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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Negotiation Could Save Your Life!

In this scene from The Mummy, Evelyn is negotiating with the warden, in order to save Rick’s life. She starts yelling amounts of money at him, increasing each time he says no.

He’s effectively remaining silent, and not entering into a negotiation. This has been proved to be an effective tactic (Chu, Strong, Ma & Greene, 2005), as it makes the other person feel that they need to keep offering. Which is what tends to happen, and what we see in this scene.

Unfortunately, even the highest amount doesn’t prevent him from stopping the hanging. However, Evelyn still has time, as Rick’s neck doesn’t break, so he is left dangling alive from the rope. She then offers the warden something that she knows he desperately wants. She lets it slip that Rick has a map that will lead them to The City of the Dead, where great treasures await them. The position of balance has now changed. She knows that the warden values the promise of treasure more than Rick’s life. So, they then start haggling over the percentage of treasure he will receive.

This is an example of a contingent concession. The warden can only get the treasure if he agrees to set Rick free. It utilises the rule of reciprocity, which has been proven to be a very effective persuasive technique. When someone offers us something, we feel the need to return the favour (Wax, 2000). In this situation, both parties can get what they want, (treasure for the Warden and Rick free for Evelyn), if they agree on a deal.

Because she now has the power, Evelyn goes straight in with a low percentage. This 10% acts as an anchor to build the rest of the negotiation around. Orr and Guthrie (2005) have shown that the outcome of a negotiation positively correlates with the initial anchor, meaning that people tend to get an offer close to their original offer. This is exactly what happens in this scene. The warden counters Evelyn’s 10% with 50%, but quickly agrees to 25%.

The warden then yells for Rick to be cut down, meaning that Evelyn has achieved her desired goal. She has saved him thanks to her competent negotiating skills!


Chu, Y., Strong, W. F., Ma, J., & Greene, W. E. (2005). Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 9, 113-129.

Orr, D., & Guthrie, C. (2005) Anchoring, Information, Expertise, and Negotiation: New Insights from Meta-Analysis. Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 21, 597-612.

Wax, A. L. (2000). Rethinking welfare rights: reciprocity norms, reactive attitudes, and the political economy of welfare reform. Law and Contemporary Problems, 63, 257-297.

Zara Heal (Blog 5)

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