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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gucci Gucci Goo

This ad for a new Gucci Fragrance, Premiere, was analysed by Frankie Woolgar last year, who pointed out the physical attractiveness-admirer altercast and high status-admirer altercast aspects evident in this video. 

Youtube commentator Calucifer13 remarks:
"This is so 'shiny', this advert. I mean, I love it. It sparkles like gold and diamonds. She does, too. She is shining like the sun!"
which I think it is a pretty fair summary of the aesthetic quality Gucci were aiming for. Blake Lively surveys her kingdom, the city of Angels, from her Ivory (or golden?) Tower. She came, she saw, she conquered, in not one but two ball gowns, the golden one being I guess the equivalent of a normal person's onesie for our heroine. In her own words:
"This fragrance is especially special because it has these flirty, feminine, floral and bergamot smells.. but then it has this leather and wood that strengthen the masculinity."

Anchorman references aside, we can glean a little more about the message the ad attempts to convey from the director, Nicolas Refn:
"The whole campaign is about movie mythology, the romanticism of movie mythology. I mean, we're in Hollywood, this is where it all began."
a sentiment which is awesomely reflected in the behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the advert, replete with a lonely fat man with exclusive voyeur access to Blake Lively's Great Glass Elevator.

Ignoring for a moment the background for this ad and focusing instead on the message it intends to convey we can see a number of techniques used to give the pitch a persuasive quality. The makers set the scene using landscaping techniques, such as association, whereby the idea/product (frangrance) is linked to another positive concept (Blake Lively) in order to transfer the meaning from the second to the first (Staats & Staats, 1958). Association appears to work particularly well when the idea/product is made similar to another concept on irrelevant attributes (Pratkanis, 2007) - in this case the common attribute is the colour gold. Another technique used to influence the audience is the establishment of source credibility by adopting the uniform of attractiveness and fame such as make-up, glamorous clothing and a movie star narrative (Cialdini, 2001).

Social modeling can be a powerful tactic in influencing behaviour, in this case the desired behaviour is buying Gucci's fragrance. Social modeling is when the likelihood of a given behaviour occuring is increased by the presence of a person demonstrating that behaviour. This effect has been found to be even more powerful when the person modeling the behaviour is high in prestige, status and attractiveness (Pratkanis & Aronson, 2001).

In a study where participants were asked to envisage the benefits of cable television in their lives, Gregory, Cialdini, and Carpenter (1982) showed that when asked to image the benefits of a product people were 2.5 times more likely to purchase a subscription. In this advert Blake Lively is wearing Premiere, the essence for women, and taking over Hollywood (how considerate - they envisage the consequences for us). It would sensible to assume that the same outcome would result for any woman who chose to wear this fragrance. 

It is clear from the director's comments that this ad aims to associate wearing this fragrance with becoming a successful movie star, by using a credible source: a successful movie star. This ad was well received by critics, but given the plethora of persuasive techniques utilised this is little wonder. In the words of director Nicolas Refn (seriously this man is a soundbite machine):
"How do you make a baby happy? You say Gucci Gucci Gucci."

Paul O'Connor - Blog 2


Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (Vol. 4). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., & Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology43(1), 89.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Pratkanis, A. R., Pratkanis, A., & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion. Macmillan.

Staats, A. W., & Staats, C. K. (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology57(1), 37.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Power of Uniforms!!

Clothes is very important as it symbolises the status of a person and also cultures in different ceremony. A lot of researches have investigated into the effect of apparel on several types of behaviours, such as aggressive behaviour and honesty. In the experiment done by Bushman (1988), it focused on the investigation of formal uniforms and the effect of compliance.  As uniform symbolises authority and legitimacy, this study can demonstrate that authority can make people comply in situations. 

In this study, 150 adult pedestrians were recruited in St. Louis, Missouri.  The selection condition is that the subject was alone and did not see the interaction between the confederate and the previous subject.  The confederate would be either wearing an old yellow T-shirt with brown pants (a pretty casual outfit), business attire or an ambiguous, but salient uniform with a "Manchester Explorer" patch on the sleeve. The experimenter would be standing next to car that had a expired parking permit.  The confederate would be standing away from the car and asked the subject to help the experimenter with some changes.  The confederate would raise her hand and say "this fellow is overparked at the meter and doesn't have any changes. Give him a nikel!"  Two nonobstrusive observers would record the behaviour of subjects.  The experimenter would later asked about the motives of the helping behaviour and had that recorded on a cassette recorder later on.  The subjects were debriefed after the short experimental session on the nature of the study.

The independent variable is the level of perceived authority, which is divided into 3 levels.  They were the no-authority condition, the status-authority condition and the role-authority condition.  The dependent variable is compliance which was defined as the subject's giving the experimenter change for the parking meter. Verbal reasons given by the subject were recorded. They were divided into four categories for complying: altruism, compliance, unquestioned obedience, or ambiguous.  As for not complying, the categories were no change, questioned perceived authority, silent and hostile.

The result of study showed that there is a significant difference in compliance rates as a function of apparel.  72% of the subject complied in the role-authority condition, which was the highest among all three conditions.  The percentage for the status-authority and no-authority group were 48% and 52 respectively.  No difference were found between the no-authority and status-authority condition. Among all the reason given for complying, unquestioned obedience has the highest percentage for status-authority and role-authority.

The study was in line with previous researches on similar topics and indicated that uniform can make people comply more, thus proving authority is one of the compliance tactics that is really working in our daily life.

Bushman, B, J. (1988) The Effects of Apparel on Compliance: A Field Experiment with a Female Authority Figure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 14, 459-467.

Chermaine Chan Kei Fong - Blog 3

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Restaurants and Reciprocity

There are around 2.3 million people working as servers in restaurants in the United States, many earning a nominal wage that can be as low as $2.13/hour in some states. For the vast majority of these people customer tips make up the biggest proportion of their take home income. American service is famous for being the best in the world, so we can assume that these servers are already giving their customers the best service they posibly can. Well, what if there was a way to boost tips even further?

This is a question that Strohmetz, Rind, Fisher and Lynn (2002) looked at in an experiment that aimed to examine the relationship between the use of candy proferred at the end of a meal and tip size in a real-life restaurant setting. They hypothesised that customers who received a small piece of Hershey's chocolate along with their bill would tip more than those who didn't. They extended this to hypothesize that the magnitude of the tip would be related to the size of the offering (read: number of chocolates offered) as well as the manner in which it was offered.

To investigate these hypotheses, two experiments were conducted. The first experiment compared two conditions whereby in the experimental condition a server in a restaurant would offer each member of a dining party a piece of chocolate when delivering the bill, in the control condition the diners received no candy. Results from this study showed that diners tipped more when they were given the gift of candy with their bill: the mean tip percentage for the candy condition was 17.84% while the mean tip percentage for the no-candy condition was 15.06%. To further evaluate this effect, a second experiment was devised.  

In the second experiment the researchers manipulated the amount of candy given, as well as the apparent manner in which it was delivered. The distinguishing feature between the 2 piece and 1+1 piece condition (where the absolute amount of candy given was the same) was that in the 1+1 condition the server offered each guest a piece of chocolate, then stopped as she was leaving the table to offer each guest another piece. 

The results shown in the table above show that the magnitude of tip given (as a percentage of the total bill) increased as the amount of candy offered increased. Furthermore, the apparently personal act of extra generosity in the 1+1 piece condition resulted in higher tips than when the same amount of candy (2 pieces) were presented simultaneously. 

The research shows that a simple gift of candy can have an effect on the size of tips a server could expect to receive. Strohmetz et al. put this effect down to the norm of reciprocity (Cialdini, 2001). Due to the sense of obligation felt by the diners as a result of the gift of candy they reciropcated the act of generosity by paying greater tips. This sense of obligation to reciprocate a favour has been shown to occur regardless of whether or not the favour was anticipated (Regan, 1971). This research has implications for people working in restaurants and is an example of the practical use of reciprocity as a compliance technique. 

Paul O'Connor - Blog 3


Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (Vol. 4). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology7(6), 627-639.

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 Psychology32(2), 300-309.

Don't hate, Negotiate

“Alternatives available to a person in a negotiation serve as differential power that can be utilised to achieve the desired outcome”.1 That was the mind-set I took anyway as I was about to go into a negotiation. The scene; in the same week I had been offered summer internships at two separate financial firms (much to my surprise) and was somehow in my head trying to decide which one to take up on the offer…

Whilst weighing up my options, it occurred to me that the one I was edging towards in terms of what I would preferably do day-to-day paid a considerably lower salary than the other. And of course for someone who as of the end of June would no longer be protected under the ‘allowed to be severely overdrawn’ student umbrella, money was a big factor!

Therefore I thought, why not phone up the company not putting up good money and ask them for more? Being a Psychology student, I was confidently aware that one of the key ‘game-changers’ in a negotiation is the power of alternatives

Having more than one option to turn to – which I had in the form of two job offers – should in theory swing the negotiation in my favour. Not only do I come across as a high-in-demand scarce resource which should increase my ‘attractiveness’, but I also hold the power to choose one job over the other with ease. However for the company in question, whilst no doubt being prestigious, have invested a significant amount of time in recruiting me; and therefore would surely be unwillingly to resort to their alternative of raising my pay which would mean effectively losing their investment.

With this fresh in my mind, and equipped with a prepared script of things to say I proceeded to phone the firm in question to express my request. I went about the conversation slowly, explaining that I may have to choose the alternative firm as the salary was an issue. After admittedly being pretty pleased with myself for reaching the point in life where you can ask for a pay increase, I eagerly awaited the HR employee’s response… Surely she would say yes?  Surely they want me enough to pay me a bit more? After a few seconds pause she responded.  And that response was a clear, resounding, NO.

After hanging up I asked myself the obvious question; where did it all go wrong? This statement from Pinkley et al (1994) put perspective on the issue; "the better one’s own alternative relative to the other parties; the larger one’s piece of the resource pie". Looking back on it, I was mistaken in believing that my alternative was better than the firms. The woman HR explained quite frankly how they receive hundreds of applications each year, and basically implied that there were a multitude of other candidates who would take the job for less money than I was offered. She may as well have said ‘You’ll get what you’re given’.

And that was the end of that. For me personally, two key lessons were learned:

1.When going into a negotiation; do not think that you are ‘all-that’

2. Whilst it may be easy to come up with your alternatives, spend more time detailing what alternatives the person on the other side of the table has as well.

1 Pinkley, R. L., Neale, M. A., & Bennett, R. J. (1994). The impact of alternatives to settlement in dyadic negotiation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 57(1), 97-116.

Alexander Lee

Live in the present: A ban on mobiles in the office

Too often in company offices workers become wasters, more engaged towards scoring high in candy-crush than achieving the best at their work in hand.1 So what is the issue?  We as humans struggle to live in the present. We would often rather procrastinate, reminisce about the past or dream about the future than spend time in the present and take time to grab hold of all that each moment can offer us.
Of course that is not to say that work never gets boring and that the odd distraction is not healthy. But the main issue here - and one that Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) seeks to address – is that living in the present is healthy. And in the context of the workplace a move towards more ‘in the present living’ would see mutual benefits for both employees – who become less susceptible to irrational thinking - and the employers who reap the gains of higher engagement and efficiency.

So for me personally, when I look at ACT and all it has to offer1; a greater focus on mindfulness and ‘present living’ should be honed in on. My interpretation of that concept would be to ban all personal mobile phone usage between working hours in offices. Extreme as that may sound, similar radical measures can already be seen at big corpora
tes,2 with global IT company ATOS banishing all email communications across the business with direct face-to-face or over-the-phone communication being  forcefully encouraged among employees.

So why get rid of personal mobiles? Because smart-phones do not help. The only self that Facebook brings a person closer to is their idealised fictitious self, created to maintain superficial acquaintance-dominated relationships, and following platforms like Twitter encourage the development of para-social relationships in which followers devote much time and energy to someone else, but receive nothing back in return.
So how does ACT fit into this? Well, the time saved from reduced smart-phone procrastination can be guided towards activities relating to mindfulness and self-identification. These will ensure that employees do not lose their heads in the office environment.

How do these activities work? For example, an activity would involve getting employees to realise that the emotions they experience – both positive and negative – are constantly changing… whereas the “you that you call you does not change”3. It would also be emphasize the contrast between the ever-moving types of experiences against the continuity of consciousness itself3.

Exercises like this, while on a deeper level are geared to promote intentional experiential contact with the transcendent of self, would lead to a shift in the ways that employees view themselves, and a culture of employees experiencing life actively in the present and basically getting less distracted.3

1 Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes.Behaviour research and therapy, 44(1), 1-25.
3 Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies. Behavior therapy, 35(4), 639-665.

Alexander Lee

Law Abiding Negotiator

This is a scene from one of the greatest movies ever made; Law Abiding Citizen. Family man Clyde Shelton (Butler) is interrogated by Nick Rice (Foxx) over a suspected count of double homicide. Initially you see the suspect being compliant and cooperative with Rice as you would expect to see someone respecting and being obedient to an authoritative figure. Yet it was all a rouse and Shelton has clearly done his homework. He somehow manages to reverse the roles each member plays within the interrogation. Typically the prosecutors are the ones to offer a deal to suspects: “Sign this confession and the judge will go easy on you…” but here Shelton is the one controlling the ropes… the question is; how?!

Mr Shelton is clearly an intelligent man (as made evident by almost every element of the film) and in this particular scene his success comes from knowing the value of what he has to offer; a fully signed confession. Without this piece of evidence the prosecution have nothing and this is something he is well aware of. This piece of knowledge is one of the most important tools that can be used for almost any negotiation. As Thompson and Hastie (1990) demonstrate, you are more likely to succeed in negotiating if you can accurately perceive where the other party’s interests lie from an early outset.

At the same time Shelton deploys the win-win method of negotiation – where both parties can benefit from such bargaining; in this instance a confession for a bed – everyone’s happy so it should be a sure thing right? I mean the demand Shelton makes is pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things… That being said, this small request is interesting as much of the research suggests that you should aim for something higher than what you are willing to accept so the other party can see that you are willing to concede to some of their demands (see for example Cialdini et. al, 1975; and O’Keefe & Figge, 1999). Presumably because Shelton knows that the other party have no other alternatives at this point in time, he has no reason to resort to this technique and can simply go straight for what he wants to get out of the whole thing.

Cialdini, R., Vincent, J., Lewis, S., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B., (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206-215.

O’Keefe, D., & Figge, M., (1999). Guilt and expected guilt in the door-in-the-face technique. Communication Monographs, 66(4), 312-324.

Thompson, L., & Hastie, R. (1990). Social perception in negotiation. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 47, 98-123.

Jamie Hart.

What Chandler Values Most

In this episode of Friends, Chandler is trying to persuade Rachel to unlock the handcuffs attaching him to the chair in her boss’s office. He uses several negotiation techniques that start with him asking her to come into the room,

‘Rachel, could I see you for a moment?’

This is called the foot in the door technique which involves getting someone to comply with a large request by making them comply to a small request first. Taylor and Booth-Butterfield (1993) found that people who signed a petition against drink driving were more likely to accept the offer of being called a taxi home whilst inebriated than people who did not sign the petition. Through getting Rachel to make a commitment by asking her to come into the office first, Chandler increases the chances of Rachel agreeing to release him.

Chandler also gives a reason for why he should be set free, ‘she could be gone for hours,’ which further increases the chances of compliance.  Langer, Blank and Chanowitz (1978) found that simply giving a reason for a request to use the photocopier significantly increased the rate of compliance, even if the reason was as arbitrary as ‘because I have to make copies.’ Therefore, by justifying his request, Chandler increases the likelihood that Rachel will set him free.

Hearing this request, Rachel calculates his alternatives as well as her own and asks for reciprocal concessions in answer to the request, such as ‘you never see Joanna again!’ When Chandler agrees to the concessions, Rachel releases him from the handcuffs.

Soon after releasing him, Rachel realises that if her boss finds out that she went into her office, she could lose her job. This means that she needs Chandler to stay handcuffed to the chair to make it look like she has not been in the room and so she tries to persuade him to sit back down. She then starts to offer a number of concessions that she believes Chandler may want in exchange for being handcuffed to the chair again. Research has shown that frequency often trumps quality in negotiation situations. Alba and Marmorstein (1987), for example, found that the mere number of positive attributes leads to leads to a perceived sense of better quality. By providing a number of concessions, such as ‘what if I clean your bathroom for a month’ and ‘I’ll squeeze you fresh orange juice every morning,’ Rachel thereby increases the chances of Chandler agreeing to be handcuffed to the chair once more.

However, Chandler makes it quite clear that all that matters to him is his ‘FREEDOM!’ In one last attempt, Rachel attempts to ascertain Chandler’s interests and how he values them whilst identifying what she herself has to offer. So what could be better than freedom? Everyone knowing that you are very… ahem… well-endowed of course! By offering to spread this ‘generous’ rumour, Rachel creates value and trades it for something that she wants and values more – handcuffing him to the chair and thus keeping her job – so everyone’s a winner!

Alexandra Hampstead


Alba, J. W., & Marmorstein, H. (1987). The effects of frequency knowledge on consumer decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 14, 14-25.

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of 'placebic' information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 635-642.

Taylor, T., & Booth-Butterfield, S. (1993). Getting a foot in the door with drinking and driving: A field study of healthy influence. Communication Research Reports, 10, 95-101.


Once uni is all done and dusted I wish to pursue a career in teaching. I feel for the most part it will be incredibly enjoyable but I am well aware that there will always be one or two in the class who are bound to put up a challenge… the question is; how do we get around this? The answer lies with Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) – identifying a behaviour we wish to increase (or decrease), the environmental triggers which provide a reason for this behaviour and coming up with a solution which can be deployed in order to alter such behaviour. Let’s take the example of little Timmy.

Timmy has recently been transferred to this school but has a problem in that he never completes his homework. It’s not that Timmy doesn’t understand the work and so can’t complete it, it’s actually due to the fact that at his previous school, Timmy was given special one-to-one help during class time to finish the work and he loves the fact that he gets to miss lessons. At a primary school you may feel that this isn’t too detrimental to their learning, but the importance of interacting in a class will be vital for the future. At the same time it doesn’t seem fair for the other students if it is seen that Timmy is given special treatment for his inability to finish his own work.

So we know the following things:

1) Timmy doesn’t complete his homework.
2) Timmy gets taken out of class and given one-to-one help with it.

A simple solution to changing this behaviour would be to enforce a punisher and change when the help Timmy receives takes place. Rather than during class time, why not during his break or lunch period? By taking away Timmy’s own free time where he would usually be running around, kicking a ball with his friends or whatever, he is now sat inside a classroom with just a teacher for company. A study conducted by Sulzbacher and Houser (1968) found that by reducing the amount of break time a child had resulted in their identified target behaviour being reduced. As long as this remained consistent, I am sure that within a short amount of time Timmy would no longer find himself stuck inside all day for he will be completing his homework before coming into school. Such a punisher draws upon the idea of response cost; you pay the price for behaving in a particular way, in this case you lose out on your free time by not completing your homework. This is an extremely successful method as Kazdin (1972) discusses in his meta-analysis of response cost studies.

Kazdin, A. (1972). Response cost: The removal of conditioned reinforcers for therapeutic change. Behavior Therapy, 3, 533-546.

Sulzbacher,S., & Houser, J. (1968). A tactic to eliminate disruptive behaviours in the classroom: Group contingent consequences. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 73, 88-90.

Jamie Hart

I'll help you, help me. ABA in the workplace.

Although this isn't a guaranteed career path, I have always had a fond interest in advertising. It fascinates me how a single image, or a few seconds of footage can capture an audience, change their opinion about something or simple make them smile. Whether I go into advertising or not, I think I would like to work in a business environment, and most importantly, with a team. I absolutely love working with people, so this is a necessity in any future employment.

If I was lucky enough to get to the stage where I was head of a team, I would be able to use what I have learnt in my Psychology degree to my advantage. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a modern technique used to change behaviour and is often associated with autism due to its prevalence and success in the field. ABA, however, simply observes and describes the current state and then provides tools of learning that help us to understand people's behaviour. This means it can be brought into any environment and with anyone (Lattal, 1999).

The most important part of a business is its employees, and without happy, motivated employees, you might as well say goodbye to any success. ABA could be used in the work place in order to get the most out of employees, while keeping them satisfied.
I have come across almost a sub-field of ABA called Positive Organisational Behaviour (POB) which uses ABA techniques in the workplace which emphasises positive reinforcement and improves performance (Nelson & Cooper, 2007). It is linked to the exciting field of Positive Psychology that preaches that what is good about life is as important as what is bad about life and deserves equal attention.

In order to get the most out of a team, I would try ABA and POB techniques in the hope of getting more out of them, and keeping them happy. This would include taking the time to not only congratulate employees when they have done something well, but to also explicitly state what was done well. Just by showing someone what they have done correctly can change their behaviour in the future, because you are showing them what you want them to do. I would also try and keep the team motivated by increasing their self-efficacy. This is our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations. If workers believe in themselves, they will be more productive, and this can be achieved by simple praising employees for good work, and encouraging them when they are struggling. Likewise if employees don't do so well, they should be taught why in order to change their behaviour in the future. Studies have shown that optimism and self-efficacy in the work-place were positively related to job performance and work happiness (Youssef & Luthans, 2007).

By Katie Lawton

Lattal, D. (1999). Ethical decision making in the workplace. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from

Nelson, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2007). Positive Organizational Behavior. London: SAGE Publication Ltd

Youssef, C. M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive Organizational Behavior in the workplace: The impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal of Management, 33, 774-800.

Warwick, give a little bit more...

Warwick finalists...this is for you.

By James Ulke & Daniela Mackie

P.S. Thanks to everyone who agreed to be in the video! 

Will Smith, the smooth talker

This is one of the best scenes from a really inspiring film, “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Its literally one of my favourite films ever, and not just because it stars Will Smith (and I love Will Smith). In the above scene, the art of negotiation is demonstrated in a somewhat unconventional way.

Chris Gardner, now bankrupt and struggling to support his young son, is about to go into an interview for a six-month unpaid internship with a prestigious stockbroker business. However, instead of turning up smart in a suit and tie, he is forced to rush from a police station in his painting scrubs, after being arrested the previous day for unpaid parking tickets. So Chris is already down on his luck; it’s not an ideal situation for potentially the most important interview of his life. But somehow, he manages to pull it off.

Although Chris doesn’t look the part, he’s certainly done his research; about the company’s values, the role, etc. This is vital in a negotiation as it shows that Chris has an understanding of what the interviewers are looking for, and he is also more likely to be taken seriously for this (Malhotra & Bazerman, 2007). Well, as seriously as he can be, given the situation…

Humour and charisma turns out to be Chris’ saving grace:

Interviewer 2: Chris. What would you say if a guy walked in for an interview without a shirt on and I hired him? What would you say?

Chris: He must’ve had on some really nice pants.

The use of humour is a powerful persuasive tactic, and can induce greater levels of compliance (O’Quin & Aranoff, 1981). Chris definitely has the likeability factor, which ultimately leads to him being hired. As for real life, one could argue that the outcome would be less favourable in the same situation. This is true – but in unavoidable circumstances, you have to make the best of a bad situation. And believe it or not, this film is based on a true story ;)


Malhotra, D., & Bazerman, M. (2007). Negotiation genius: How to overcome obstacles and achieve brilliant results at the bargaining table and beyond. New York, NY: Random House LLC.

O'Quin, K., & Aronoff, J. (1981). Humor as a technique of social influence. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 349-357.

Lauren Rosewarne (Blog 5)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bone density scanners

During the movie 'The Pursuit of Happiness', Will Smith takes on the role of a hardworking man who struggles to support himself and his son. After investing his life savings in Osteo National bone-density scanners, he has a hard time selling them as the technology is very expensive and only marginally better then more widely available x-ray scanners. In a bid to shift as many as possible, Will is extremely polite and friendly towards all potential customers he contacts. However, research conducted by Forgas (2007) suggested that naive recipients are more greatly influenced by a persuasive message from someone in a negative mood set compared to a positive one. This might have been an additional factor that caused his sales pitches to be unsuccessful! It was therefore a very good thing that Will made his big break as a stock broker.

By Ella Mould Forgas, J. P. (2007). When sad is better than happy: Negative affect can improve the quality and effectiveness of persuasive messages and social influence strategies. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(4), 513-528.

Don't be a stranger, lend a hand!

Link to our video

By Alex Bamsey, Ella Mould, Shaneel Karia and Robyn Wootton

Peter Griffin negotiates


In this clip
from Family Guy, Peter Griffin is hired as James Woods’ agent and is trying to negotiate
a deal for a script with studio executives. 
Family Guy loves a parody and in this clip they parody the negotiation
technique door in the face.  This is
where an individual proposes an extreme request which is rejected and then moves
to a smaller request which is more likely to be accepted.

Chialdini et al. (1975) showed
the effectiveness of the door in the face technique in one of their
experiments.  They approached students and
made an extreme request followed by a smaller request or just made a small
request.  The large request asked
students to perform as a counsellor
to juvenile delinquents for at least 2 years. 
The smaller request asked students to take a group of juvenile
delinquents to the zoo for 2 hours.  They
found that making an extreme initial request which is rejected, and then moving
onto a smaller request significantly increases the probability of agreement to
the second request.  They suggested the
reason for this is that when an individual rejects a large request, they feel
they must agree to the smaller request in order to relieve any felt pressure
for reciprocation of concessions.

So, in this
clip Peter initially asks for “everything” which is rejected by the studio
executives.  He then asks for “something”
which is accepted by the executives as it is a smaller, more reasonable request
than the first.  As a result of using the
door in the face technique even Peter Griffin, an unintelligent, crude and
lowbrow man, is able to effectively negotiate a deal.


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 Psychology31,

Amy Bennoson

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Roommate Agreement

The ‘roommate agreement’ as shown in the popular television show ‘The Big Bang Theory’ aptly shows how using negotiation can make people’s lives easier, well, sometimes. In Sheldon’s case, he certainly gets a few things that he wants by pulling rank with it. When first running through this agreement, it was probably presumed by poor Leonard that most of the things stated would never actually be used against him and that some fair decisions were made through negotiation. After all, all of the core elements of negotiation were present: it was a group decision making process, the outcomes depended on both parties (although that could be argued in Leonard’s case) and it very much gives the impression of, “Ok, well here is the deal”.

Not only did the ‘roommate agreement’ initially use negotiation in order to be formed, but it is also serving as a form of negotiation in itself after it has been written. Throughout most of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episodes, Sheldon excuses much of his behaviour, or tries to stop Leonard from doing things simply by saying “because the roommate agreement states…” Langer et al. (1978) found that the simple use of the word ‘because’ makes the reasoning much more persuasive. Therefore, this technique is used in many negotiations and of course, by Sheldon.

Many times within this television programme, Sheldon pulls out the roommate agreement when Leonard is in sheer desperation, or in a compromising position, such as first moving in. Lerner et al. (2004) found that sad people tend to pay more in a deal as opposed to emotionally neutral people. Whilst Leonard is not always sad which would make him more susceptible to agree, the nervousness he felt when first moving in, could have accounted for why he agreed to so much when faced with someone who was quite out there and emanated some kind of authority. Karrass (1970) stated that many people quiver at the sight of authority when faced with a negotiation. Could poor Leonard have felt so overwhelmed by Sheldon’s dominant personality that he just agreed to the most ridiculous things? This negotiation technique that Sheldon has used, has been successful as it has taken advantage of a potentially weak state of mind.

So is this ‘roommate agreement’ a piece of negotiation genius or is it just a logistical nightmare for Leonard when he wants to just live his life by his rules? Of course, many negotiations that take place aren’t as extreme as this one, but it is important to make sure that when making a deal of some sort, you are strong willed and not easily led. However, when in the presence of someone like Sheldon Cooper, that might be easier said than done. 

Amber Kalejs


Langer, E., Blank, A. & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of ‘placebic’ information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 635–642.

Lerner, J. S., Small, D. A., & Loewenstein, G. F. (2004). Heart strings and purse strings: Carryover effects of emotions on economic decisions. Psychological Science, 15(5), 337–341.

Karrass, C. L. (1970). The negotiating game. Thomas Y. Crowell.

Karl the Tribesman: Nambas Negotiation

The above clip is taken from an episode of An Idiot Abroad 2 (Sky 1, 2011).  In this series, the round-headed Karl Pilkington is sent around the world and subjected to a selection of items from the famous Bucket List (…with hilarious results).  In this clip, Karl is with a tribe on the remote Pacific island of Malakula and is made an honorary tribe member in exchange for a pig.  There are two parts to this negotiation.  First is the pig/membership exchange, however this is a traditional, fixed deal so will not be the focus of this post.  The interesting part is when Karl tries to negotiate himself out of wearing the skimpy nambas (native leaf pants).
The following excerpts from the book (2012) are an edited/extended transcript of the conversation:

CHIEF:                   It is a tradition thing when we go fishing.
KARL:                    I think it’s more important to have a rod and bait when fishing.  Fishing tackle is important.  Not my tackle!  I’m not going to pull off that look.  What sort of rule is that?  If I don’t wear a nambas they won’t teach me to fish?
CHIEF’S SON:     You have to be in the nambas.
LUKE:                    It’s just for a short while.  I think it would be the right thing to do.
CHIEF’S SON:     After you put on nambas, then we have to do a dance here. 
KARL:                    See!  They’re adding a bit more now.  Pop these on, then we’re going to have a dance.  That’s when things pop out – when having a dance.
LUKE:                    It’s a taboo you’re messing with, something symbolic here, you know.
KARL:                    Yeah, well they’re messing with my symbollocks.  How can we move this on because this is getting more and more awkward as time goes on?

The outcome of this negotiation is that Karl does the dance, wears a more leafy child’s version of the nambas and keeps his own pants on underneath.  There are essentially two opposing parties: Karl vs. the tribe and TV crew.

The biggest issue of note here is that Karl could not walk away from this negotiation.  He had no exit option, which puts him at a disadvantage in this already asymmetrical negotiation (Giebels, De Dreu & Van de Vliert, 2000).  Karl did not enter the negotiation with a BATNA (‘Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement’) (e.g. Brett, Pinkley & Jackofsky, 1996), something which generally leads to better individual outcomes (Geddes, 2002).  This may be because a BATNA increases one’s effort, persistence, directed attention and creation of task strategies – according to goal-setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990).  So did Karl at least have an idea of the worst thing he was willing to take?  Yes, he did: Karl makes it clear that he would not be willing to don the full – ‘sushi-like’ – nambas, and indeed he managed to get out of that. 

There are a number of extra pressures going against Karl in this exchange.  For instance, Karl is sensitive to time constraints to reaching an agreement, which is consistently shown to be a major factor in the outcomes of negotiations (Cramton, 1992).  On top of this, Karl undoubtedly spoke the most through this conversation.  Sure, there may be some language barriers that meant the tribe members did not speak much, but this even held for the TV crew (e.g. Richard in the clip; Luke in the above transcript).  Silence can be a useful tool in negotiations (Cortini, in Weigand & Dascal, 2001), thus as Karl spoke to fill the gaps, he was essentially adding to the pressure on himself to concede to something.  Furthermore, once he had introduced the idea of the longer nambas and the tribe members had accepted this, Karl then had no grounds to refuse this offer and try to push them down further; he would have had to come up with a new reason to renegotiate the nambas. 

But did he feel so annoyed for backing himself into a corner and conceding to wearing any kind of nambas at all?  The negotiation was anchored at the full nambas, so the longer leaf nambas did not seem so terrible in comparison.  Ask Karl to don the long nambas first and he may not have been so willing.  The contrast-giving effect of anchoring is well-documented (e.g. Sherif, Taub & Hovland, 1958). 

Interestingly, Karl attempts to change the way the tribe values the nambas, posing it as something else that they’re giving to him for free, and not as his part of the negotiation (i.e. they expect him to partake in this tradition).  But he is unsuccessful.  Why?  One way to find out how the party values something is to ask questions.  Karl does push the issue, but ultimately it was “taboo” to keep refusing, so tradition itself kept the tribe’s value in the nambas high.  Karl at least identified that the most important aspect of the tradition for the tribe was the dance.  The thing he most valued was the coverage of his unmentionables.  In sum, the must-haves of this integrative negotiation (Putnam et al., 1990) in order to appease both parties were the dance, some form of nambas, and genital coverage.  There was a Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) within these parameters, which Karl did manage to establish.

So how did the tribe get what they wanted out of this negotiation?  Although perhaps not deliberately, the dance was mentioned after the nambas, which is another example of anchoring & contrast.  It goes against the old idea of sharing all bad news at once to minimise its impact, but the use of contrast worked this to their advantage such that the dance did not seem too bad in comparison to the nambas.  Indeed, this idea was reinforced with valence framing (Pratkanis, 2007) (e.g. “It’s a short dance.”) in persuading Karl to believe that the situation could be worse.  Social proof (Cialdini, 2007) was also on the side of the tribe in terms of tradition and the crew’s endorsement of the nambas (even if the latter only pushed it to make Karl look a tit and he was aware of this).  Furthermore, the tribe members were at an emotional advantage, as Karl was panicky about the nambas.  Less intense emotional reaction tends to lead to better individual outcomes (Shiv, Loewenstein & Bechara, 2005).  Finally, the tribe gave the first offer, which usually comes with bigger demands (Budescu & Au, 2002) and heavily influences the outcome of a negotiation (Ritov, 1996).  Overall, the tribe used a collaborative behavioural approach to this negotiation (generating alternatives for resolution, active listening etc.), while the crew arguably adopted a more contending (coercive) style (Brigham, De Castro & Shepherd, 2007).  This combination mounted the pressure onto Karl and in the end he had no choice but to don some sort of foliage and dance around in it. 

What lesson can be learnt from this negotiation?  Karl tried his best to get his own way, but ultimately was crushed by being outnumbered and on the worse side of an asymmetrical discussion.  I would hazard a guess that short of being a negotiation genius or Derren Brown, some things are just too steeped in tradition to weasel out of.  Karl, you may have lost this one, but at least it wasn’t nettles… 

Brett, J. F., Pinkley, R. L., & Jackofsky, E. F. (1996). Alternatives to having a BATNA in dyadic negotiation: The influence of goals, self-efficacy, and alternatives on negotiated outcomes. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 7, 121-138.

Brigham, K. H., De Castro, J. O., & Shepherd, D. A. (2007). A person-organization fit model of owner-managers’ cognitive style and organizational demands. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31, 29-51.

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

Cramton, P. (1992). Strategic delay in bargaining with two-sided uncertainty. Review of Economic Studies, 59, 205-225.

Geddes, D. (2002). It’s better with a BATNA: The Flourtown farms exercise. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 13, 401-408.

Gervais, R. & Merchant, S. (2011). An Idiot Abroad 2. United Kingdom: Sky 1.

Giebels, E., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Van de Vliert, E. (2000). Interdependence in negotiation: Effects of exit options and social motive on distributive and integrative negotiation.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (Eds.). (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Pilkington, K. (2012). The further adventures of an idiot abroad.  Edinburgh, UK: Canongate.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.

Putnam L. L.
Sheppard B. H.Bazerman M. H.,& Lewicki R. J. 1990). Reframing integrative and distributive bargaining: A process perspective, Research on Negotiation in Organizations, 2,  3–30.

Ritov, I. (1996). Probability of regret: Anticipation of uncertainty resolution in choice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 66, 228-236.

Sherif, M., Taub, D., & Hovland, C. I. (1958). Assimilation and contrast effects of anchoring stimuli on judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55, 150-155.

Shiv, B., Loewenstein, G., & Bechara, A. (2005). The dark side of emotion in decision-making: When individuals with decreased emotional reactions make more advantageous decisions. Cognitive Brain Research, 23, 85-92.

Weigand, E., & Dascal, M. (Eds.) (2001). Negotiation and power in dialogic interaction. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing.

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- - Izzy Fawdry, Blog #5