The psychology of "free" and why it works Is a free stress test really free. The psychology behind giving something for "free". This article is about Krishnas giving people a "free" flower as a way to exploit the social norms of reciprocity. This article should be of intrest to people looking into how Scientology works on the individual when they offer a "free" Stress Test. -------------------------------------- Chapter 26. page 178-183 of The Age Of Propaganda(Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuaion) By Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson WHAT IS THE INFLUENCE OF ONE FLOWER GIVEN? A. C. Bhaktivedanta spent much of his life in India as a manager of a successful pharmaceutical company. In the early 1960s, after leaving his wife and family and accepting the name of Swami Prabhupada, he came to America and founded the International society for Krishna Consciousness, a movement devoted to improving the world's spiritual health by chants and love for Lord Krishna. Starting from a storefront mission on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the swami, in less than a decade, was able to gather the resources to establish a worldwide network of more than a hundred Hare Krishna temples and communes, including forty located in the United States. Swami Prabhupada's primary source of income during this period of rapid expansion came from public donations and sales of religious merchandise, including his two most popular items, Back to Godhead magazine and a designer edition of the Bhagavad Gita. What makes the Hare Krishna's success so remarkable was the sales force the swami recruited to sell the society's merchandise. The swami selected young people-often teenagers, many of them with psychological problems-dressed them in saffron robes, holy beads, and B. F. Goodrich sandals, shaved the heads of the males, fed them a diet consisting primarily of vegetables (most notably dahl and chickpeas), and then sent them into the marketplace singing, dancing, and chanting the Hare Krishna. Would you buy a copy of the Bhagavad Gita (or anything else, for that matter) from a chanting, orange-clad, stubble-headed sales agent? Not likely. The Hare Krishna sales force breaks just about every persuasion rule (save one) found in this book-they were low in source credibility, low in interpersonal attraction and liking, and high in vested self- interest. How did the swami get thousands of people to part with their hard-earned cash to finance his spiritual kingdom? Robert Cialdini, one of the world's leading authorities on influence tactics, wondered how he did it, too. At first, Cialdini notes, the Hare Krishnas were quite unsuccessful in their solicitations. Indeed, many towns enacted laws and ordinances prohibiting Krishna begging and even banned them from certain parts of town, especially airports. Occasionally violence would erupt between Krishnas and townspeople. All of this turned around, according to Cialdini, when the Krishnas discovered one of society's most effective persuasion devices, one capable both of overcoming the Krishnas' negative image and of placing of an overpriced copy of the Bhagavad Gita into the hands of many a weary traveler. Their technique made use of what is called the norm of reciprocity. A norm is a specific guide to conduct-for example, tip 15% of the dinner bill; don't cut in front of people standing in line at the movies; don't urinate in public; don't read other people's mail. If we break a norn, we most likely receive some form of social sanction and disapproval - a glaring look, gossip and ridicule, shunning and ostracism, and sometimes even physical punishment, jail, banishment, or death. (Note the reaction of some people to the Krishnas because they broke society's dress and social interaction norms.) As a consequence of these sanctions, even a young child begins to learn not to break the norms. Indeed, when put in a position of transgressing a norm, we often feel highly anxious - a feeling that we would like to avoid. We may end up obeying the norm almost automatically without much thought as to why. Often norms can be associated with a specific role (cooking is women's work; businessmen are competitive) or a specific culture (eat with a fork [as opposed to chopsticks]; don't goldbrick [overproduce] in this workshop). Other norms are widely shared and appear in many cultures and societies (incest is taboo; honor your commitments). The norm of reciprocity is one such norm. It states: "If I do something for you, then you are obligated to retum the favor and do something for me." Perhaps one reason why this norm is found in so many cultures is its value to a society. The norm of reciprocity regulates exchange in a culture; it insures that the person who makes the first exchange will not be cheated. A study by Dennis Regan illustrates the persuasive power of the norm of reciprocity-a tactic so powerful that it can overcome the effects of being disliked. In his experiment, two male students reported for a study that supposedly was investigating "aesthetic judgments." One of the men was really an accomplice who, at the beginning of the study, attempted to make himself unlikable (by being rude and inconsiderate to another person) or likable (by being kind and considerate to another). After both "subjects" rated art slides for about five minutes, the accomplice slipped out of the room for a couple of minutes and returned either empty-handed or carrying two cokes and said, "I asked him [the experimenter] if I could get myself a Coke, and he said it was OK, so I bought one for you, too." At the end of the study, the accomplice asked the real subject if he would like to buy some raffle tickets. The results showed that when the accomplice gave the other student a Coke and thus invoked the norm of reciprocity, he sold nearly twice as many raffle tickets, compared to when no Coke was given and regardless of how socially attractive he was perceived to be! How did the Krishnas use the norm of reciprocity to solicit money? Quite simply, they gave the influence target a gift of a flower. As Cialdini, who spent hours at the airport observing the Krishnas in action, tells it, the sect member would spy a "victim," who would suddenly find a flower pressed into his or her hand or pinned to a jacket. If the target attempted to give it back, the Krishna would refuse by saying, "It is our gift to you." Only then was the request made for a donation. The gift of a flower established a feeling of obligation and indebtedness. How could this favor be repaid? Quite obviously by providing the Society with a donation or with the purchase of an attractive edition of the Bhagavad Gita. Hare Krishnas are not the only ones to employ the norm of reciprocity for persuasive purposes. This may have started on a mass scale with the well-known "Fuller-brushman," a fixture of the 1930s who went from door to door selling brushes. He always began by giving the home owner a small inexpensive brush as a way to establish the reciprocity norm. A phenomenon of the 1950s, Tupperware parties, began with a gift from the company (typically a small Tupperware item) and a gift from the party host (refresh- ments), thereby obligating the party goer to both company and host (who receives a gift from the company if you and your friends buy enough). A recent television ad for an antacid began with an authoritative looking man stating, "We believe in our product so much, that, after watching this ad, if you would like to try our product just call us toll-free and we will send you a pack." Marketers know that a free sample - a taste of sausage or orange juice at the supermarket or a trial packet of cold medicine or shampoo in the mail - can greatly increase product sales. Sales presentations for such things as vacuum cleaners, automobiles, encyclopedias, and beachfront property in Florida often begin with a free prize,such as a road atlas, a transistor radio, or a trial magazine subscription. Charities and political parties frequently mail free gifts of buttons and bumper stickers with catchy slogans when they ask for a contribution. Many university professors will receive a free copy of this book in the hopes that they will assign it to their classes. One ingenious variation in the use of the norm of reciprocity occurs in negotiations and has been dubbed the door-in-the-face technique. Here's how it works. Imagine that you worked for a local blood bank and you wanted to increase blood donations. Using the door-in-the-face technique, you would begin by asking for a very extreme favor - say, donate blood once every two months for at least three years. Such a request would surely be rejected (hence the name "door-in-the-face") but might lead to more acceptances of a compromise - say, donating one unit of blood - than would otherwise be the case. This is exactly what Robert Cialdini and Karen Ascani found. In one study, they asked passersby on a University of Arizona walkway to either (1) donate a unit of blood sometime tomorrow or (2) donate a unit of blood once every two months for a period of three years and, when this request was rejected by the passerby, to merely donate a unit of blood sometime tomorrow. The results showed that more people agreed to give blood and actually gave more blood when they received the extreme request first. The door-in-the-face technique makes use of two basic psychological processes. First, the large request sets up a contrast effect, similar to the one that occurs with decoys (see Chapter 9) - giving a pint of blood doesn't seem nearly so bad when compared to donating at regular intervals for the next three years. Second, the immediate concession by the requester invokes the norm of reciprocity. The requester is implicitly saying, "I just reduced my request from three years of blood donations to just once; now it is your tum to reciprocate my concession." And many an influence target does just that! Car dealers have learned the value of the door-in-the-face tech- nique. Dealers often pad the asking price for an automobile by adding an extra price sticker that raises the price of a car by as much as a few thousand dollars. Early in the negotiations, the dealer will graciously concede this extra charge. Now it is your turn to reciprocate and to pay more for that car. In general, the norm of reciprocity is successful as a persuasion device because it directs our thoughts and carries its own motivation to act on those thoughts. We are directed to think "How can I repay my obligation?" as opposed to "Is this a good deal?" Our primary motivation is to avoid the uneasy feeling that comes from transgressing the norm. End of Chapter ------------------------------------ Is this one reason why Scienologists offer "free" stress tests.