# of Tactics?
Here's a great experiment that
Ellen Langer conducted the following brilliant, fascinating
study. She conspired with her university librarian to shut down
all but one of the photocopy machines in a busy wing of the library.
This quickly resulted in a long line behind the single operating
photocopy machine. Over the course of several days, Langer had
confederates approach a person at the front of the line with
a request to "cut" in line. The confederate's request
was carefully worded in three different ways. In the first condition,
the confederate said, "Excuse me, may I use the Xerox machine,
because I'm late to class?" The form of this question, request
+ reason, resulted in a 94% compliance rate. In the second condition,
a confederate asked, "Excuse me, may I use the Xerox machine?"
The structure of this question, a request followed by no supporting
reason, resulted in a much lower compliance rate of only 60%.
No surprises so far, right? You'd expect a person who gave
a reason would get more help. Consider the various styles of
panhandlers you've encountered. Were you more likely to help
the fellow who said, "Hey buddy, gimme a dollar so I can
buy a burger" or the one who said, simply, "Hey buddy,
gimme a dollar?"
|| But this obvious conclusion wasn't what
Langer was after. In order to demonstrate the truly mindless
manner in which people operate, she added a third form of the
request to the confederate's repertoire: "Excuse me, may
I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make some copies?"
What? "...because I have to make some copies?!" What
kind of dumb reason is that? Why else would a person be at the
copy machine if it weren't to make copies? But this bogus request
matches the pattern of a legitimate request. And the response
from the target is automatic. In this condition, the confederate
gained compliance 93% of the time, just 1% less than with the
Heuristics are shortcuts for thinking. They are ways we can get
out of a lot of thought, by employing only a very little. So,
if you are going to spend your valuable, limited cognitive resources
understanding either central or peripheral routes to persuasion,
which would you choose? You'd want to learn about heuristics,
of course, since people operate in an "idling" mode
most of the time. In fact, my classes on persuasion contain many
influence tactics that will work effeciently only when the prospect
is in an idling, "heuristic" frame of mind.
To study these, you'd want is a good list of tactics. At this
point, you're probably thinking . . . someone needs to make a
comprehensive list of tactics
that tells the practitioner when to use which tactics. That's
a good start. I've been thinking the same
thing since the mid 1990s.
Copyright © 1997 by Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
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