The above cartoon strip demonstrates a good example of the probably well recognised persuasion technique of flattery. It has been suggested many a time that we like those that flatter us and as a consequence we are more likely to comply with a direct request. The cat, Sasha, is making a request that Checkers the dog doesn’t make any more clones of himself and in attempt at persuasion flatters him unashamedly.
Hendrick et al. (1972) conducted a study measuring the effectiveness of ingratiation techniques (flattery in attempt to become likeable to the target) on compliance with a request. The experiment tested the effects of respondent ingratiation – descriptive adjectives and phrases that flatter the respondent – and solicitor ingratiation – terms referring to the solicitor e.g. expressing their sincerity. The effects were examined on both large and small requests. The experimenters mailed a letter to 400 people requesting recipients to complete an enclosed questionnaire, the eight conditions involved either a long (7 page) or short (1 page) questionnaire combined with the letter including solicitor or respondent flattery, neither or both.
In relation to the initial example, it seems that it ought to therefore be the case that the request necessitated moderate effort in order for the flattery to have an effect in persuasion. I’m sure it would probably take a significant amount of determination for poor Checkers the dog to resist the temptation to create another clone of himself (considering in the preceding comic strip he had lost the previous clone). In which case, according to the research, compliance with the moderate effort request would be facilitated by either respondent or solicitor flattery but not both. Sasha the cat clearly very tactfully opts for respondent flattery using complimentary adjectives and phrases, making herself more likeable and lo and behold Checkers is persuaded not to clone himself again. Though I’m sure if Checkers heard Sasha’s afterthought he’d be a little less obliging.
Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Giesen, M., Murray, E. J., & Seyfried, B. A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychonomic Science, 26(6), 349-351.