Getting the answer you want

In an episode of the British series Yes, Prime Minister, the Prime Minister was keen on reintroducing conscription (National Service) as a means of bolstering the armed forces, reducing unemployment and providing skills training to young people.

For various reasons, the civil service and military are opposed to the idea, which the Prime Minister believes to be a vote winner.

In this clip, Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Cabinet Secretary, explains to Bernard Woolley, the Principal Private Secretary of the Prime Minister, how to get the poll results desired.

This is one of the techniques used in negotiating with someone or trying to persuade someone - consistency. People want to act in a way that is consistent.

Psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, published a study in the 1966 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique showing just how consistent people will strive to be. The experiment was simple, people were asked to put a large, ugly DRIVE CAREFULLY sign on their lawn. Only 17% agreed.

Next, they asked a bunch of people to put a small 3 inch square sign in their window reading BE A SAFE DRIVER. Most persons agreed (sorry, I can't find the numbers for this). Two weeks later they were asked to put up the same large sign ontheir lawn. This time the total compliance for the entire population was 76%.

So the moral of the story is: to get commitment on something big, first ask for something small.


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