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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A story of two countries

A story of two countries

On 9th August, 1965, a small island in Southeast Asia known as Singapore gained independence from Malaysia. Singapore, an island merely 278 square miles wide, surrounded by countries multiple times larger than her, had to stand on her own against larger opponents. The Singapore Armed Forces was officially formed in 1966, as a form of deterrence against her larger neighbours. It was extremely dangerous for a small country like Singapore due to then expansionistic policies of the Indonesian president, and the recent breakaway from Malaysia resulted in much conflict which could potentially bring about aggression. Given the small size of Singapore, the major problem she faced was the lack of proper training grounds for the Armed Forces. Thankfully, in 1975, Taiwan offered military training bases to Singapore, for Singapore to obtain a larger training ground with which she could train an army in. With this, Singapore and Taiwan began to establish close military links with each other.

In 2002, China reached out to Singapore to offer her military training bases in China, which encompasses a land area a few times that of the ones she had in Taiwan. However, the one drawback was that Singapore would not be able to continue training in Taiwan, and the military relations between Singapore and Taiwan would worsen. This is because China and Taiwan have had an extremely strained relationship due to the nature of their politics, as well as the claims they have on each other. When the Kuomintang, the former ruling party of China, escaped to Taiwan after they lost the Civil War against the Communist Party of China in 1949, the area known as Taiwan retained the name ‘Republic of China’, while China was otherwise known as the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan claims China as part of the Republic of China, while China claims Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China, resulting in many difficulties between countries and their relations with both China and Taiwan.

Despite China being one of the biggest superpowers in the world, and much stronger than Taiwan in many aspects, Singapore did not take up China’s offer. Singapore also risked destroying her relationship with China, when the prime minister of Singapore travelled to Taiwan on a private visit in 2004. That year, bilateral relations were put on hold by the Chinese government because of the visit.

Singapore’s actions in this snippet of history demonstrates the theory of reciprocity. In Regan’s experiment on the effects of a favour and liking on compliance, people who were done a favour by being given a can of soft drink from a confederate were more likely to purchase raffle tickets from him, and in a greater amount. The study found that the effect of manipulated liking for the confederate who gave a soft drink was weak, and suggested that the reason why more raffle tickets were purchased was due to the normative pressure to reciprocate. The table below shows the effect of being given a soft drink and the number of raffle tickets bought later.

Table 1. Mean number of Tickets bought from confederate

Soft drink given
No soft drink given
Likeable confederate
Not likeable confederate

As such, if you want a favour from someone else, do them a favour first. Whether that person likes you or not, the norm of reciprocity will cause that person to do you a favour in return.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology7(6), 627-639. 

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