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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Will flattery get you nowhere?

Pratkanis (2007) emphasizes the significance of flattery on getting people to like us. Although this is a well-known phenomenon, there is a lack of research into the effect of this on compliance. Of the few investigations there are on this topic, findings have consistently shown that people are more likely to comply with someone who has paid them a compliment (Grant, Fabrigar & Lim, 2010; Howard, Gengler & Jain, 1995).

Gueguen, Fischer-Lokou and Lamy (2013) demonstrated the effect of compliments on compliance in an investigation involving courtship requests. They randomly assigned 160 young women to one of two conditions; a compliment condition or a no compliment condition. A male confederate was chosen from 14 volunteers as he received the highest rating of physical attractiveness. He was instructed to approach women between 18 and 22 years of age. The independent variable was whether he complemented them or not; in the experimental condition he said “Hello. You know, you are very pretty. I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you were busy right now. If not, we could have a drink together if you have some time”. In the control condition “you know, you are very pretty” was omitted from the sentence. The dependent variable was whether the woman complied with his request to have a drink together.

Results revealed that the rate of request acceptance was significantly higher in the compliment condition (22.5%) than in the no compliment condition (8.8%). This study supports the idea that compliments increase compliance. However, because the confederate was deemed as physically attractive, the rates of compliance may have been affected by this. Future research using courtship requests should aim to use confederates of varying degrees of attractiveness in order to reduce confounding variables.


Grant, N. K., Fabrigar, L. R., & Lim, H. (2010). Exploring the Efficacy of Compliments as a Tactic for Securing Compliance. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 32, 226-233.

Gueguen, N., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Lamy, L. (2013). Compliments and Receptivity to a Courtship Request: A Field Experiment. Psychological Reports: Relationships & Communications, 112, 239-242.

Howard, D. J., Gengler, C., & Jain, A. (1995). What’s in a Name? A Complimentary Means of Persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 22, 200-211.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The Science of Social Influence. New York & East Sussex: Psychology Press.

Lizzie Hills

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