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

"Oh for pete's sake, he's fleeing the interview!"

A film about a pregnant Canadian policewoman, who is investigating a kidnapping of a woman that was organised by her Husband to get money from her rich Father? If Yes Please is your answer, then do I have the film for you. Fargo is its name. But what could this seemingly innocent and simple film have to do with persuasive techniques? Well, sit back and let me tell you.

We see in this scene that a couple have agreed, in a previous meeting, to buy a car for a set price. This has formed an initial commitment. The salesman then raises the price through the addition of the ‘True-Coat.’ This whole technique is called low-balling. In an experiment by Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller (1978), they showed that students were more likely to sign up for a 7 am psychology experiment if they made the commitment before they were told the time, than if they knew the time from the start. He also says he will speak to his boss, which is the ambiguous authority tactic (Ury & Fisher, 1981). This then results in a reduction of the price by £100, which makes the buyer feel like he has gained a lower price. This lower price therefore becomes his best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).

All of this results in the (reluctant) sale of a car with ‘true-coat.’ The film then progresses and ends up getting wildly out of hand. I highly recommend it with a glass of wine and some good cheese. It will make for a splendid evening in with the significant other.

Oliver Stoney


Ury, William, and Roger Fisher. "Getting to yes." Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Getting to Yes (1981).

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.

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