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.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Have you completed the NSS yet ?

For weeks, we’ve been told to fill in the NSS. We constantly get updates and e-mails sent to us, reminding us to fill in the survey.

Third year students still have the opportunity to complete the NSS survey at You’re doing fantastically well so far but with over 60% of you already completing the survey but we’re still lagging behind those theatre studies and politics students, so if you haven’t completed the survey yet, log on to get a free lunch and get a chance to win a brand new iPad.
The Psychology department now has a room (H138) where you can complete the NSS too. Simply drop by, log in and go to the website above”

The department has used the persuasive technique of flattery to try to get us to complete the NSS. We keep getting told how important it is, and we are told that we’re doing an amazing job, and that everyone should fill it in as soon as possible. Flattery is a widely used persuasive technique that we use all the time to get people to do things that we want to. Simply adding a complimentary comment such as “beautiful”, “pretty”, “handsome” can increase the chancs of someone doing something for you. Hendrick, Borden, Giesen, Murray and Seyfried (1972) have found that flattery increases the compliance with a request to complete a questionnaire when controlled to a control condition. They had a total of 400 subjects who were mailed a questionnaire that was either asking for a small effort request of a one paged questionnaire, or a large effort request of a seven paged questionnaire. There were several conditions in the cover letter than was attached to the questionnaire: ingratiation of respondent, ingratiation of solicitor, double ingratiation (both the solicitor and respondent were flattered), or standard polite where neither was flattered. They then looked at the number of participants that completed the questionnaire, which is considered compliance to the request. This looked at the effect of flattery.  

Table 1: Proportion of questionnaire returns 

The results from Table 1 suggest that there was no effect of flattery towards the small request on the one page questionnaire. On the other hand, flattery appears to have a bigger effect. When the solicitor and respondent was flattered, they had significantly high return rates (0.24 and 0.29, respectively) compared to when they weren't flattered at all (0.10). The results from this study suggest that the use of flattery does have a positive effect on compliance, as it makes people more likely to do things, especially for higher requests that are more difficult. This study allows us to suggest that we can use flattery to get people to do things for us – meaning that the Psychology department has been successful in trying to get us to fill in the NSS, as they constantly remind us how fantastic we’re doing. 

So.. you're probably an intelligent and wise Psychology student if you're reading this - have you filled in the NSS? ;) 

Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Glesen, M., Murray, E. J., & Seyfried, B. A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychonomic Science, 26, 349-351

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