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.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Tangled Deal

           Tangled is a more recent Disney movie, which means that the main characters don’t simply meet and instantly fall in love as they have in films in past years. First, they have to spend some time together.

            Summarizing the plot so far, Rapunzel has been locked in her tower for her whole life (as the legend generally goes) but wants to go and see some lanterns that are being set off into the sky as she feels they mean something to her. In order to do this, she needs someone to take her, as she has never been outside before.

            Meanwhile, Flynn has stolen the royal princess’s crown, and is hiding in Rapunzel’s tower from palace guards and the other crown thieves he has cheated. Upon finding a stranger climbing into her tower, Rapunzel hits him over the back of the head with a frying pan, hides his satchel containing the crown (she has no idea what it is), and uses her hair to tie him to a chair as she interrogates him.

            When Flynn wakes up, he instantly asks after his satchel and panics that it’s missing. As a result, Rapunzel knows that he values it. So, she offers him a deal; act as her guide, take her to see the lanterns, and return her home safely, in exchange for the safe return of his satchel and its contents at the end.

Flynn is not keen on this idea. Not only because it’s going to be a lot of time and effort for him, but also because he’s just stolen from the King and Queen, so going back into the heart of the kingdom is a big no-no for him. But then again, leaving without the crown is also a big no-no for him. His Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is to leave without the satchel, to have all of the palace guards and his fellow thieves out to get him, and to have to steal again to earn a living. Rapunzel has therefore narrowed the Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) because she has power over what he values (the satchel) as she is the only one who knows where it’s hidden.

Towards the end of their negotiation, Rapunzel uses the added persuasive technique of repeating her message. She lets Flynn know 3 times that she never, ever, ever breaks a promise. Repeating a message is reported to increase believability and acceptance of communication (Pratkanis, 2007) as it uses the mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968), which operates on the theory that the more you are exposed to something, the more you will like it. Repeating this point just three times is more persuasive than repeating it ten times, as high levels of message repetition result in tedium, whilst moderate levels result in more message argument scrutiny, so strong messages are more likely to result in persuasion (Cacioppo & Petty, 1989). Rapunzel’s negotiations must be strong, as Flynn agrees to her deal.

A large part of negotiation is knowing when you will walk away; at what point the ZOPA doesn’t exist and no agreement can be reached. However, having tied him down with her hair, Rapunzel has actually limited Flynn’s ability to not make a deal and to walk away from the situation. He won’t be getting out until he agrees with her. So, in order to be persuasive, make it so that the person you’re persuading is actually unable to walk away from the deal!

Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1989). Effects of message repetition on argument processing, recall, and persuasion. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 10, 3-12.

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

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 1-27.

Felicity Ang

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