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Dr. Bortrum

 

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03/27/2001

Please Do Not Send Money

After all the money spent on my trip to Florida and with the
deplorable state of the stock market, my finances are depleted
and I certainly could use some cash. It occurs to me that you,
most kind and understanding reader, are no doubt wondering
how you can help restore my financial health. I certainly am
willing to accept your contribution and suggest that you send
$100. Of course, any larger amount will be helpful. You can
rest assured that the money will be put to good use, probably for
next year''s trip to Florida.

Hopefully, you''ve been totally turned off by the preceding
paragraph. If not, you need help! And I''ve found just the source
to provide that help. It was in the same February Scientific
American that provided material for a couple earlier columns.
I''m referring to an article by Robert Cialdini. This article offers
valuable scientific information on how to deal with a problem
that most of us face every day. Cialdini is Regents'' Professor of
Psychology at Arizona State University, president of the Society
of Personality and Social Psychology and the author of the book
"Influence", which has appeared in a number of editions and has
been published in 9 languages. (It''s just a coincidence that Dr.
Pepperberg, a subject of last week''s column, was from the
University of Arizona.)

This guy Cialdini really sounds like an authority to me, how
about you? You want to know in what field he''s an authority? I
should have mentioned the title of the Scientific American
article, "The Science of Persuasion". The nub of the article is
how to obtain (or resist) "compliance with a request". In other
words, if you''re the one doing the requesting of someone, how do
you persuade him or her to say yes? If you''re the subject of a
request by those cold callers at dinnertime, do you recognize the
ploys used to influence your response? And, do you recognize
your visceral responses to these ploys that can make you say yes
against your better judgment?

As a chemist with some background in math and physics, I''m
often skeptical of what passes for science in the "softer" sciences
such as psychology. However, the statistics cited by Cialdini are
impressive and I find that in the past I have exhibited some of the
same behaviors described in his article. Take, for example, the
concept of "reciprocation" and the Disabled American Veterans
(DAV). Over the years I must have received at least 50 to 100
requests for donations from the DAV. While I''m sympathetic to
veterans'' organizations, I have responded with a contribution to
only a fraction of the solicitations from the DAV. However,
sometimes the requests contain a set of mailing labels that save
me having to write my address on each envelope I mail. In
return for this unsolicited convenience, I feel as though I should
probably "reciprocate" this gift with a donation. According to
Cialdini, when the DAV simply sends out requests for donations,
the response is some 18 percent. When address labels are
included, the response is 35 percent, twice as many donations!
Cialdini attributes this to an essential rule of human conduct - the
code of reciprocity. This code boils down to the idea that if you
receive a gift, you feel obligated, at least to some degree, to
repay the giver in some form or other.

Bargaining can be a form of reciprocity in that when you go to
the car dealer, the salesperson quotes you a price. It''s too high
and you suggest a much lower amount. The salesperson
responds by "giving" you a lower figure; this "gift" leads you to
give back something yourself and you come up somewhere in
between the two figures. Cialdini cites an experiment he and his
colleagues performed in which a random sample of passersby
were asked if they would agree to spend a day chaperoning
juvenile detention inmates on a visit to the zoo. "Only" 17
percent of those questioned responded positively. (It wasn''t clear
whether this experiment was carried out in Arizona, but I was
surprised so many accepted. I strongly doubt the percentage
would have been as high in our metropolitan New York area.)
Now throw in a concession or "gift". In another experiment, the
passersby were asked first if they would volunteer as counselors
at the detention center two hours a week for two years. Nobody
accepted. Then the gift - since they couldn''t commit to the 2-
year proposition, would they agree to chaperone a group of
inmates on a day trip to the zoo? Now 50 percent said yes, 3
times as many as in the first experiment!

So much for reciprocity. Cialdini claims another powerful
motivating force is "consistency", the inherent desire to behave
in a consistent fashion. He cites the problem encountered by the
owner of a Chicago restaurant owner a few years ago. This
problem is a common one today, the failure of patrons to show
for their reservation without notifying the restaurant. This
particular restaurant was having a no-show rate of 30 percent.
The restaurant''s receptionist had been telling those making
reservations, "Please call if you have to change your plans." The
owner was a pretty savvy guy and had her change to "Will you
please call if you have to change your plans?" She then paused
and waited for a positive commitment from the customer. Right
away, the no-show rate dropped a factor of 3, down from 30 to
10 percent. The customer''s "public" commitment makes him or
her more inclined to call in order to exhibit consistent behavior.

"Social validation" is another motivating factor than can
influence your behavior. Have you had a fund-raiser come to
your door with a list of your neighbors who have already
contributed to the cause of the day? I have, and like most people,
am more likely to contribute the longer that list. If I''m walking
on the street in Manhattan and one person is looking skyward, I''ll
not likely join in, nor will many others. But plant 15 people
looking up and 40 percent will also look up, as found in an
experiment in the 1960s. This crowd-following or social
validation is used in ads and commercials all the time; 4 out of 5
doctors prescribe Brand X.

I''ve already tried hooking you in this column with another
motivator -the appeal to "authority". My authority is, of course,
Cialdini. The "4 out of 5 doctors" bit combines authority with
social acceptance. The advertising community has found that we
are even susceptible to the appearance of authority; witness the
use of white-coated actors, not real physicians, making the pitch
for a particular drug. This authority pitch can be more subtle.
Cialdini cites an experiment carried out by University of Texas
investigators. They dressed a man in casual clothes and had him,
I imagine repeatedly, cross a street against the light. They
counted the number of pedestrians who followed his lead. They
then dressed the same man in a suit and tie and repeated the
experiment. Over 3 times as many crossed the street as when he
was dressed casually! The conclusion is that the more formal
attire gives him the appearance of one who knows what he is
about, an authority figure.

Finally, you''re more likely to say yes to a request from someone
you like or with whom you can identify. Cialdini gives as an
example the Tupperware party where you know your host and
buy from her or him directly or indirectly. If the requester isn''t a
friend, a manufactured association or flattery are good ploys to
establish a kinship of sorts. The auto salesman can cast himself
in the role of doing battle for you against the "evil" sales
manager. Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the
University of Denver collaborated in a study of soliciting for a
charity on a college campus. Contributions were more than
double when the solicitor added the statement "I''m a student,
too."

I hope that all this information based on an article by a true
authority, Professor Cialdini, has convinced you not to respond
to my blatantly unjustified opening appeal for funds. If not, rest
assured that the overwhelming majority of readers will not send
money. Indeed you would be the only one! You should make a
commitment right now - "I will not send money to Bortrum."
Then be consistent. You should also not consider me to be your
friend - we''ve never met! I have not given you any gift that you
should feel obliged to reciprocate.

Oh, I forgot to mention the motivator "scarcity". Witness the
recent demand for Play Station or earlier, the cabbage patch doll.
Manufactured scarcity can drive the demand to extreme levels
and increase the price an eager customer will pay. Scalping
World Series or Superbowl tickets are prime examples. I can
assure you, my most generous reader, that there is no scarcity of
truly worthy causes to which you can donate.

If all this still has not convinced you to keep your money, I give
up. You really, really need help!

Allen f. Bortrum



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-03/27/2001-      
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Dr. Bortrum

03/27/2001

Please Do Not Send Money

After all the money spent on my trip to Florida and with the
deplorable state of the stock market, my finances are depleted
and I certainly could use some cash. It occurs to me that you,
most kind and understanding reader, are no doubt wondering
how you can help restore my financial health. I certainly am
willing to accept your contribution and suggest that you send
$100. Of course, any larger amount will be helpful. You can
rest assured that the money will be put to good use, probably for
next year''s trip to Florida.

Hopefully, you''ve been totally turned off by the preceding
paragraph. If not, you need help! And I''ve found just the source
to provide that help. It was in the same February Scientific
American that provided material for a couple earlier columns.
I''m referring to an article by Robert Cialdini. This article offers
valuable scientific information on how to deal with a problem
that most of us face every day. Cialdini is Regents'' Professor of
Psychology at Arizona State University, president of the Society
of Personality and Social Psychology and the author of the book
"Influence", which has appeared in a number of editions and has
been published in 9 languages. (It''s just a coincidence that Dr.
Pepperberg, a subject of last week''s column, was from the
University of Arizona.)

This guy Cialdini really sounds like an authority to me, how
about you? You want to know in what field he''s an authority? I
should have mentioned the title of the Scientific American
article, "The Science of Persuasion". The nub of the article is
how to obtain (or resist) "compliance with a request". In other
words, if you''re the one doing the requesting of someone, how do
you persuade him or her to say yes? If you''re the subject of a
request by those cold callers at dinnertime, do you recognize the
ploys used to influence your response? And, do you recognize
your visceral responses to these ploys that can make you say yes
against your better judgment?

As a chemist with some background in math and physics, I''m
often skeptical of what passes for science in the "softer" sciences
such as psychology. However, the statistics cited by Cialdini are
impressive and I find that in the past I have exhibited some of the
same behaviors described in his article. Take, for example, the
concept of "reciprocation" and the Disabled American Veterans
(DAV). Over the years I must have received at least 50 to 100
requests for donations from the DAV. While I''m sympathetic to
veterans'' organizations, I have responded with a contribution to
only a fraction of the solicitations from the DAV. However,
sometimes the requests contain a set of mailing labels that save
me having to write my address on each envelope I mail. In
return for this unsolicited convenience, I feel as though I should
probably "reciprocate" this gift with a donation. According to
Cialdini, when the DAV simply sends out requests for donations,
the response is some 18 percent. When address labels are
included, the response is 35 percent, twice as many donations!
Cialdini attributes this to an essential rule of human conduct - the
code of reciprocity. This code boils down to the idea that if you
receive a gift, you feel obligated, at least to some degree, to
repay the giver in some form or other.

Bargaining can be a form of reciprocity in that when you go to
the car dealer, the salesperson quotes you a price. It''s too high
and you suggest a much lower amount. The salesperson
responds by "giving" you a lower figure; this "gift" leads you to
give back something yourself and you come up somewhere in
between the two figures. Cialdini cites an experiment he and his
colleagues performed in which a random sample of passersby
were asked if they would agree to spend a day chaperoning
juvenile detention inmates on a visit to the zoo. "Only" 17
percent of those questioned responded positively. (It wasn''t clear
whether this experiment was carried out in Arizona, but I was
surprised so many accepted. I strongly doubt the percentage
would have been as high in our metropolitan New York area.)
Now throw in a concession or "gift". In another experiment, the
passersby were asked first if they would volunteer as counselors
at the detention center two hours a week for two years. Nobody
accepted. Then the gift - since they couldn''t commit to the 2-
year proposition, would they agree to chaperone a group of
inmates on a day trip to the zoo? Now 50 percent said yes, 3
times as many as in the first experiment!

So much for reciprocity. Cialdini claims another powerful
motivating force is "consistency", the inherent desire to behave
in a consistent fashion. He cites the problem encountered by the
owner of a Chicago restaurant owner a few years ago. This
problem is a common one today, the failure of patrons to show
for their reservation without notifying the restaurant. This
particular restaurant was having a no-show rate of 30 percent.
The restaurant''s receptionist had been telling those making
reservations, "Please call if you have to change your plans." The
owner was a pretty savvy guy and had her change to "Will you
please call if you have to change your plans?" She then paused
and waited for a positive commitment from the customer. Right
away, the no-show rate dropped a factor of 3, down from 30 to
10 percent. The customer''s "public" commitment makes him or
her more inclined to call in order to exhibit consistent behavior.

"Social validation" is another motivating factor than can
influence your behavior. Have you had a fund-raiser come to
your door with a list of your neighbors who have already
contributed to the cause of the day? I have, and like most people,
am more likely to contribute the longer that list. If I''m walking
on the street in Manhattan and one person is looking skyward, I''ll
not likely join in, nor will many others. But plant 15 people
looking up and 40 percent will also look up, as found in an
experiment in the 1960s. This crowd-following or social
validation is used in ads and commercials all the time; 4 out of 5
doctors prescribe Brand X.

I''ve already tried hooking you in this column with another
motivator -the appeal to "authority". My authority is, of course,
Cialdini. The "4 out of 5 doctors" bit combines authority with
social acceptance. The advertising community has found that we
are even susceptible to the appearance of authority; witness the
use of white-coated actors, not real physicians, making the pitch
for a particular drug. This authority pitch can be more subtle.
Cialdini cites an experiment carried out by University of Texas
investigators. They dressed a man in casual clothes and had him,
I imagine repeatedly, cross a street against the light. They
counted the number of pedestrians who followed his lead. They
then dressed the same man in a suit and tie and repeated the
experiment. Over 3 times as many crossed the street as when he
was dressed casually! The conclusion is that the more formal
attire gives him the appearance of one who knows what he is
about, an authority figure.

Finally, you''re more likely to say yes to a request from someone
you like or with whom you can identify. Cialdini gives as an
example the Tupperware party where you know your host and
buy from her or him directly or indirectly. If the requester isn''t a
friend, a manufactured association or flattery are good ploys to
establish a kinship of sorts. The auto salesman can cast himself
in the role of doing battle for you against the "evil" sales
manager. Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the
University of Denver collaborated in a study of soliciting for a
charity on a college campus. Contributions were more than
double when the solicitor added the statement "I''m a student,
too."

I hope that all this information based on an article by a true
authority, Professor Cialdini, has convinced you not to respond
to my blatantly unjustified opening appeal for funds. If not, rest
assured that the overwhelming majority of readers will not send
money. Indeed you would be the only one! You should make a
commitment right now - "I will not send money to Bortrum."
Then be consistent. You should also not consider me to be your
friend - we''ve never met! I have not given you any gift that you
should feel obliged to reciprocate.

Oh, I forgot to mention the motivator "scarcity". Witness the
recent demand for Play Station or earlier, the cabbage patch doll.
Manufactured scarcity can drive the demand to extreme levels
and increase the price an eager customer will pay. Scalping
World Series or Superbowl tickets are prime examples. I can
assure you, my most generous reader, that there is no scarcity of
truly worthy causes to which you can donate.

If all this still has not convinced you to keep your money, I give
up. You really, really need help!

Allen f. Bortrum