Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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 18, 2015




Flattery Works!




The movie clip above is taken from the move Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The scence above illustrates how flattery can be used as a persuasive technique in order to influence an individuals decision and they way he perceives a situation. Jake Gyllenhaal exposes his "intern" to a variety of high-risk situations in return for a very low pay and the special chance to gain some valuable experience as he has explained to his intern previously. However, Jake Gyllenhaal is aware that in order to keep his intern perform he must offer some form of incentive in order to keep his performance and loyalty. The clip above is an excellent example of how flattery can be used in order to make another person feel worthy and deserving of what he has chosen to do and beyond this it also shows how flattery can serve as a factor motivating you to behave a certain way.

An experiment conducted by Grant et al. (2010) can be seen as an example providing empiracle evidence for the effectiveness compliments have on compliance. Participants were welcomed by the experimenter and they were then asked to wait in a room until the other participants had arrived. Shortly thereafter, a confederate entered the room. While the participant and the confederate were in the same room, the confederate started a conversation with the participant. There were two conditions. The experimental condition was marked by deliberate compliments made by the confederate about the participant's clothing. The control condition did not include any compliments during their exchange. Finally the crucial measure of compliance was tested by having the confederate ask the participant whether they would be willing to help her out and hand some flyers out at the university center. If participants answered yes they were considered as having complied with the demand.



The results yielded by this study can be seen in the table above. The findings show that the experimental condition participants were significantly more likely to comply to the request when compared to the control condition. In other words, 79% of the participants who were complimented turned out to comply with the request made by the confederate, while only 46% of the participants who were not given a compliment ended up complying with the request. 

As with the study explained above, Jake Gyllenhaal uses compliments and flattery in order to motivate and persuade his intern to keep working for him despite the high-risk situations he might be faced. He tells his intern what a great improvement he has made in his overall focus. He tells him that given complex problems he has developed an ability to find clear and simple solutions. Finally he also compliments him on his enthusiasm and offers him a promotion in his position. By the end of the movie clip he gives his intern the chance to decide himself about the pay he wants to receive again flattering him by showing him he values him so much that he is willing to give him the power to decide for himself. As seen with the experiment by Grant et al. the intern keeps his job and continues to work for Jake Gyllenhaal. 

Grnat, N. K., Fabrigar, L. R., Lim, H. (2010). Exploring the efficacy of compliments as a tactic for securing compliance. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 32, 226-233. 

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