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.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Your Body, Your Choice

When referred for an MRI scan, people envision a scary and claustrophobic experience. However, Newcastle Clinic launched a campaign advertising the only MRI scanner within the North East that offers a comfortable and relaxing experience compared to a traditional MRI scanner. The Newcastle Clinic employed the “But You Are Free” technique (Guguen & Pascual, 2005). This persuasive tactic leads to increased acceptance and compliance with what is being sought after. You are free to decide whether to carry on reading to see how this works. 

See what I did there? That’s the “But You Are Free” technique. As shown in the image above, companies propose a suggestion, but acknowledge that the target audience have the freedom of choice to either reject or accept. The “But You Are Free” technique reaffirms the person’s freedom of choice and implicitly informs the audience that you are not threatening their ability to say no! 

Evidence for this technique is presented by Gueguen and Pascual (2005). When subjects were asked to give money to a cause only 10% complied. However, when the phrase “..but you are free to accept or to refuse” was added, 47.5% complied. 

When we are presented with a request, it may undermine our fundamental need for a sense of control. As a reaction, we are likely to then refuse, asserting our ability to maintain control. However, when we are told that we are free to accept or to refuse, we then regain control and so do not have to extract it back.

The wording you use doesn’t seem to matter; according to a meta-analysis (Carpenter, 2013), adding “but obviously do not feel obliged” to the request is just as effective. Whether you decide to incorporate this technique into your persuasive strategies, of course, is your decision. 

Carpenter, C. J. (2013). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of the “But you are free” compliance-gaining technique. Communication Studies64(1), 6-17.

GuĂ©guen, N., & Pascual, A. (2005). Improving the response rate to a street survey: an evaluation of the" but you  are free to accept or to refuse" technique. The Psychological Record55(2), 297.

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