Insight of the Week
May 19, 2023

Require Favorable Traits to Qualify for Compliance

Researchers found a new persuasion tactic called egotistic traps. People are more likely to comply if their behavior validates a positive trait.

A survey with a qualification "must be intelligent"


Researchers found a new persuasion tactic: egotistic traps.

College students asked ~1,000 people at a train station for help:

I'm a student, and I need to conduct a study to get credit for one of my courses. Could you please help me? I need this questionnaire filled out: it contains 142 questions.

Roughly 30% agreed.

But a new approach — one more sentence — increased compliance to 50 percent.

Here's the sentence:

...I need this questionnaire filled out: it contains 142 questions. We need to elicit answers from intelligent persons, and you appear to be one of them.

This framing created an ego trap: Compliance validated their intelligence, while a refusal diminished it (Dolinski, Grzyb, & Kulesza, 2023).

In a follow-up study, customers were more likely to schedule car maintenance when they learned that "sensible" car owners made these appointments.

Want people to comply with your request? Try enforcing a desirable qualification.

Though you probably deduced that conclusion yourself, considering that only super smart people subscribe to this newsletter.

Other New Studies

  • Payment Notifications Feel Painful - It's like salt in the wound. After seeing these notifications, we spend less money to avoid feeling more pain (Gu & Chen, 2023).
  • Ad Blockers Increase Visits to Websites - Researchers analyzed 3.1 million visits to a news website. Turns out, people read up to 40% more content when they enable ad blockers. Some publishers try to stop ad blockers from running, but these attempts might be reducing subscription revenue from users who would revisit more often (Yan, Miller, & Skiera, 2022).
  • Product Wish Lists Reduce Purchases - On many websites, customers can "save" items to purchase later. But after saving these items, customers adopt more stringent conditions to feel justified in purchasing them (Popovich & Hamilton, 2021).
  • Anthropomorphic Healthcare Products Seem Less Effective - Healthcare products benefit from negative traits (e.g., bad taste) because of a "no pain, no gain" mentality. A reciprocal effect happens with cute spokespeople. These health products seem less effective because they're too cutesy (Chang, Lee, Lee, & Wang, 2023).