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.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

 Persuade him by email, but see her in person.

Most research into compliance and persuasion has been done offline through face to face interaction.  Yet, our generation is consumed by the internet, a large proportion of our lives is spent online- we communicate  through emails and social networking sites such as Facebook, we  create online profiles in the hopes of getting jobs (LinkedIn) or even more shockingly a date (, we shop online for books (Amazon), clothes(Asos) and cheap electronics (ebay), we follow our favorite celebrities on Twitter, we gain most of our information from online resources (Google), and the fact that I’m writing this blog as an assignment underscores the ubiquitous presence  and importance of the internet in our society.

Guadagno and Cialdini (2007) looked at social influence processes online through computer-mediated persuasive messages (Email) and the effect of gender and sense of self and other on this process. Previous research has shown that increase similarity can enhance compliance whereby if the requester merely dressed similar to a person compliance increased (Emswiller, Deux & Willits, 1971).

 In  Guadagno & Cialdini(2007) study participant’s attitude towards confederate’s argument was tested, the participant either encountered the person  in face to face condition or via email. A sense of ‘oneness’ with the confederate was manipulated by either being told after a personality test and a shape perception task ‘ Wow That’s unusual the chances of  two people in the population having profiles as similar as yours is less than 1%. You could be siblings” (high oneness) or ‘Wow that’s unusual the chances of two people in the population having profiles as dissimilar as you two is less than 1%” (low oneness), while the control group weren’t told anything. Participants were then ‘randomly’ assigned to be interviewers in a structured interviewer about a proposed change to academic policy (introduction of a comprehensive exam proposal as a new graduation requirement). Confederates were given structured answers that they had memorized for each of the questions the participant asked. The task was made personally relevant as participants were told if approved, they would have to take the comprehensive exams prior to graduation. Participant’s attitude towards the exam proposal was later measure using a scale. These results are shown in the figure 1 below.

Fig 1: Attitude toward the comprehensive exam by oneness, communication mode and gender.

The figure highlights a gender difference whereby email seemed to be significantly more effective especially in the low oneness group for males whereas for females face-to face interaction seemed to be significantly more persuasive especially in the none oneness group.

These results suggest email can facilitate open communication for men but may do the opposite for women: not only are women less open to persuasive messages in email when there is no prior relationship or sense of self-other overlap (low/none oneness), women report lower levels of liking for the communicator and less agreement with the message when interacting via email.  This is can be seen in the figure 2 below.

Fig 3: Communication mode by gender interaction on ratings of confederate congeniality.

The figure indicates that communication mode significantly affected women’s liking towards the confederate whereby they were liked significantly more in the face-to-face condition compared to email, whereas males there was no significant difference in liking between the two communication modes.

These results indicate that email maintains the effect of separation caused by low oneness, leading to low agreement among women (because of restricted cues for personal connection) but leading to high agreement among men (because of restricted cues for personal confrontation). Therefore, for men agreement via email is easy as there is no explicit sense of competition whereas for women it is important to create a personal connection in order elicits agreement (which is often quite hard to create in an online setting). However, it is important to note that this occurred in same-sex pairs of confederate and participants but results may differ in different-sex pairs as men and women usually tend to act in a less-steroetype manner in such cases (Carli, 1989).

Carli, L.L. (1989). Gender differences in interaction style and influence, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, I565-576.

Emswiller, T., Deuz, K., & Willits,J.E. (1971). Similarity, sex and request for small favors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1, 284-291.

Guadagno, R. E., & Cialdini, R.B. (2007).  Persuade him by email, but see her in email: Online persuasion revsited, Computers in Human Behaviour, 23, 999-1015.

Tashya De Silva (Blog 3)

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