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Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.

My story: With a background in the arts, I had studied and practiced persuasion for years--as a grantwriter, a public relations officer, and a director of marketing and communications. But I became increasingly dissatisfied with the hit-or-miss methods used by the ‘experts’ in my field, and the intuitive approaches to persuasion that I’d been taught. I wished there were a better way to persuade. It seemed to me that most people in the influence business were guessing about what persuaded others, acting on hunches, or copying someone else’s approach with varying results. People in my field placed a premium on creativity but acted in unison: we magnified our successes and swept our failures under the carpet; we consoled ourselves that persuading people was a processes fraught with random results.

But it was another random event that challenged, and forever changed, the way I would think about persuasion. Because of a shortage of office space at my company, I shared a room with a famous researcher, and in the process, I got an up-close look at how a world-class scientist worked. I saw how his failures weren’t ignored, but were dissected to provide valuable information. I saw how his team approached their problems in a disciplined way that left little doubt about what caused success or failure. And I saw how they avoided guesswork and extracted facts by empirical investigation. When they arrived at their conclusions, they were confident they were right. This was a world apart from the arts-based way I arrived at my answers, and I developed a bad case of what I can only call ‘methodology envy.’ I wished I could find a science of influence.

After many months of searching, I located the field of social psychology, a relatively young science that emphasizes influence, persuasion, and compliance from a scientific perspective. So I quit my job and moved to the middle of the Southwest desert, where I had the opportunity to study at a school with a well-known reputation in influence studies: Arizona State University. Seven years later I was awarded a doctorate in Social Psychology, with an emphasis in the study of influence. I returned to Los Angeles to consult in my field.

Since the mid ‘90s, I’ve provided training, consulting, and presentations for industry, government and defense agencies, political causes and candidates, credit and banking firms, non-profit philanthropic organizations, educational agencies, public relations firms, and medical entities, helping people apply the principles of influence to real-world situations. I’ve been published in a variety of scholarly and popular journals and books, and have received print and TV advertising awards. I’ve taught communications, statistics, psychology, and English at the university level, and continue to teach students as adjunct faculty for the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, and also for the U.S. Air Force's Joint Special Operations University. I’ve also served as Senior Mentor for PSYOP forces at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School in Ft. Bragg, NC.

I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to the dozens of friends and colleagues who helped me edit and refine the site, particularly to my friend Brad Sagarin, PhD, an expert in resistance to persuasion, who authored a page in the cults section and gave valuable feedback elsewhere; to my friend Lara Tallman, who designed the custom graphics for this site; and to my friend Kris Haynal, who proofed, advised, and "provided oversight."


Copyright © 1997-2012 by Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.

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