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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bargaining lesson from The Big Bang Theory!

I love watching The Big Bang Theory.  The reason is that it combines different scientific elements into different episodes, making every episode very hilarious.  The geeky conversations between the characters never fail to brighten up my gloomy days and help me relax a bit from the busy work from school. When we were asked to find examples of negotiation techniques from movies or TV series as one of the blogs topics, I immediately though of The Big Bang Theory, as I always think that there must be something that we can get out of and learn from each episode.

YES, same as what I thought before, there was really a negotiating scene in The Big Bang Theory, which was in the opening of Season 5, episode 5!  I was about the 2 main characters, Leonard and Sheldon, buying a sword for their own sword collection.  A negotiating situation occurred between the seller and Leonard.  The seller at first started with the price of 250 dollars and Leonard ended up paying 210 dollars for the sword.  So, what are the techniques used in this situation? Here is a brief analysis.

The first thing Leonard did was not showing his own feeling towards the sword by saying the sword was only quite good to him.  This will prevent the seller from predicting the amount of money that he would be willing to pay for.  Then, Leonard tried to ask the price that the seller would accept.  Asking question is very important in the process of negotiation as it could allow the negotiating parties know more about the reservation price of both sides.  The difference between the 2 reservation prices is called the ‘Zone of Possible Agreement’ and then the 2 parties would search within this ‘zone’ to find the best outcome.

After knowing the price that the seller desired, which was $250, Leonard counter-offered the price of $200, which was extremely low to the seller.  This is called the ‘Door-in-the-face’ technique.  The basic idea of this technique is that one would propose an extreme offer and then, the other party would counter-offer with the aim of gaining reciprocal concessions.  Leonard stood very firm for the price of $200 and was hoping to get reciprocal concessions from the seller.  The seller gradually dropped the price from $250 to $235, then to $225, and at last $210.  Although this may not be the best price for Leonard, this already has achieved he goal of bargaining for a lower price, in which he got $40 off from the original price.  Therefore, a deal was made.  The Door-in-the-face technique has proved to be effective and empirical evidence could be found from the study done by Benton and colleagues (1972).  Result of this study found that it was more effective in bargaining when participants were offered initial extreme demands and reduced it when necessary in the later times.  Participants whom encountered this technique also felt more satisfied with the outcomes.

This is a really good lesson and technique learnt from The Big Bang Theory and it is very applicable to our daily life. Everyone should definitely try that out when you have the chance to bargain, for example, shopping in small shops or stalls that price was not shown for every product.  Maybe you can bargain a bit and get surprise discounts at the end!


Benton, A. A., Kelley, H. H., & Liebling, B. (1972) Effects of extremity of offers and concession rate on the outcomes of bargaining. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 73-83

Chermaine Chan Kei Fong - Blog 5

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