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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The power of 'liking' and favours

Whilst talking to a friend not long ago, I asked the simple question of “how did you meet her”, which was followed by a not-so-simple response. When explaining how Boy A (my friend) met Girl A, he mentioned that it had all started off with a favour, “she had asked me to help her with a math problem”, but returned the favour the next day, handing him a “packet of biscuits”. Feeling in debt to Girl A, Boy A gave her a lift home from campus, and so on, and so on, until recently, for Girl A’s birthday, Boy A gifted her a pre-paid bungee jump ticket. Knowing that the relationship was purely platonic, Boy A was confused about how he had go into the situation that led him to buy an expensive gift for someone he didn’t know too well.

Although quite at the extreme end, this is a prime example of persuasion via reciprocation. Each gift given to the other party was valued a little bigger than the one before, hence either Boy A or Girl A would feel in debt leading to a return gift. Documented among the ancient Greeks, (Konstan, 1998) and key to friendships at all ages (Vaguera & Kao, 2008), reciprocation within friendships is both historic and a preferred characteristic.

It seems that the inherent sense of obligation Girl A felt after asking Boy A for help, pushed them both into a cycle of gift giving (not the worst problem to have).


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

Konstan, D. (1998). Reciprocity and friendship. Reciprocity in ancient Greece, 279-301.

Vaquera, E., & Kao, G. (2008). Do you like me as much as I like you? Friendship reciprocity and its effects on school outcomes among adolescents. Social science research, 37(1), 55-72.

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