Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I'll just pop that behind the till

I find one of the most persuasive sales pitches are the people who work behind makeup counters in department stores. I will present the techniques used and how it fits into  Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence.

 Firstly they are usually very attractive, which fits into the principle of liking. In an experiment by Puckett et al participants rated younger, more attractive people’s essays as more persuasive. (1983). Attractiveness is particularly resonant as the products they are attempting to sell are made to enhance your appearance. One thinks, “If I use the same products as she does, maybe I will look as good as her.” In this sense, they act as social role models.

 Secondly, they will ask you what it is you are looking for and offer to apply it for you. This involves making a physical commitment by sitting down as well as committing your time. You don’t want to feel you have wasted your own time, or the promoter’s time, making you more likely to buy the product. You want to feel like you have achieved something for the time you have spent, making you evaluate the product more positively. Kruglanski, Friedman and Zeevi found that participants who not given an incentive for a task reported the task as more enjoyable compared to those who did receive an incentive (1971). This suggests that people want to feel the time they have spent has been worthwhile, rating a task (or product) as enjoyable in itself when they didn’t receive an alternative incentive. This fits into Cialdini’s principle of commitment.

 The promotions workers appear to be very well informed with the products, persuading you that this is the best product out there for you. This fits into Cialdini’s principle of authority, using
source credibility as a persuasive device. In addition, they will not only use the product you have shown interest in, but others as well, claiming that these additional items make the effect of the initial product even better. You may think, “I don’t want to spend money on all these things, so I will just buy the first one”. This feels like a compromise, as if you are saving yourself money. In addition, it is easier to say that you will buy one item rather than not buying any of them.

Makeup promoters provide a service much like hairdressers, where they pamper and compliment you. This makes you feel good about yourself, and consequently good about the product. This can be said to fit into Cialdini’s principle of liking. They develop a kind of rapport with you, in which you feel saying no would disappoint them in some way. This is enhanced the more they appear to do to help you, fitting into the principle of reciprocity.

Finally, they use phrases such as “let me just get that for you”, “I’ll get you one in a box” or “I’ll pop that behind the till for you.” These phrases commit you to the product, also fitting into the principle of commitment.


Kruglanski, A. W., Friedman, I. and Zeevi, G. (1971), The effects of extrinsic incentive on some qualitative aspects of task performance. Journal of Personality, 39: 606–617.

Puckett, J., Petty, R.E., Cacioppo, J.T., & Fischer, D.L. (1983). The Relative Impact of Age and Attractiveness Stereotypes on Persuasion.  Journal of Gerontology 38: 340-343.

Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Collins.

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