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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"We're all men of our word here really..."

The above clip is a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean in which Captain Jack Sparrow tries to negotiate with Captain Barbossa. Jack Sparrow is negotiating  for the return of his ship and Barbossa simply wants to be a mortal man again. However, in order for Jack Sparrow’s plan to work, Barbossa will have to put off returning to mortality. While this will benefit him in the long run as the Jack is suggesting that he simply put off returning to being a mortal man until he has taken over a nearby ship, he still needs to be convinced that this is a good plan on action. Then Jack can have his ship back, Barbossa can have a new ship, he can kill Turner and restore his Mortality.

Jack Sparrow starts of the negotiation with a joke. “So we’re all men of our word really. Except for Elizabeth, who is in fact a woman”. This is a good technique for negotiation as research has found that humour can not only relieve tension in negotiations, but It can also help facilitate a more cooperative relationship between the parties (King 1988). The negotiator showing positive mood has also been found to increase negotiation tendencies making it more likely for a cooperative outcome (Forgas 1998) so by starting off in such a light hearted manner this may have improved his chances in attaining a favourable outcome.

He also makes a concession but forgoing the life of Will. When someone removes something from a negotiation as a compromise, you are more likely to comply. Barbossa assumes that Jack will want to save Will somewhere in the agreement so by Jack making a concession and saying that actually, it will be fine if Barbossa still wants to kill him he is more likely to comply to Jacks proposed agreement. For instance in one study by Cialdini (1975), college students were asked if they would supervise a group of college delinquents in the zoo and 83% said no. However, when they were first asked to spend 2 hours a week looking after them and then were asked about the zoo, students were 3x as likely to agree to the consession (taking them on a one-off to the zoo) when they first rejected helping weekly.

Jack also uses an appeal to scarcity to try and get his way. This technique works as an item becomes more desirable the less available it is regardless of how attractive the item is on its own merits. As the navy ship is only there for a short amount of time, this puts a lot of pressure on the negotiation outcome being decided within that short timeframe. This means that Barbossa is more likely to agree to taking on the new ship as while he may not have wanted it in the first place, it is not a commodity which is only available for a “limited time only”.

Sparrow also uses flattery techniques to try and get his way. He frequently appeals to Barbossa’s authority and even offers the purchase of a hat to try and gain a better deal! He even appeals to the rest of the crew “you know what you do best”. We are more likely to comply with someone who compliments us and we tend to believe the praise we receive. Drachman et al (1978) found that the compliment doesn’t even have to be true to work!

Alice Owen


                Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan ,J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal Concessions Procedure for Inducing Compliance: The door-in the face Technique. JPSP , 31, 206-215.

                Drachman, D., deCarufel, A., & Insko, C. (1978). The extra credit effect in interpersonal attraction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14, 458–465

Forgas, P. (1998). On feeling good and getting your way: Mood effects on negotiator cognition and bargaining strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 565–577

                King, K. N. (1988). "But I'm not a funny person": Humor in dispute resolution.  Negotiation Journal, 4, 119-124.

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