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.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Are you forgetting something?

I was recently browsing through Boohoo’s website and added some items into my basket just in case I wanted to find them again later. I didn’t really have any intention to make a purchase so I soon forgot about everything I had put into the basket.

Two days later, I received an email from Boohoo offering me 15% off everything for two days. I had clearly been “forgetting something” and shouldn’t “miss out” on completing my order. Without fail, the following day, I received another email with the same voucher code, again reminding me there were items in my basket and that I could have 15% off anything I wanted.

Promotional codes are constantly being thrown around left, right and centre by retailers. However, Boohoo is the only retailer that I have personally come across which sends out discount codes just because you put a few items into your basket. This is just one of many examples of reciprocity (Cialdini, 2007).

By making an offer which leads to supposedly desired items becoming cheaper, the retailer is essentially providing its consumers with a favour. As a consequence, the consumers then feel obliged to repay this favour by completing their purchase. Retailers that understand the power of influence reciprocity has use it to exploit consumers for their own gain and profit, making it an incredibly effective tool. You don’t even have to like the retailer, it’s purely the feeling of obligation held in relation to repaying the debt of the uninvited favour that matters. Most, if not all, societies fall victim to reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960) so I’m afraid there is no escaping it.


Cialdini R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Collins.

Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25, 161-178.

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