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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hitch - Love Consultant

Clip rolls, our beautiful Sara (Eva Mendez) is sipping on a Grey Goose Martini on her own, on what seems like an uneventful evening. In comes Chip, late-20s, white, 6-foot tall and confident, offering to replace Sara's empty glass with another drink (cue reciprocity as seen in Regan, 1971). She doesn't respond the way he would've liked, and proceeds to complement her on her eyes, hoping it will draw her to like him more (Pratkanis & Abbot, 2004). All this time however, Sarah has been an active agent in this tug-of-war, though passive she may appear. Up until this point she's been avoiding an escalation, but finally cuts to the chase and says she's not interested. He takes the hint, but instead of backing away, he goes with the change and escalates it even further by asking difficult questions. This effectively turns the conversation into a confrontation, and kills off any ambiguity and slight hope that was left for him to make a good impression.

A typical modern-day damsel in distress situation, enters Hitch (Will Smith) with a great timing, confidence and good looks, successfully fends off Chip who is starting to annoy our damsel. Sara, feeling relieved about not having to deal with Chip anymore, has owed Hitch a favor. However, for a smart woman like her, it's not difficult to deduce that the next guy could have just the same 'agenda' as the previous, and defend herself from another wave of reciprocity. Wasting no time at all, Hitch doesn't allow time for her to reflect on it, and lets reciprocity take effect by swiftly removing the drink that Chip had brought --> sitting down next to her --> getting her name and where she works. This, as you can see, is a clear Foot in the door technique (Freedman & Fraser, 1966; Taylor & Booth-Butterfield, 1993): closing in gradually and driving the conversation to more and more personal questions. Notice that they weren't explicit requests apart from the last one, but taking the liberty of removing without asking, and closing in on her personal space all ended with her silent approval.

Hitch goes on with plenty of wit and humor (King, 1988). Then without any notice the spectacle ended abruptly with him walking away just as she was beginning to be intrigued, effectively delaying the fulfillment of her recently acquired interest in this stranger. All of a sudden he became more attractive and valuable as he was leaving her sight and not available any more (Cialdini, 2007). A slightly confusing ending for the short clip, but if you've seen the movie, you'll know that he's just cleverly laying the ground work for a second approach!

Not to forget, the little gift at the end was another beautifully shameless attempt at reciprocity.

Qi Peng Wang

  • Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. S.l.: Collins. 
  • Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4(2), 195. 
  • King, K. N. (1988). "But I'm not a funny person": Humor in dispute resolution. Negotiation Journal, 4, 119-124. 
  • Pratkanis, A. R., & Abbott, C.J. (2004). Flattery and compliance with a direct request: Towards a theory of toady influence. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Santa Cruz 
  • Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor on liking and compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 627-639

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