The subject has just recently been covered in "Split-Second Persuasion The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds," by Kevin Dutton, part explanatory, part how-to. This review compares the book to other self-help books, such as Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People":
The worldviews of Carnegie and Dutton overlap at times. Both proffer self-confidence as a means of getting your way. But while Carnegie was a classic partisan of brownnosing (smile, never argue or find fault), Dutton sees things through a darker lens. The book builds slowly toward a simple climax: Nobody does it better than the psychopath.
The term psychopath gets defined here quite liberally. Jim Jones makes an appearance. But not all psychopaths inhabit jail cells. Some serve as platoon sergeants. Others prowl corporate suites. Some pretenders may even sleep in cribs. Yes, babies, no surprise to many of us, "lack empathy, are superficially charming, possess not the slightest sense of the consequences of their actions and are out purely for themselves" - all qualities reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter or Gordon Gekko.
So ultimately the book is more Con-Artistry for Eggheads (certainly not Dummies) than How to Win Friends and Influence People, all of which makes it a lot more fun to read than the hackneyed prescriptions of run-of-the-mill self-help gurus and Oprah guests.
Persuasion keeps us alive, Dutton proclaims in the first few pages. Any society worthy of our esteem relies on conviction, not coercion. The author's interest lies not in the mundane garden-variety skill - "let me have the extra pillow, dear, I need to wake up early" - but in milling through the mental circuitry of a select cadre of those who seem to be able to get whatever they want: "reservations, contracts, bargains, babies. Anything." Yes, fame and infamy grace this club. Winston Churchill and Ted Bundy, but also elite salesmen, lawyers, a type of fungus that tricks both plants and bees into doing its bidding.
There is a lot to like. You'll learn how other species as well as our own take advantage of key stimuli for their persuading. A key stimulus triggers a fixed response from its recipient, "neat 200 proof mind control - undiluted by language and the thought fields of consciousness," as Dutton observes.
Lesser species do this much better than we do. Bell frogs have their "quonkquack" love calls. Honeybees dance to convey to their brethren the whereabouts of food. Humans can achieve similar responses, but language, our main persuasion tool, must first penetrate an "ozone layer" of conscious thought. "Only the really special make it through," Dutton asserts.