Simply following a request with something along the lines of "but you are free to say no" can have a significant impact on an affirmative response to a request.
In 2000, Gueguen and Pascual conducted the initial demonstration of a persuasion technique now known as the "but you are free" technique at a shopping mall in France. In the control condition, the experimenter asked a stranger (the subject) for some coins for the bus. In the experimental condition, the experimenter added: "But you are free to accept or refuse." Those subjects who were told they could refuse (although clearly a given) were substantially more likely to comply with the request. On top of that, those in the experimental condition gave twice as much money in the control condition. This simple technique might just be one of the most effective and simple of all persuasion techniques.
Since this initial study, dozens of other studies have been conducted where conditions were changed slightly (Carpenter, 2013). The proposed mechanism behind this phenomenon is psychological reactance theory—the phrase weakens the subject's perception that his or her freedom to say "no" is threatened.
Here are some of the important findings:
A relatively small number of researchers have investigated this technique, despite the 42 different studies that confirm the result.
This technique is most effective in situations that appeal to a noble motive, such as making donations to a good cause or getting someone to do something that will make them feel good about themselves.
Dr. Bo Bennett teaches both the Introduction to Psychology and Social Psychology courses to adult students, all around the world. Although both course options are self-paced, you can choose from self-evaluated and instructor-evaluated options. Earn your certificates today!
Enroll in the Mental CPR: Save Lives by Knowing the Five Signs Online Course. This is a FREE course that will take only about 20 minutes. Earn your certificate and save lives!
Enroll in the Introduction To Psychology Online Course. Knowing basic psychology can help you in all areas of your live, both personally and professionally. This is a full college-level course.
Enroll in Social Psychology: A College-Level, Online, Professor-Guided Course. This is a college-level course designed to introduce students to the field social psychology, helping students better understand why and how the way we feel, behave, and think is is largely a result of our social worlds.
Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.