I recently required a female volunteer to model for my ‘persuasion and influence’ project poster. After making several failed attempts at recruiting a model for my poster, I decided to use the' rule of reciprocity'. A flatmate of mine was playing piano at a society event and was very nervous about doing that in a room packed with people. After she confided in me her fear of performing in front of an audience, I offered to go with her to this event and lend her my support. I had never really enjoyed piano in the past and therefore was mentally prepared to be really bored throughout the night however I knew I had to do her a favour if I wanted her to do one in return.
I ended up enjoying myself immensely and had a great time at the event. My flatmate felt highly obliged and really grateful that I had come along with her even though ‘I did not really have to’. On our way back home, I casually mentioned my project and how I was struggling with finding a model for it. It was no surprise that she volunteered right away and was happy to help me out with it.
Boster et al. (1995) carried out a study to investigate the' rule of reciprocity' and whether it differed for friends and strangers. Participants were either close friends of the confederate or strangers oblivious to the aims of the experiment. There were two conditions in the study, ‘favour’ and ‘direct request’ condition. Participants were given some irrelevant tasks to complete. In the ‘favour’ condition, the confederate would leave the room and come back after sometime with a bottle of drink for himself and the participant who would either be a friend or a stranger. In the ‘direct request’ condition, the confederate would leave the room and come back without any bottle of the drink for the participant (friend or stranger). Later on they would ask the participants to buy some raffle tickets from them.
As the table demonstrates, friends bought more raffle tickets than strangers, regardless of whether a favour had been previously done for them. Strangers were more likely to comply with the request in the favour condition as compared to the direct request condition.
In my case, my flatmate felt obliged to return back the favour I did for her. May be if I had directly requested her she would have said no like all the other people whom I had approached earlier on without doing something for them first.
Boster, F. J., Rodríguez, J. I., Cruz, M. G., & Marshall, L. (1995). The relative effectiveness of a direct request message and a pregiving message on friends and strangers. Communication Research, 22, 475-484.