Require Favorable Traits to Qualify for Compliance

People are more likely to comply if their behavior will validate a positive trait.

A survey with a qualification "must be intelligent"


Researchers found a new persuasion tactic: egotistic traps.

College students asked ~1,000 people at a train station for help:

I'm a student, and I need to conduct a study to get credit for one of my courses. Could you please help me? I need this questionnaire filled out: it contains 142 questions.

Roughly 30% agreed.

But a new approach — one more sentence — increased compliance to 50 percent.

Here's the sentence:

...I need this questionnaire filled out: it contains 142 questions. We need to elicit answers from intelligent persons, and you appear to be one of them.

This framing created an ego trap: Compliance validated their intelligence, while a refusal diminished it (Dolinski, Grzyb, & Kulesza, 2023).

In a follow-up study, customers were more likely to schedule car maintenance when they learned that "sensible" car owners made these appointments.

Want people to comply with your request? Try enforcing a desirable qualification.

Though you probably deduced that conclusion yourself, considering that only super smart people subscribe to this newsletter.

  • Dolinski, D., Grzyb, T., & Kulesza, W. (2023). Egotistic trap as a social influence technique. Social Influence, 18(1), 2204245.