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, March 4, 2018

How to bag yourself a partner

You’ve got to start somewhere – ‘Just Ask’

“Excuse me, would you like to go out with me?”
If you 'Just Ask' for something, chances are you will get it (Hills, 2014). 50% of women who asked men (unsuspecting strangers on a university campus) if they would like to go on a date with them were successful in securing a date (Clark & Hatfield, 1989). The compliance rate was even higher (75%) when the woman asked the man if he would like to go to bed with her! When a random male stranger asked a woman if she'd like to go on a date with him, 56% said yes. However, boys, be careful…when a male asked a woman if she would like to go to bed with him, the compliance rate was 0% (probably accompanied with a slap in the face). So, if you don't fancy your chances or would like a more certain way to secure a date, I provide a 5-stage guide on how to bag yourself a partner.

Note: for a higher success rate try adding a reason for your request. For example, “would you like to go out with me because I would like to go out with you?”. Adding a superficial reason to a request can increase compliance by 33% (Langer, Blank & Chanowitz, 1978).

Stage 1 – Flattery

“That’s a nice shirt”
Flattery works (Cialdini, 2007). We tend to believe the praise we receive and like those who give it to us. Drachman and Insko (1978) demonstrate the power of flattery in their study on men from North CarolinaThese men received either positive, negative, or mixed comments from someone who needed a favour from them. The individual giving only positive comments was liked the most, even if the praise was not accurate! So, your compliments don’t even need to be true, just throw them out there!

Stage 2 – The Contrast Principle

You’ve got to rely on your closest friend for this one. Get your friend to wear their scruffiest  clothes, no make-up, and messy hair and invite your crush over. Get your friend to answer the door to your crush. When your crush then sees you (in your best clothes), you’ll look much better in comparison to your scruffy friend!
The contrast principle is demonstrated in a study by Kenrick and Gutierres (1980). They found that when exposing individuals to attractive female faces and then asking them to rate photos of average females, the photos of average females were rated as significantly less attractive than when they were not pre-exposed to attractive faces. Additionally, Wedell, Parducci, and Geiselman (1987) found that when an attractive face was placed in a group of predominately unattractive faces, the attractive face was rated as more attractive than when the attractive face was presented alone. Therefore, if you want to make yourself appear more attractive than you really are, surround yourself with friends that are less attractive than you are.

Stage 3 – Scarcity

This stage requires a bit of self-control. You’ve got to give a lot and then give nothing. Be nice, be keen, shower them with compliments and texts, and then ghost* them. If they’re anything like other human beings, it will make them want you even more.
Psychological reactance theory argues that whenever our freedoms are taken away from us, we react against this by wanting and trying to possess our freedoms more than before (Brehm, 1981). The ghosting stage is the key to the scarcity principle working. We are scared of losing the freedoms we have. If you make yourself unavailable to your crush after being available, you are now scarce and highly attractive. They will be afraid of losing you and as a result, will be more likely to snap up your offer of a date (which I come onto in the next stage)…

*Ghosting means you just disappear. Do not reply to texts or calls from your crush in the ghosting stage.  

Stage 4 – Reciprocity

Take them out for dinner… and PAY! Splash the cash on a cheeky Nando’s and you will reap the rewards. Your crush will feel obliged to take you out as repayment! Before you know it, you will be on the third/fourth date and they will be under your spell.
The reciprocity effect is demonstrated in a study by Regan (1971). In this experiment, participants were invited into a laboratory at Stanford University. They were told that the purpose of their visit was to evaluate some paintings. During a break in the experiment, participants were either given a soft drink by a confederate (a favour), a soft drink by the experimenter (an irrelevant favour), or did not receive a favour at all. Later in the experiment, all participants were asked by the confederate to purchase some raffle tickets. Participant’s compliance was measured by the number of raffle tickets purchased. The findings were clear. Those who received a favour from the confederate were significantly more likely to buy more raffle tickets from the confederate later (see Figure 1).  For participants who bought more than one ticket, those in the favour condition bought more than double the number of tickets compared with those in the control conditions (irrelevant favour/no favour). This experiment clearly demonstrates how individuals are more likely to comply with later requests when they feel indebted to the requester.

Figure 1. The effect of asking a favour on rates of compliance, as measured by purchases of raffle tickets

Stage 5 – Commitment

Now that you’ve been dating for a while, it’s time to make it official. So, tell all your friends and family, make it Facebook official, and get your partner to do the same. Once it’s out there that you’re officially an item, you can’t easily take it back (without a million questions from your friends and family)!
Public commitments tend to last (Cialdini, 2007). Once it’s out there in the public eye, the individual is more likely to continue with their commitment. Deutsch & Gerard (1955) demonstrate how public commitments can lead to future actions that are consistent with the commitment. In this study, students were asked to estimate the length of lines. One group were asked to keep their estimates private, another group were asked to write their estimates down but keep them private, and a third group were asked to write their estimates down and show them to the experimenter. The findings were as follows… those who were publicly committed to their estimates (group 3) were the most stubborn in the face of disconfirming evidence and were highly reluctant to changing their mind. So, get your partner to publicly commit to a relationship with you and they will find it extremely difficult to change their mind afterwards!


Brehm, S. S. (1981). Psychological reactance and the attractiveness of unobtainable objects: Sex differences in children's responses to an elimination of freedom. Sex Roles, 7, 937-949.

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

Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality2, 39-55.

Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. B. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. The journal of abnormal and social psychology51, 629.

Drachman, D., & Insko, C. A. (1978). The extra credit effect in interpersonal attraction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology14, 458-465.

Hills, T. (2014, February 10). If you want more out of life, just ask [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kenrick, D. T., & Gutierres, S. E. (1980). Contrast effects and judgments of physical attractiveness: When beauty becomes a social problem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology38, 131.

Langer, E. J., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of" placebic" information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of personality and social psychology, 36, 635.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of experimental social psychology7, 627-639.

Wedell, D. H., Parducci, A., & Geiselman, R. E. (1987). A formal analysis of ratings of physical attractiveness: Successive contrast and simultaneous assimilation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology23, 230-249.

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