|Help another, and they'll [be more likely] help you.|
(Source: Regis-AND from Deviant Art)
The amazing social power of Reciprocity.
#2 In the Series "Applied Social Psychology"
What makes Cognitive Science and Social Psychology fascinating to me is that we are very much "hard wired" to behave in almost scripted ways. There are itches that, try as we may, we have to scratch. Some of it is how we were raised, but a solid majority seems to be inherited.Arizona State University psychologist dubs one of these tendencies "Reciprocity." Which is just a fancy way of saying "One good turn deserves another." Or, "Scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." Regardless of the content, if a person does you a good turn, you are much more likely to comply with a request from them. Because we seem to maintain an internal "tit for tat" scorecard.
This is great under normal circumstances. But people can use this knowledge to exploit our better natures. This article examines Reciprocity in some depth.
I. The case of the Hare Krisna's
In his famous book on social psychology, Influence, Dr. Cialdini uses the case of the Hare Krisnas to illustrate the Reciprocity Principle.
The Hare Krisnas -- popular name for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) -- are Hindu religion based upon that country's ages deep religious traditions. It became popular with many Westerners during the late 60's. For instance, former Beatles' member George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord," is a hymn to Lord Krisna.
However, most people in America and Britain found the Krisna's religion foreign. This posed serious fundraising issues for ISKCON. That was before, of course, the group stumbled upon an ingenious way to increase it's haul.
It went like this....
- A group of devotees would gather in a public place, typically an airport.
- They would approach a person, and give the passer-by a flower. They would insist. "It's a gift," and refuse to take it back.
- After they "gave" the "gift," the Krisna Member would proffer their top jar.
- As a result, their donations increased markedly, allowing ISKCON to purchase several large communal farms.
Notice that few "donors" supported the Krisna religion. Even fewer knew who they were. Most found them a nuisance. In fact, the comedy classic Airplane spoofs their tactice, where Robert Stack fights through a phalanx of Krisnas and other groups collecting alms.
II. Dennis Regan's experiment on returning a favor
And yet they gave. Why? Cialdini calls this type of knee-jerk reaction to social stimuli "Click-whirr."