Making bad news less bad - Contrast Effect
The contrast effect is experienced when two slightly contrasting things are presented one after another making one thing seem better/worse in contrast. The clever use of the technique is perfectly captured in a letter written from a daughter to her parent (Cialdini, 2014, p. 14). She draws upon the uses of the principle by bombarding her parents with very bad news like the thought of getting her skull fractured, getting married and becoming pregnant and ending the letter with a small bad news that is getting bad grades. In contrast to the very bad news like getting pregnant in college, a small bad news like getting a bad grade seems nothing.
Two friends in the famous TV series ‘Friends’ are using the same principle. Monica wants to give her roommate Rachel the bad news that she needs to move out, as Monica’s boyfriend is moving in. To make her bad news seem ‘less bad’ she tells her other friends to give Rachel some VERY bad news.
Cialdini, R. B. (2014). Influence: Science and practice (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson education