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, March 5, 2014

I am McLovin!

The best film ever made, Superbad, has a great scene about persuasion and compliance.

Seth and Evan are trying to convince their friend Fogul to use his fake I.D. to buy all the alcohol for a party they’ve been invited to. Fogul, who at first was confident in his fake I.D. becomes distressed upon learning the precise amount he has to purchase and subsequently feels less inclined to follow the request. This in itself seems to be an example of failed low-balling; Fogul agreed to use his I.D. under the impressions he would be buying drinks just for his group. Once they actually arrive at the store it becomes apparent his role is much more important and he begins to become uncompliant. Seth and Evan are then placed in the position of needing to persuade Fogul back on-side.

Seth’s immediate reaction is to begin chastising and insulting Fogul. Steele (1975) found that calling people names increases their compliance with your demands. It seems that the majority of Seth and Fogul’s interactions centre on this sort of behaviour. When that seems to have little effect, Seth ups the ante and begins to threaten Fogul with violence. Over-the-top, hyperbole violence. Deturk (1987) found that males are much more likely to resort to violence against uncompliant targets in a last effort to get them to comply than females.

In contrast to this Evan begins a ‘good cop’ routine to Seth’s ‘bad cop’. Contrast itself is useful; compared to the raging Seth, Evan’s simple proposals and encouragements make it much more likely that his requests will be complied with. However, when this is combined with Evan’s flattery, “You’re a hero”, there’s a double-whammy effect of persuasion.

Fogul also inadvertently triggers his own ‘expert snare’. By declaring and making salient the notion that he is the only one with a fake I.D. (which will only work for him despite Seth’s suggestion of surgery) he comes to realise that it really is all resting on his shoulders; he is the expert in the situation.

This scene appeals greatly to me as I feel many people can empathise with the boy’s situation and will have gone through many of the routines and tactics shown here to reach a similar goal.


Cialdini, R. B., Cacioppo, J. T., Bassett, R., & Miller, J. A. (1978). Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: Commitment then cost. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 36 (5), 463.

Steele, C. M. (1975). Name-calling and compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31 (2), 361.

Males resort to violence against a non-compliant targets
Deturck, M. A. (1987). When communication fails: Physical aggression as a compliancegaining strategy. Communications Monographs, 54 (1), 106-112.

Helpful Labelling
Strenta, A., & DeJong, W. (1981). The effect of a prosocial label on helping behavior. Social Psychology Quarterly, 142-147.

Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Giesen, M., Murray, E. J., & Seyfried, B. A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychonomic Science, 26(6), 349-351.

Expert Snare
Pratkanis, A. R., & Uriel, Y. (2004). The Expert Snare as an Influence Tactic: Surf, Turf, and Ballroom Demonstrations of the Compliance Consequences of Being Altercast as an Expert. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Santa Cruz.

James Ulke

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.