Girls, consider this. You’re at a bar with your friends and a guy comes over and offers to buy you a drink. Let’s say you graciously accept the drink.
Now ask yourself this. Does he appear to be nicer because he bought you a drink?
Do you feel he has an ulterior motive for doing so? Has he suddenly become more physically attractive by presenting you alcohol? If he were to ask you on a date, would you feel obliged to say yes?
What’s that I hear you say? You’re not sure? Well then, it’s a good thing that Hendrickson and Goei (2009) have conducted a study that aims to answer those exact questions.
The effects of reciprocity on compliance have been found to be robust in research (Cialdini, 2009), yet understanding the reasons behind the effect lacks investigation. It’s important to understand the impact of favours on compliance as by learning how we are impacted by them can help design more effective compliance-seeking messages. Much of the research that looks at the potential mediators of the reciprocity effect has been conducted using laboratory studies, whose findings often cannot be applied to real life situations (Hendrickson & Goei, 2009). So Hendrickson and Goei decided to design a study based around a common social interaction - asking for a date.
Rather than actually putting pressure on participants to ask someone on a date (as this probably wouldn’t get past ethics), they had participants watch a video that either showed a man buying a drink for a woman and then asking her on a date, or a man simply asking for a date without buying the woman a drink. They also manipulated the socioeconomic status of the man, where some participants saw the man was a doctor (high SES) whilst others saw him as a janitor (low SES). They then gave participants a survey that asked them to report how the woman in the video felt in relation to five dependent variables: indebtedness, liking, physical attraction, gratitude, perceived ulterior motives and compliance. For example, a question on liking would be “Is Tanya (the woman in the video) interested in Matt (the man in the video) as a person?”
The table below summarises the means of the dependent measurements in the context of conditions. The authors found that the act of offering a favour, which in this case was buying a drink, had different effects depending on whether the man was of high SES or low SES. If the man was of low SES, buying the woman a drink was perceived by participants to increase gratitude, physical attractiveness and compliance in the woman. However, if the man was of high SES, there was no significant difference between giving a favour and not giving a favour for any of the dependent measurements.
They went on to further analyse their findings to reveal that gratitude, liking and physical attraction have a significant positive effect on compliance, whilst indebtedness and perceived ulterior motives do not.
So overall, if someone does us a favour, we’re more likely to feel positively towards them rather than feel indebted or be wary of any ulterior motives. Also if a guy is poor and has a low status job, we will appreciate the drink he buys us more because his limited resources means it is more of a sacrifice, than if it were a doctor buying you a drink.
So to those guys out there, who perhaps are struggling financially, buy the girl a drink.
She’ll appreciate you more if you do and you’re more likely to get a date.
And if you’re rich and have a got a high powered job, apparently you’re better off saving your money on drinks and just asking a girl on a date.
She’ll probably say yes anyway.
By Daniela Mackie
Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence. HarperCollins.
Hendrickson, B., & Goei, R. (2009). Reciprocity and Dating Explaining the Effects of Favor and Status on Compliance With a Date Request. Communication Research, 36(4), 585-608.