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.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A 95p victory for asking

Recently, leaving it until the last minute as usual, I put an order in online for a few bits of makeup I was painfully at risk of running out of. I paid for delivery to my local parcel collection shop for the express reason that they reported that it would take up to three days. When five days passed, I lost my patience and sent them an email telling them their service was unsatisfactory and that I wanted them to refund me the delivery charge. Petty as it is, I was irritated and it seemed like a decent request at the time. Happily, just a few hours later, they obliged, and refunded me my hard earned 95p. 

I was inspired to make this request after learning about Clark and Hatfield’s study in which volunteers approached random members of the opposite sex and asked them to either go out with them tonight, come to their apartment, or sleep with them. As outrageous as this might seem to some people, the technique worked. There were gender differences in the compliance to each request (men were more like to agree to sleeping with a female [75% success rate] than going out to dinner [50% success rate]…) but the experiment proved that if you want something, asking is an efficient way to get it. 

However, despite the fact that simply asking can be an easy way to get what you want, people underestimate the power of asking. Flynn and Lake found that people overestimated the number of people that they would need to ask to fill out a short questionnaire by as much as 50%. . 

The power of simply asking has been proven in many different experiments, but also anecdotally. 
I have sent many a disgruntled email to sub-par online retailers before, grumbling about their service, receiving nothing but a half-formed apology in reply. But this time, when I expressly asked for my money back, they immediately complied.
So, next time you’re unhappy about something and feeling a bit tight, just ask for compensation. It’s more effective than you think. 


Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 2(1), 39-55.

Flynn, F. J., & Lake, V. K. (2008). If you need help, just ask: underestimating compliance with direct requests for help. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(1), 128.

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