Numbers Don't Lie

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The power of BECAUSE

Some people are influential because they are good at using right words at right time. (I doubt those skill are teachable in a short period of time). For example - influential people like to use the word 'because'. The power of 'because' has actually been documented by social psychologist Ellen Langer. Langer performed an experiment where she asked to cut in line to use a copy machine. She tested three different ways of asking, and recorded the results:
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?
60% said OK.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a rush?
94% said OK.
It appears that giving the "reason why" of because I'm in a rush boosted the effectiveness of the request immensely.
But here is the kicker:
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?
93% said OK.
The word "because" is so powerful that it didn't really seem to matter what is the "reason why".



Blogger Ed said...

Perhaps one of the explaining factors of the effect in this case is because she added the line "I have to make some copies."

In typical conversation when we say something like that we emphasize "have" and convey the impression that we must absolutely make those copies. Given that, people are more likely to let you use the machine if it's really important to you.

A better experiment would also test "Excuse me, I have five pages I have to copy. May I use the Xerox machine?" and "Excuse me, I have five pages. I have to copy them. May I use the Xerox machine?"

10:24 PM

Blogger brad said...

Everyone in line HAS to use the copy machine. That is why they are in line. As you pointed out, "because" as an explanation somehow makes MY need greater than yours.

People are weird.

5:20 PM

Blogger BikerMomma said...

Or maybe we are all extremely polite and figure it's just the nice thing to do. Like in the grocery store line. "Excuse me, but I only have three items. Can I go ahead of you?" If this is an office environment, most people will defer simply to maintain polite relations with their coworkers. Just a thought...

5:53 PM

Blogger Andrew said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:46 PM

Blogger arundangerous said...

ya the word becos is so powerful
it is pshcologically truth

12:04 AM


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