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 21, 2014

Francis Underwood - Man on a mission

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 13 (37:00minutes-41:00minutes)


Given the presence of huge collateral damage and abundant lack of honesty  some might claim that the secret schemes and ploys Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) executed in the TV show House of Cards are hardly the works of an ideal negotiator. However, one would struggle to question the power of his achievements and pragmatism - the man is brutal.

There are many examples of negotiation and persuasion in House of Cards – yet I have chosen one of the final scenes in season 1 episode 13 because it depicts two powerful, ruthless and driven individuals, engage in a high-stake negotiation.

So what powerful concepts of negotiation come into play in this particular scene? For starters, Underwood has done his research and further investigates his opponents (Tusks) motivations with his demand for specifics and leading questions: e.g ‘so why are we here?[1]‘What exactly would you want me to do? [2]- enabling him to know exactly what Tusk is after and what he stands to gain or loose from this deal.

 ‘Knowing your BATNA before you begin a negotiation will give you additional power to get what you want[3].’ Having frequently been on ‘the other side of the table’ Underwood knows his BATNA, he knows what he values, when to walk away and when the price is too high. Underwood claims the price demanded has exceeded the rewards, the imposition Tusk is making of him is too high to accept, ‘I have always prided myself in avoiding a reputation for indentured servitude[4],’ he believes that granting Tusks demands would go against this.

With knowledge of both his and his opponents BATNA – Underwood now takes an active role in the dialogue and tactfully uses two incredibly successful persuasive techniques, in one single line, ‘good luck finding a Vice President in the next four days, who will prove as pragmatic as I[5].’ Cialdini states that ‘The more rare and uncommon a thing, the more people want it[6].’ Underwood employs the scarcity rule - he knows that such a deal is scarce and that opportunity is very unlikely to present itself again - he uses this to his advantage. Stuhlmacher and Chapagne 2000 investigated the use of time on negotiation, the research suggested that people are more likely to make concessions under time constraints – Underwood, is emphasising this time pressure to Tuske, hoping it will make him panic into making a compromise. 

Regardless of Underwood’s moral or ethical conduct it is clear that the techniques he uses in his negotiations are incredibly successful, he gets what he wants, and nobody stands in his way.

By Clementine Parker 

(Unfortunately - it won't let me post the video on here - check it out online or on Netflix)
Why Use BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)? Edrie Greer, Ph.D., Global Knowledge Instructor
Cialdini – 2007
Stuhlmacher and Chapagne 2000

[1] Season 1 – episode 13 (37m.55s)
[2] Season 1 – episode 13 (39m.09s)
[3]  Why use BATNA? (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement) Edrie Greer
[4] Season 1 – episode 13 (39m.27s)
[5] Season 1 – episode 13 (39m.56s)
[6] Cialdini 2007

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