Imagine you are approached one day by someone introducing themselves as a local youth centre worker. They want to persuade you to become a volunteer. In fact, they have a specific task in mind: “Would you be willing to escort a group of children on a trip o the zoo this weekend?”.
You politely decline, thinking that the youth centre has it's work cut out persuading people to sign up to such a scheme. And you would be right. Only a few people were willing to say 'Yes' to such a request.
But the next day the youth centre is able to triple its success rate by making one small change. Remarkably this change costs nothing to implement.
“Would you be willing to become a counselor at the centre?” people are asked. The representative the goes on to explain that this would involve two hours of their time every weekend on a programme that lasted three years! No surprise when everyone refuses. But immediately after they do, they are asked, “Well, if you can't do that would you at least go on a zoo trip with some kids this weekend?” The result? A 300 per cent increase in people who say 'Yes'.
This zoo trip appeal was, in fact, part of a study carried out by persuasion researchers keen to understand how people respond to concessions. What this study, and others like it, have found is that we are more likely to say 'Yes' to smaller requests immediately after we have said 'No' to larger ones. One reason is that people feel more psychologically obligated to give concession to those who have given them a concession first.
Children seem to intuitively know this. When they want the mommy to buy them a kitten they know to always ask for a horse first!
Posted in: Debate
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