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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Car Salesmen- You auto know better.

It has been over three years that I have possessed my beautiful pink driving licence, but I have not had my own car. It seemed pointless to have one while I was at university and let’s face it, most of us can barely afford to keep a car up and running while we are students!  So I decided to be patient – after all good things come to those who wait, no? So when my parents suggested I get a car for my post-grad course I was ecstatic at the realisation that I would be the proud owner of a decent auto-mobile and be able to hit the roads once more after a few much needed refresher lessons... the last time I attempted to drive after two years I almost got my boyfriend’s car stuck in a muddy ditch while reversing on the edge of a cliff (yes, it was as bad as it sounds).

So ultimately I found myself filled with dread standing in front of a car salesman, but somewhat well equipped with knowledge of the persuasive techniques used by profiteers and feeling pretty car-savvy. It didn’t surprise me that conveniently right by the entrance were all the brand spanking-new cars, all shiny and high-tech, which you had to walk through to even get a glimpse of the second-hand cars.  As to be expected, the salesman suggested that I try out their new range of cars to get a “feel of the size and quality of the car” to have a comparison point.  Of course the top of the range car was glorious, but sporting my Warwick University jumper, there was no doubt he knew I was a student and wouldn’t be able to afford it. So why did he persuade me look at the expensive flashy car that was so far out of my reach?

The rejection then retreat technique is where someone asks you for a large request in order to make you more likely to accept a smaller request – in this case, Mr Car Salesman had shown me a beautiful expensive car and then showed me a second-hand, yet still good quality car for a much more affordable price (but still on the pricey side).  Cialdini et al. (1975) demonstrated the power of this effect in three experiments and found that in every instance there was more compliance with the smaller favour after being asked a larger favour than when being asked a smaller favour alone. By showing me an expensive, pretty looking car and then a pretty looking car that wasn’t so expensive, the salesman made the second car look a lot more attractive and a better deal, setting up a contrast.  The second hand car looked far more appealing now…but the price still wasn’t what I was looking for. 

On top of this, the salesman pushed me further with time pressure, stating that the cars were usually sold within 5 days of being brought into the shop.  In a meta-analysis study it was found that time pressure was more likely to improve negotiator concessions, cooperation and make agreements more likely (Stuhlmacher, Gillespie & Champagne, 1998).  Despite the fact I knew this probably was not true, I found that it did make me want the car that much more. Cunning.

While I was inspecting the car looking for ways to perhaps knock off a chunk of the price, he began chatting away more casually, saying how he went to University too and was about to have a week off work after not having a day off in 4 weeks. Anyone without knowledge of persuasive techniques would say that he was just being friendly and chatty – but I couldn’t help but notice how convenient it was to be friendly as I was inspecting the car for damage! This is known as the liking principle – studies show that people are more likely to agree to a request if they like the person they are dealing with (Morgan & Bergeron, 2007).  I’m not going to lie – despite my conscience telling me that he was sweet-talking me to encourage me to accept an offer, it did make me feel a likability towards him. With all we have learnt about persuasion tactics, you sometimes forget that these profiteers are human too.

I could discuss negotiation techniques forever in this blog, but thankfully in the end Mr Car Salesman did actually make me a sweet offer after a lot of stubbornness from me. But I am certain that if it wasn’t for Nic’s module and learning about persuasion tactics I would have spent a lot more money on the car – so thank you Nic Hooper. Roxanne, my red Vauxhall Corsa, will be tearing the streets of Coventry apart from September 2014!

Rachel Stirling - Blog 5

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 206-215.

Morgan, T., & Bergeron, A. (2007). The effect of teach likability on student compliance. Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research, 2, 54-56.

Stuhlmacher, A. F., Gillespie, T. L., & Champagne, M. V. (1998). The impact of time pressure in negotiation: A meta-analysis. The International Journal of Conflict Management. 9, 97-116. 

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