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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You Gain More Than You Give!

Imagine that you are working in a restaurant, as a waitress or waiter and you need some extra money. How can you and your colleagues increase your tips? A study was conducted by Strohmetz , Lynn , Fisher and Rind (2002)  to investigate how small gifts provided by waiters could affect tips given by the hosts of dining parties. The current study conducted two experiments. 

The first experiment involved a control group i.e. customers who didn’t receive a sweet, and an experimental group i.e. customers who received a small sweet by the waiter. These sweets were randomly delivered alongside the check by the waiter or waitress to the hosts of the party.  The second experiment involved the manipulation of the number of sweets given to dining party hosts and the way it was delivered. In the 2 piece sweet condition, each dining party received two sweets instead of one. In another condition, dining parties received one sweet first time and were offered another sweet at a different point of time. 

The first experiment showed that a small gift added to the check can increase the number of people who provide tips. The second experiment showed that the amount of tips given by customers varies with the number of gifts given by the server. Table 1 shows that waiters who provided no sweet to customers received on average only 18.95 % tips which is the lowest mean tip percentages among all condition. In contrast the one plus one sweet condition led to the highest mean tip percentage among all condition. Therefore people who were initially only offered one sweet but later received another sweet ( i.e. additional gesture) were more likely to increase their tips, than people who received only one sweet or two sweets at the time. 

Based on the results of the study and Table 1, it can be concluded that recipients of any type of generosity will feel obligated, and are highly likely to repay the act of generosity by offering i.e. a high tip (Cialdini, 2009) . This principle is known as the rule of reciprocity which states that people are driven to pay back a favor when someone else has made the effort to help us (Cialdini, 2009). The rule of reciprocity is an unwritten rule in all societies (Gouldner,1960) . We are trained and reinforced to follow this rule by society and our surroundings. If we don’t follow this rule then we feel uncomfortable or indebted.  The rule of reciprocity is based on the idea that we can provide someone with item or help and expect them to comply to our later request. For example, if a friend helps you with your homework, then you are highly likely to comply with her request to record the lecture when she is sick at home.
In conclusion it can be argued that compliance can be gained by applying the rule of reciprocity. The rule of reciprocity can be applied in real world and the effect is so subtle that recipients won’t even notice it immediately.


Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. New York: William Morrow.   

Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American sociological review, 161-178.

Strohmetz, D. B., Rind, B., Fisher, R., & Lynn, M. (2002). Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(2), 300-309.

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