This persuasive technique involves limiting and controlling the number of choices a person can make. In particular, giving someone the favoured option, along with an ‘unwanted stinker’, induces them to select the option you wanted them to. Vidmar (1972) provides a legal example of this tactic. In the study, mock jurors were asked to read a description of an attempted robbery and consequent killing of a store owner. Participants were asked to return a verdict on the defendant’s guilt under one of seven conditions (plus a no-decision control group), which varied the number and severity of the decision alternatives. For example, in condition 1, jurors were given the options of guilty of first-degree murder or not guilty. Whereas, in condition 7, there was a choice between guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or not guilty.
The results, as shown in table 1, show that over half (54%) of the participants chose ‘not guilty’ when faced only with a severe penalty option. In comparison, the chosen verdict of ‘not guilty’ only had an average of 6% across conditions 2 to 7. This emphasises the idea that people can be induced to select an option, when the alternative choice is a really bad one.
In relation to the conversation above, Sophie was induced into selecting a certain option. Sophie's mother persuaded Sophie to accept the earlier lift, as this would avoid the 'unwanted stinker' of having to leave even earlier and get on the bus to school.
Vidmar, N. (1972). Effects of decision alternatives on the verdicts and social perceptions of simulated jurors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22.2, 211-218.