Behaviour Change

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

The pantomime of persuasion


We used persuasion to increase the odds of getting others to comply. Many fundraisers, sales people, and political candidates employ different techniques to get their persuasive message across.  They are often advised to smile appear active and alert no matter what persuasive strategy they employ.

This paper argues that verbal influence strategies are embedded with nonverbal behaviour and can either fit or misfit the persuasive strategy being used. They propose that non-verbal communication can enhance the persuasive impact of the strategy, but only if it fits the strategy’s orientation.

The two experiments utilises the door in the face technique (DIFT). This is when the target request is presented as a concession to an unreasonably large request (Cialdini et al., 1975) and the Disrupt-Then-Reframe (DTR) technique; this is when a conventional sales script is interrupted by a subtle, odd element (Davis & Knowles, 1999).

Both these techniques are combined with eager or vigilant nonverbal communications. The eager style is approach-orientated and includes animated, broad opened movements, with outward, leaning forward body positions. The vigilant style is avoidance orientated, involving precision, motion that represents slowing and backward leaning positions. 

In the fist experiment confederates were placed within a real supermarket. They were advised to use the DITF techniques or a control standardised scrip to sell Christmas candy. Within both these conditions they employed an eager or vigilant non-verbal behaviour when interacting with the customer.

Example DITF

Good afternoon sir/madam, Christmas is rapidly approaching, and so these boxes of Christmas candy are on special offer today! I may offer you six boxes of candy for six Euros” The confederate then waited until the target responded (almost always by rejecting the offer) and continued: “You feel that six boxes is a bit too much? Ok, I understand. In that case I may also offer you one box for the price of 99 Eurocents!”
Example Standard script

“Good afternoon sir/madam, Christmas is rapidly approach- ing, and so these boxes of Christmas candy are on special offer today! I may offer you one box for the price of 99 Eurocents!”
The number of candy boxes purchased served as the measure of compliance.

The results indicated that the larger proportion of customers agreed to buy a box of candy when exposed to a sales representative that displayed an eager nonverbal style (71%). When a vigilant style was exposed only 51% of customer bought the product. Further to this they found that the DITF techniques were pronounced when combined with the eager non-verbal style.  The researchers argue that this provides empirical support for their hypothesis that a fit between non-verbal style and type of influence strategy boosts persuasion.

The second experiment examined if avoidance-orientated non-verbal cues would have the same effect within avoidance influence strategies. They utilised the Disrupt-The -Reframe (DTR) or a non-disruption control scrip. In both conditions confederates were advised to use either eager or vigilant styles.

Example of DTR

“Good afternoon sir/ madam, these boxes of candy are on special offer today! I may offer you a box for the price of 100 Eurocents...That's one Euro.”
Example of control script

“Good afternoon sir/madam, these boxes of candy are on special offer today! I may offer you a box for the price of one Euro. It's a bargain!”
 Again the number of candy boxes purchased served as the measure of compliance.

The results indicated that 53% of customer bought candy boxes. An interaction indicated that the DTR techniques were pronounced when the sales representative presented a vigilant style. Further to this influence strategy did not affect purchases in the eager condition. 

The researchers argue that these two experiments demonstrate that to produce the most effective persuasive message the person conveying the message must understand the technique and the best non-verbal communication that fits within that technique.

Reference

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The Door-In-The-Face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 206−215.
Davis, B. P., & Knowles, E. S. (1999). A Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique of social influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 192−199.
Fennis. B. M., Marielle. Stel. (2011). The pantomime of persuasion: Fit between nonverbal communication and influence strategies. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 47, 806-810  

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