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

Please stop forcing me to eat my vegetables.

Even at the ripe old age of twenty-one, I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship with food. There are some things that I absolutely love, but they’re not always the healthiest. Some of my earliest memories involve sitting at the dining table alone (everyone else had got bored and left!) staring at a plate of cold vegetables, with my lovely Father staring at me until it was finished. It would inevitably end with me stating what I was willing to eat and my Father forcing me to eat double that. Despite the daily routine, the evening would always end in what felt like hours of negotiations before I could eventually leave the table.  My Dad would call it a power struggle – I prefer to call it “not liking vegetables”.

Anderson and Thompson (2004) carried out a study whereby the looked at how a powerful person’s positive affect influences negotiations. They studied 92 students in pairs who were randomly assigned to either a person selling a gas station (less powerful condition), or the Vice President of a big oil company (more powerful condition). The outcomes of the negotiations were coded in three ways; agreement not reached, a sale only agreement, or a sale and offer of a job for the current owners agreement. The results show that more powerful negotiators, with a positive affect, reach better agreements (where more issues with the deal are settled).

This study would help to illustrate perhaps why my Father never had much luck getting me to eat my greens… he definitely suffered from a negative affect (probably due to the hours we spent sitting at that dinner table!). And according to Anderson and Thompson, those with positive affect have more luck negotiating. So in future, I will warn him that being enthusiastic, energetic and confident is the way to make me eat the amount of dinner he wants me to.


Anderson, C., & Thompson, L. L. (2004). Affect from the top down: How powerful individuals’ positive affect shapes negotiations. Organistional Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 95, 125-139

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