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To Persuade People, First Get Them to Tie Your Shoelaces

Want to manipulate people to do things for you? First, ask them to tie your shoelaces.

In a series of new experiments, researcher Dariusz Dolinski of the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland found that when the initial request was highly unusual, people were more likely to comply with the demand that followed it.

Dolinski had a confederate stop people en route to a supermarket and say to them, "Excuse me, but I suffer from terrible back pain and I cannot bend down. My shoelaces are undone. Could you please be so kind as to tie them for me?"

That was the unusual request. Other passersby were given a routine marketing survey.

A little later, the passersby were stopped by a woman standing outside the supermarket.

Dolinski wrote: "The second request was posed at the entrance to the supermarket by a woman who asked the participants to 'keep an eye' on her shopping cart full of goods 'for a moment.' She explained that her husband had her car keys and he had disappeared somewhere in the supermarket, and as the cart had a broken wheel, it was very hard to push. She would like to look for her husband without having to push the cart."

Dolinski found that people were more likely to mind the woman's grocery cart when they had been previously asked to fulfill an unusual request — to tie someone else's shoelaces.

Shankar Vedantam of NPR's health blog Shots has the story: Link


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