Consistency and Commitment

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

Concept description

Gary Orren identifies consistency and commitment as the one of the pathos (characteristics of audience) persuasion principles, and consistency is the fourth of Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion science.

Cialdini notes that if people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. He uses the example that people will be more willing to host an unsightly lawn sign in support of a cause if they have earlier agreed to display a discreet window sticker in support of that cause.

Orren states that people feel personal and interpersonal pressures to honour and to behave consistently with their prior commitments. People wish to be (and to appear to be) consistent with what they have already said and done. Small initial commitments (foot in the door) can be leveraged into much larger commitments.

He suggests that commitments are most powerful when they are:

  • Active (for example, written vs. oral)
  • Public
  • Effortful
  • Felt to be an inner responsibility (one has voluntarily chosen to make commitment without strong outside pressure)

Orren suggests the action question:

  • Can I do this persuasion in stages so that I can get an initial commitment?

Bridget Beirne, How to Use the Principle of Consistency in Professional Presentations, at, accessed 23 January 2016.

John Fallon, The Principle of Commitment and Consistency, one-minute YouTube video at, accessed 23 January 2016.


Gary Orren, PowerPoint presentation in 2005 to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Persuasion: The Science and Art of Effective Communication, accessed 17 January 2016 and “Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion.” Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, published on YouTube 26 November 2012, at, accessed 17 January 2016.

Normed topic and synthetic course with which the concept is primarily associated

This concept is primarily associated with the core normed topic Practices of Persuasion and is included in the synthetic course outline Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 12 February 2016.

Image: Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, published on YouTube 26 November 2012, at, accessed 17 January 2016.