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, February 9, 2014

Does the culture we grow up in influence how susceptible to compliance techniques we are?

The famous six principles of compliance proposed by Cialdini (2001) are billboarded as universal principles that can be used by, and on, all of us to influence behaviour. However, research has actually highlighted that a number of factors can contribute how susceptible an individual is to altering their behaviour following exposure to a technique (for example socio-economic status and age) (Martin, Hewstone, Martin & Gardikiotis, 2008). Personality and mind set can also have an effect- Hovland (1953) who found that individuals who reported feeling inadequate or depressed were more susceptible to be influenced.

Cialdini et al. (1999) investigated variation to compliance on a cultural level- individualistic (America) versus collectivist (Poland). The compliance task within this study was being asked to complete a marketing survey- a task that would be time-consuming and unpaid.
In one condition participants were asked about doing the survey after having to list times when they had complied to similar requests regarding menial tasks (this was the consistency condition) and individuals the other condition had to list times in which there friends had complied to these types of tasks (this was the social proof condition).

In both conditions people complied more than the control group (who were simply asked to complete the survey). Interestingly, but as Cialdini et al. (1999) had expected, the consistency condition induced more compliance of American participants whereas the social proof principle had greater influence on Polish individuals (as illustrated in Figure 1). The researchers argued that this was because in a collectivist culture the attitudes and behaviours of others is more important in determining behaviour than maintaining consistency to one’s previous actions, the opposite being the case in individualistic cultures.

Figure 1. These two graphs illustrate the difference in likelihood of compliance between the social proof and consistency condition

To really assess the relationship between culture and effectiveness of compliance techniques participants were asked a series of questions to assess where they lay on the individualist-collectivistic orientation. This further illustrated the correlation between those who identified with the collectivist culture being more susceptible to social proof manipulation and vice versa.
This research paper illustrates an interesting phenomenon but I am sure represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of individual variation in vulnerability to compliance methods.

Alex Bamsey

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Cialdini, R. B., Wosinska, W., Barrett, D. W., Butner, J., & Gornik-Durose, M. (1999). Compliance with a request in two cultures: The differential influence of social proof and commitment/consistency on collectivists and individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(10), 1242-1253

Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change.

Martin, R., Hewstone, M., Martin, P. Y., & Gardikiotis, A. (2008). Persuasion from majority and minority groups. New York: Psychology Press.

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