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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


‘I find you very attractive, will you go to bed with me?’ Elaine Hatfield carried out a revolutionary experiment in 1989, showing that 75% of men would go to bed with an averagely attractive woman if they just asked (Hatfield, 1989). 

Other research has confirmed the power of asking, by demonstrating that if you want something you should simply ask for it. Santos, Leve and Pratkanis (1994) suggested we have pre-set answers to questions. Therefore, an usual request is more likely to be completed as we will need to think about the answer. To demonstrate this, Santos, Leve and Pratkanis got confederates to ask a participant to borrow either a low or high amount of money, that was either strange e.g 17 cent or typical e.g a quarter. The results firstly showed that if you want to borrow money you should just ask as it is likely to get results. Secondly, people are more likely to give you money if you ask an usual request compared to a typical request as seen in Figure 1.

From the research done on the ‘just ask’ principle, I wanted to see how effective this technique would be in real life situations. I had bought a pair of jeans a couple of months ago, with the intention of giving them back to the shop. However, life got busy and I had missed the deadline for a refund. Seen as I had nothing to lose from the situation but money to gain, I decided to go into the shop and ask for a refund anyway. 

To my surprise, the shop assistant did not even bat an eyelid and completed the request without a seconds hesitation. Due to being astonished that I was about to get money for something I should not be, I even doubled checked that the shop assistant was aware of my lack of receipt. The request was still made. All I did was ask, and ended up getting money back in return.

This is further proof of the ‘just ask’ principle. In the majority of situations, if you want something just ask! People drastically underestimate the power of asking, due to not believing it will be effective. However, as previous research such as Hatfield (1989) has shown, as well as my real life example illustrates, asking gets results!


Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 2, 39-55.

Santos, M. D., Leve, C., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1994). Hey buddy, can you spare seventeen cents? Mindful persuasion and the pique technique1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 755-764.

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