Sunday, January 30, 2011

[Script] Psychology of Belief Part 5: Compliance Techniques

NOTE:  Full video can be viewed here.


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[Begin with Ray Comfort clip(s) getting a guy to admit that he is a murderer]

If I were to ask you directly, “are you a murderer at heart?” what would your answer be?  And how would your answer be affected by the mere virtue that somewhere, sometime in your life, you once felt anger towards another human being?  Does that actually make you a genuine murderer?  No, of course it doesn’t!  The very idea is absurd beyond all reason.  So what is it about this conversation that compels a man to happily agree to the accusation of murder?

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING EXPERIMENT [1]:

Suppose next Monday morning you receive a phone call from a man claiming to represent an organization called the “California Consumers’ Group.”  The reason this man is calling is because he would like to know if you are willing to participate in a survey regarding the various household products you use daily.  All he needs is 2 hours of your time and free access to your home, while a group of, say, 5-6 men rummage through your stuff and take inventory.

Now obviously, this is a wildly intrusive request, so it is no wonder that only 22 % of the subjects agreed to take part in the survey.

Now let’s shake things up a bit…

Suppose that instead of rummaging through your stuff, the surveyor wants to know if you would be willing to answer a few basic questions over the phone about which brands of soap you use to clean your kitchen.  That’s not so bad, right?  Answer a few questions, thank you for your time, and you’re done. 

Three days later, the gentleman contacts you again and asks you to take another survey.  All he needs is 2 hours of your time and free access to your home, while a group of, say, 5-6 men rummage through your stuff and take inventory.

In all respects, this is exactly the same unreasonable request as before.  The only difference is that it has now been pre-conditioned by an agreement three days prior to answer eight mundane questions about soap.  Surely, such a flimsy pretext would have no affect on compliance, right?

WRONG…

The mere act of securing a minor agreement more than DOUBLED the success rate [53 %] for the intrusive request.  This is the basis for what is called the “Foot in the Door” technique.  The probability of generating compliance with any request is greatly increased when agreement is first secured to a much smaller commitment.
[Show Ray Comfort again.  Give play by play captions as he secures the minor agreement before pulling the intrusive agreement to “murder”]

Now let’s examine another experiment [2]:

Suppose you are a freshman student in psychology 101.  As part of an extra credit assignment, you are invited to take part in an experiment on “thinking processes.”  All you have to do is show up at the perfectly reasonable hour of 7am on a school day.  Piece of cake, right?

No, of course not!  Very rarely is any college student going to drag himself out of bed at 7am just for a few measly extra credit points; so it is no surprise that only 24% of the students actually complied. 

Now let’s shake things up a bit…

Rather than be frank about the unreasonable hour, suppose we first secure a verbal agreement to participate in the extra credit work before bringing up the 7am time frame.  Again, in all respects, this is exactly the same request as before, but with a minor rearrangement in when information is given.  Surely, such a minor detail would not elicit greater compliance to a 7am experiment, would it?

WRONG!

By waiting until after a verbal agreement has been reached, compliance with the 7am time frame nearly doubled to 53 %.  This is the basis for a technique known as “low-balling.”  The probability of generating compliance with a request may be dramatically increased simply by waiting until after an agreement has been reached before revealing the hidden cost.

Let’s do another one.  Consider yet another experiment [3]:

Suppose you are at a bake sale and stumble across the following offer:  One cupcake and two cookies for the low-low price of $0.75.  Sounds like a real bargain, right?  So it is no surprise that 40 % of control subjects took the deal.  Yummy!

Now let’s shake things up a bit.

Suppose you come across the following offer: One cupcake for $0.75.  No, wait.  Hang on a second… My mistake, that’s supposed to be one cupcake and two cookies for $0.75.

Once again, this is exactly the same offer.  The only difference is that I have artificially inflated the value of the offer by starting with the cupcake alone, and then adding the cookies to it.  Surely, no one is stupid enough to fall for such a cheesy ploy, are they?

By now, you probably see what’s coming.  By simply offering the cookies on top of the cupcake, 73 % of subjects took the offer.  This is the basis for what is known as the “That’s-not-all” technique (TNA), where the probability of compliance is greatly increased simply by artificially inflating the apparent value of the offer.

At this point, one painful fact should start feeling very apparent.  Namely, PEOPLE… ARE… SUCKERS.  And I’m not just talking about kids and old ladies here.  This applies to everyone.  You, me, your neighbors, your friends, your family, everyone.  All of us are suckers to varying degrees.  Worse yet, these techniques are just a tiny sampling of the various methods by which people can manipulate the compliance of their fellow human beings. Anyone who would knowingly employ such tactics is nothing more than a marketer trying to sell something.

So how does such research apply to matters of faith?  Is this the kind of man sharing valuable knowledge with an evidentiary basis in reality?  Or is this man nothing more than a clever salesman attempting to generate belief through methods that are well-known for their power to instill compliance?  And what does this all say about this poor dope right here? [show street patsy].  Is this guy being won over by the power of the Holy Inspired Word?  Or is he just another patsy falling victim to textbook psychological manipulation?


[References]
  1. Freedman, J. L. and Fraser, S. C., "Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 4, No. 2, 155-202 (1966)
  2. Cialdani, R. B., Bassett, R., Cacioppo, J. T., and Miller, J. A., "Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: commitment then cost," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 36, No. 5, 463-476 (1978)
  3. Burger, J. M., "Increasing compliance by improving the deal: the that's-not-all technique," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 51, No. 2, 277-283 (1986)

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

What a great thing for the early Church that it did not use the techniques of Ray Comfort, then!

Or at least not overuse them.

But if someone with some Christian background admits to being a murderer at heart, it is usually not a fruit of compliance technique, it is usually a Christian meme which Ray Comfort can use for such.

See Matthew 5-7, which says even interior anger is involves the guilt of murder and even interior lust (after someone's wife) involves the guilt of adultery.

So, the case you took was a poor example.