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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Car Wars

My cousin was in the market for a new car so we decided to go shopping one day to one of the UKs largest dealerships as they had a sale on. After a browse around we saw a nice car at a good spec for very good value, we approached one of the salesmen who directed us to the front desk. We were then shown around the vehicle and told about its features, but, the salesman then told us that a newer model with a better spec had just arrived yesterday and was worth taking a look at (even though more expensive). After looking at the car we expressed our interest in a test drive, he was happy to arrange one but we had to wait around 25 minutes. We were then approached by a salesman who was of the same racial background as us, he then proceeded to take us on the test drive meanwhile talking about things to do with our culture which he assumed we could relate to. We didn't buy the car in the end. 

So, lets tease this whole scenario apart and look at a few persuasion techniques the salesman used. The first to be witnessed was ‘bait and switch’. This is where an individual is offered something of very good value which is later replaced by something of less value but of a higher gain to the offerer. So in this instance when a person sees an item of high value they cognitively close on the idea of getting it (hence the bait - cheap car), but when this bait is removed the person feels uncomfortable and enters a state of anxiety. They aim to seek satisfice and a comfortable position again so accept almost any solution to get there (hence offered the more expensive item - the expensive car). This phenomenon was first investigated by Gouilloux and Weber (1989) and called it the ‘lure procedure’. In their experiment they invited a group of students to volunteer, half were told they will be partaking in memorising a list of numbers and the other half told they will be watching an interesting film clip. However, once the latter group reached the experiment they were then told they will be memorising a list of numbers instead of watching the film clip. The researchers found only 15% of those who were told they will be memorising words agreed, opposed to 47% of those who were initially told they will be watching the film. 

Another persuasion technique used was when we were introduced to a salesman from the same racial background. The aim of this was to induce compliance from fleeting attraction. This is where we are more likely to comply to a request when we see the individual asking is similar to us in some way. Burger et al (2001) demonstrated this when he asked participants to describe themselves with a list of adjectives, they were then shown a list of confederates adjectives, one which they  hadn't seen (which was similar or dissimilar), they were then asked how much they liked the other person. Both individuals then met and the confederate made a request.

Results showed that if the participant was similar to the confederate, 76.6% of them complied with a request. In the dissimilar condition, 43.3% of people complied with a request when asked by someone who was not like them. This indicates that when car salesman are trying to sell you a vehicle, they will try to make you like them, and in turn based on this similarity you like the individual more, thus more likely to comply with a request and buy the vehicle when they ask you to. 


Burger, J. M., Soroka, S., Gonzago, K., Murphy, E., & Somervell, E. (2001). The effect of fleeting attraction on compliance to requests. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin27(12), 1578-1586.

Joule, R. V., Gouilloux, F., and Weber, F. (1989). The lure: A new compliance procedure. Journal of Social Psychology, 129, 741-749.

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