SOCIAL INFLUENCE BY REDUCING RESISTANCE

A.  The Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique
 Social influence techniques are procedures designed to alter the approach-avoidance forces in a personally conflictful situation, where a person considering a behavior wants to procure its positive benefits, while avoiding its negative consequences.
 Most social influence techniques operate by adding forces to this approach-avoidance conflict.  Thus, logical analysis adds reasons for or against an action, peripheral routes to persuasion add heuristic inducements for or against a position.  For instance, door-in-the-face procedures, where refusal of an unreasonable first request makes a person more likely to accept a subsequent moderate request works by adding reciprocity forces to the approach forces.
 I am interested in techniques that create social influence by reducing or disrupting resistance.  My graduate student, Barbara Price Davis, and I have developed a class of social influence techniques that we call DISRUPT-THEN-REFRAME (DTR) techniques.   These techniques have much in common with Milton Erikson's confusion techniques for hypnotic induction.  A non-sequitur or unexpected element introduced into a script provides a momentary disruption.  The disruption absorbs the critical functions, rendering them unavailable for an immediately following persuasive message, the ‘reframing.'  In our research, we sell note cards door to door for a local charity.  When we tell the customers that a package of eight cards sells for $3.00, we make sales at approximately 40% of the households.  When we tell customers that the price of eight cards is 300 pennies [the disruption], which is a bargain [the reframing], then we make sales at approximately 80% of the households.  Our early research shows that this technique is requires both the disruption and the reframing, in that order.

 Davis, B. P., & Knowles, E. S.  (Revision Requested).  Disrupt-then-reframe techniques of social influence.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

B.  That's-Not-All Technique
 Several students and I have shown that the That's-Not-All technique is effective only when targets process the request in a relatively  mindless way.  We showed that small priced goods (chocolate candies for $1.00) were strongly influenced by the TNA technique and that adding placebic reasons were as effective in increasing sales as adding legitimate reasons.  However, for higher priced goods (boxes of chocolate for $5.00), the TNA was ineffective and only real reasons increased sales.
Pollock, C. L., Smith, S. D., Knowles, E. S., & Bruce, H. J.  (In Press).  Mindfulness limits compliance with the that's-not-all technique.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

 We believe that the That's-Not-All technique, where an offer is quickly sweetened by adding an additional benefit or by reducing the cost, is a special instance of the disrupt-then-reframe technique.  That is, the initial offer is revised [the disruption] in a way that implies a benefit [the reframe].

MEASUREMENT REACTIVITY

A.  Acquiescence Processes
 We have begun looking at the cognitive processes underlying acquiescent responding–saying ‘Yes' to a think and its logical opposite.   The general perspective that we are taking is to look at acquiescence on self-report forms  as a breakdown of introspection.  Like other illusions, acquiescence may provide a window into the cognitive processes involved in introspection.

  Knowles, E. S., & Nathan, K.  (1997).  Acquiescent responding in self reports:  Cognitive style or social concern?  Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 293-301.

 Acquiescence seems in part to result from a breakdown in the second step of a Gilbertian two-stage item comprehension process.  First, yea-sayers respond ‘Yes' to an item much more quickly than nay-sayers or normal responders.  Second, cognitive loads increase the yea-saying.  This effect, though, was quite small.  Much larger was a different kind of acquiescence–endoresment acquiescence, in which people accept a trait as characteristic of self.  This can be seen when people say ‘Yes' to assertions of a trait (I am an introvert; I am an extravert) and say ‘No' to negations of a trait (I am not an introvert; I am not an extravert).  Our current research seeks to clarify these two faces of acquiescence.

  Knowles, E. S., &Condon, C. A.  (Under review).  Why people say ‘Yes': The two faces of acquiescence.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

B.  Measurement Induced Change

 Self-report measurement is not inert; it has effects.  Self-report measurement educates the respondent in two ways.  First, the respondent learns about how the question writer sees and understands the issue.  We have shown that as respondents complete more of a multi-item self-report measure, they have a clearer understanding of the concept being measured, they are more definite in their answers, they give answers that better predict their total score, and they give answers that are more consistent with other answers.  Second, the respondents learn about themselves from their answers.  Novel questions produce new insight for a respondent.  They learn more about themselves as they answer the question-writer's questions.

  Knowles, E. S., Coker, M. C., Scott, R. A., Cook, D. A., & Neville, J. W.  (1996).  Measurement Induced Improvement in Anxiety: Mean Shifts with Repeated Assessment.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 352-363.

  Knowles, E. S., & Byers, B.  (1996).  Reliability shifts in measurement reactivity: Driven by content-engagement or self-engagement?  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1080-1090.

  Knowles, E. S.  (1988).  Item context effects on personality scales: Measuring changes the measure.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 312-320.

  Knowles, E. S., Coker, M. C., Cook, D. A., Diercks, S. R., Irwin, M. E., Lundeen, E. J., Neville, J. W., & Sibicky, M. E.  (1992).  Order effects within personality measures.  In N. Schwarz & S. Sudman (Eds.), Context effects in social and psychological research.  New York: Springer-Verlag.

ATTITUDE PROCESSES

VICARIOUS DISSONANCE

 As a result of attending a two-day conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of Festinger's A theory of cognitive dissonance, I have become interested in the possibility that people experience dissonance vicariously when they observe someone else behave in an attitudinally inconsistent way.    We are currently refining studies to identify this phenomenon, to assess its boundary conditions, and to distinguish it from contagion effects.