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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Soap & Co-ersion

Any visit to a large shopping centre near Christmas will be accompanied with constantly being approached by people working at stands selling phone cases, beauty products or toys. A few months ago, me and my family were approached by a young man selling beauty products, who managed to convince my older brother to spend over £200 on products he hasn't touched since.

The salesman simply started by asking if we would be interested in taking some time to talk about his Soap & Co products. By verbally stating our interest, we were leading ourselves into the commitment trap, increasing our chance of being persuaded into purchasing the product (Wang and Katzev, 1990). We were offered free samples of some hand care products, with the salesman demonstrating the dramatic effects of the hand lotion on our skin. Using free samples to encourage sales is a frequently used sales technique. Pratkanis (2007) explains that this is due to the rule of reciprocity. My brother later explained to me that he would have felt rude if he wasted the salesman's time by taking the sample but not buying anything. 

Once my brother had agreed to buy one product, the worker was able to use the foot in the door technique to encourage more sales. Pratkanis (2007) explained this technique by describing how people can be asked to do a small task, in this case we tested out one product, in order to invoke a feeling of commitment when doing a second task, in this case we were asked if we would be interested in testing the whole range of products available. Once again, my brother felt like he couldn't say no, and so we spent a further 20 minutes discussing the different moisturisers, oils and exfoliators we could buy.

When he realised that the price of these high-end goods would quickly add up, it became obvious to us all that my sibling had lost interest. At this point, the sales assistant jumped into a speech about how much he liked us, telling us he would be willing to give us a ‘special price’ for being so friendly. This is a regularly used sales technique, persuasion increases if the salesman shows a liking towards the customer (Curtis and Miller, 1986). It is true that flattery will get you anywhere, because my brother left the stand with a brand new skincare routine and a sense of accomplishment, feeling like he had made a bargain.

In fact, a few weeks later, my brother bumped into the same salesman selling the products in a different shopping centre. The two both recognised each other and this was used to the seller's advantage. Research has shown that we are more easily persuaded by something or someone we are familiar with (Segal, 1974). This explains why my brother was still persuaded to spend more money, even though he had not touched the initial set of products. 

Although we often tease my brother for how easily he was manipulated into buying things he didn't want, it actually works in my favour because I now have a seemingly endless supply of beauty products that are perfect for last minute gifts for forgotten birthdays.


Curtis, R. C., & Miller, K. (1986). Believing another likes or dislikes you: Behaviors making the beliefs come true. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 284. 

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influences analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82. 

Segal, M. W. (1974). Alphabet and attraction: An unobtrusive measure of the effect of propinquity in a field setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 654.

Wang, T. H., & Katzev, R. D. (1990). Group commitment and resource conservation: Two field experiments on promoting recycling. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 265-275.

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