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 16, 2014

No Need to Hulk Out; Just Act Disappointed

"Can't you do it for once` I ALWAYS end up doing it!"
So imagine the following situation: you have been doing multiple favours for a friend, but have yet to receive one in return. Although it sounds petty, it has been shown that reciprocation is an important aspect of social interactions (Cialdini, 2007, p. 19). Such a situation is annoying, and you may feel like “hulking out” but what does science say you should do?

 A study conducted by Wubben, De Cremer and van Dijk (2009) investigated whether expression of anger or disappointment affected social relationships. A participant sat in a lab and was partnered to a researcher. They had to play a reciprocal game, where they were given 10 coins and could either donate them or keep them. The action they decided to do affects the coin’s worth. By donating the money, the worth of the coin doubles, and we additionally would expect our partner to donate the money as well. Additionally the researcher would either express anger, disappointment or a neutral statement in response to the donation. This was to test out how likely the participant would then donate to the researcher.
It is thought that expressing disappointment can increase cooperation because it communicates that you had higher expectations of the person (Van Dijk, & Van Harreveld, 2008). If you communicate disappointment to a friend they will most likely carry out the action because they want to remain consistent, as inconsistency is seen as an undesirable personality trait (Allgeier et al., 1979).


Overall it appears to be that expressing disappointment has the best outcome, this is shown in the graph below, indicating that those that expressed disappointment received the greatest number of coins.
(Wubben, Cremer, & Dijk, 2009)
Expression of disappointment increased cooperation between partners as well as allowing you to be perceived more favourably, with participants rating those who express disappointment as more forgiving and less retaliatory.
(Wubben, Cremer, & Dijk, 2009)

The main problem with expressing anger is that it can lead to a rapid escalation of events (Canary, Spitzberg, & Semic, 1998), and angry partners led to angry participants.

In conclusion, keep in mind, the next time your friend fails to return a favour, that expressing disappointment emphasizes a forgiveness of the lack of reciprocation as well as a decrease in the likelihood of retaliation. They will believe that you will most likely forgive them, as well as becoming less of a threat as you are seen as less likely to retaliate. This should help to maintain a good relationship with your friend as well as making it more likely to be mutually beneficial.

By: Ariadna Rodriguez Barclay

Allgeier, A. R., Byrne, D., Brooks, B., & Revenes, D. (1979). The waffle phenomenon: Negative evaluation of those who shift attitudinally. Journal of Applied Social Psychology , 9, 170-182.

Canary, D. J., Spitzberg, B. H., & Semic, B. A. (1998). The experience and expression of anger in interpersonal settings. In P. A. Andersen & L. K. Guerrero (Eds.), Handbook of communication and emotion: Research, theory, applications and contexts. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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

Van Dijk, W. W., & Van Harreveld, F. (2008). Disappointment and regret. In N. M.Ashkanasy & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Research companion to emotions in organizations (pp. 90-102). London: Edward Elgar Publishers.

Wubben, M. J., Cremer, D. D., & Dijk, E. V. (2009). How emotion communication guides reciprocity: Establishing cooperation through disappointment and anger. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 987-990.

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