all that being said, I discovered some fascinating concepts from this book. Here is my book summary and review.

Test a lot of things. Devote energy and attention to what works the most.

Even if building the wall around Mexico makes no practical sense, because it gets people to keep people talking and focus on him, it works. (This is my own note, not from the author: This one got me thinking about all the other ways Trump got people to focus on him during the battle. Early on, he wasn’t taken seriously, but he wouldn’t be ignored. He made edgy jokes, he got people riled up to focus their debates on personal attacks or petty arguments about how their wife looked or how good in bed he was. These had nothing to do with politics yet it got the focus on him and it brought the playing field to something he could actually work on.)

Facts are weaker than fiction in persuading. People hold their own facts and ignore or move on from things that clash with their beliefs.

People are more persuaded by visual representation, repetition, simplicity, and emotion rather than facts.

Pacing is a persuasive maneuver where you mimic everything you can of the persuadee: movements, beliefs, language, etc. to win them over and make them easier to persuade.

People make irrational decisions all the time and make up elaborate reasons later to backwards rationalize it. We are irrational 99% of the time and only rational for trivial things, like deciding when to leave for work.

Two people can see completely different interpretations of the same event. This happens all the time.

The best filter (lens which you see the world) is one that makes you happy and best predicts the future. That doesn’t mean this filter is realistic though. Your body only cares about survival and reproduction. Once those goals are met, it is done and doesn’t care if you see reality clearly.

How to tell if its cognitive dissonance: look for a trigger, whatever causes the dissonance, a hallucination that disavows the cause of an effect.  Or multiple explanations are used to try to explain an event. Or they respond with a mocking absolute to your argument, such as saying that you want to give guns to toddlers when you argue for private gun ownership. Or they use analogies instead of facts and reason. A hallucination for why someone with self control doesn’t match actions.

Once someone sees through a frame, everything is through that frame and nothing else. For example, if they see through the “it is witchcraft” frame, everything is through how it could be witchcraft.

Mass delusions are common and the norm. It takes two things for them to occur: complicated models with plenty of assumptions in them and psychological or financial incentive for people to side with one side.

People are more interested in the directional movement of things than the current state. That’s why Trump moved towards anti-Hitler concepts when it was mentioned.

As a persuader, you should address the unspoken question in your head the moment you have it to make it more personal and powerful. Guess and call out what people are thinking when it happens to form a greater bond.

The author leaves out details in his comic to make people connect more with the content. They form more of a bond when they can relate but if you mention a cultural last name or industry, it can exclude people.

Don’t associate your personal brand with a bad image. Carly furiena dropped in ratings in the election by calling out a graphic abortion that lead to a dead baby. It brought free media coverage and sided her with her party on a key point that highlighted her as the strongest stance, but it paired her brand with a bad image, not an rational way to make a decision but something that affected voters’ decisions.

Megan Kelly accused Trump of calling women fat pigs, whores, slobs, and other horribly things. This should have ended his campaign but he effectively navigated this with master persuasion like never before. Most would try to respond with good stuff about women but there was too much public record to make that an effective strategy. By saying “only Rosie O Donnell” he sucked the power out of the accusation by creating a visual personality that triggers emotions. Visual persuasion is the most persuasive type of the senses by far. It is what people believe most. Trump mentioned the word Wall many times rather than just talk about immigration control. Concepts alone are hard to imagine. If he were realistic and said he would build a variety of elements to solidify border control, that would be less visually understandable. (I also noticed Trump’s response also elicited laughs and humor, generally seen as positive reaction whenever it happens.)

Trump’s SNL skit showed getting off his Boeing jet and sitting in the oval office, conveying visually that he is already almost president. Hilary Clinton’s skit had her playing a bartender to a drunk Hilary Clinton, visually conveying she likes to drink too much, not the best imagery. (And i noticed it’s an image that she had lost the election or she’s drunk because she lost in a bar.)

He bonded with people to a specific image that the masses don’t like. He used humor to change focus and get something the media had to cover. It was on brand and thick skinned.

Address and agree with what your persuadee thinks first to gain trust and credibility.

High ground maneuver is about framing you as an adult in the high ground explaining things to children. Agree with what they say first because bickering and arguing is childish.

Fear is the strongest persuaders. A big fear you think about more often is more persuasive than a small one you don’t think about. A fear you have experienced firsthand is better than one you haven’t. A visual fear is better than a non visual one.

Analogies do not persuade. If the analogy carries an association, it can work. Associations matter more than reason. If you compare something frequently enough, their associated traits start to merge for the persuadee. Analogies are holsters and associations are guns.

Prime people with an anchor, a large ask in a different context that causes people to relate or compare their purchase or decision off of that. An example is discussing a million dollar yacht purchase of a recent friend when selling a business no one knows a good price on.

Most people want to be good people. Appeal to their aspirations rather than their actions. Ask if this is the type of person they want to be. Works well for adults but not children.

Point out the gap and watch it close with cognitive dissonance.

It is easy to persuade people who believe you are credible. Dress for the part, become more attractive, broadcast your credentials in a non braggy, meet in a place that you can control and shows off your credentials, and show that you are a winner.

Prime the pump. Mention a story about kindness before talking to someone if you want someone to be kind.

Humans don’t like uncertainty and gravitate towards clarity even if it is inaccurately simple.

Trump was far more exceptional at branding than other competitors. He used uncommon words that were visual and unexpected, like crooked, low energy, little and lying. He made sure it was lyin’ and ‘lil rather than lying and little to make you stop and think about it, which gets you more convinced. The names also were set up to be true by confirmation bias. Politicians are naturally seen as not telling the truth. Rubio wasn’t little but he was shorter than Trump and people were reminded of that each time they stood next to each other.

Clinton’s team tried to use Donald Duck as a nickname to describe him ducking showing his tax returns and other questions. But that nickname also associates with a lovable children’s cartoon.

How would you respond to the media trap question of whether you agree with the pope saying that capitalism is bad. Not responding, Agreeing, or disagreeing would be bad.

Instead, Trump responded by saying to tell the pope that Isi is coming to get him and the church. The listener forgets the question at that point.
Participate in activities where you excel because that superior imagery will spill over to your personal brand.

Offer worse alternatives when proposing a business idea.

Pence was a great Vice President pick because contrast is a persuasive factor. He contrasts Trump in every way.

Every word in Trump’s campaign slogan is a strong power word with good imagery. Clinton’s Im with her suggests it is more about a single individual. Her stronger together slogan can suggest that it is about bullies banding together to do more bad things. The love trumps hate slogan failed because people put more emphasis on the first part of the slogan, which literally says love trump. (I even saw Lady Gaga post this slogan on Instagram).

An identity play is the strongest positive form of persuasion.

The high ground maneuver is when you say a higher level absolute truth and change the context of the debate. The debater will feel small minded if they bring the topic back to the initial lower details level. Example: Military drone kills civilians -> war is messy. No one wants civilians to die. We will study so this doesnt happen again in the future.

It is succinct and true. There is a limit to the method when the problem is too large, like the BP oil spill scandal.

If you can frame your persuasion results as two ways to win and no way to lose, it will more likely succeed because it is a natural high ground maneuver.

If lots of people agree with you it conveys persuasive social proof.  He mentions a lot of people agree with whatever he says.

Ask directly. Most politicians hope but don’t ask you believe.

Repetition is persuasion. Keep repeating.

Speak in simple language. It matches the speaking level of the audience. Also match speaking style. Simple explanations look more credible than complicated ones.

Strategic ambiguity lets both sides like you by being vague or give opposing sides reasons to like you.

Trump used negotiation tactics in his political campaign. Demanding big first and working to a middle ground (with his immigration proposals).

If you’re part of the group, your decisions will be start to lean towards the consensus of the group.

Skilled persuaders know that people don’t appeal to logic or reason. Trump didn’t know all the details of complicated, political issues. You can ignore facts and policy details as long as the persuasion is skillful. Trump matched his supporters’ emotional state and priorities.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when someone must invent a hallucination to substantiate behavior that doesn’t correlate with their beliefs or values. An example would be a man who uses one single case study of a man who lived to 100 years old as proof that cigarettes aren’t bad for him and so that he can continue smoking.

Rationalization for behaviors that don’t align with your values. E.g., when you do something dumb even though you’re smart, you rationalize how its smart. We think this only happens to other people but it happens to us.


He pegs Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger as master persuaders and how he made a small profit from owning their stock. Is that true or are they moreso just really good at their job of investing in good companies? This made me skeptical a bit of how frequently he labels people or concepts as persuaders. Other than that, he brought up a lot of interesting points worth considering. Will you become a master of influence from reading this? Not on its own. It’ll give you some strong concepts to try. Using them well takes practice and creativity.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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