Defending yourself against Persuasion – the Double Whammy

By Michael Edmonds 02/05/2011


Ever been asked for a favour by someone which you felt was too much so declined it. But when they followed it with a smaller favour you felt compelled to say yes? If so, you may have just succumbed to the double whammy.

In a previous post I talked about reciprocity – the inclination for human beings to want to return a favour or gift. Well, reciprocity doesn’t only appear to work with gifts and favours but also in terms of concessions.

In an experiment by Professor Robert Cialdini of Arizona State  University random passers-by in the street were divided into two groups.

The first group was asked if they would be willing to volunteer for two hours to help out at a juvenile detention centre.17% of those asked agreed.

The second group were asked if they would be willing to supervise a group of inmates from a juvenile detention centre on a trip to the zoo. No one volunteered. However,when they were then asked if they would volunteer two hours at a juvenile detention centre, a staggering 50% agreed.

This experiment has been repeated a number of times using different scenarios but all with a similar result. By asking for a large favour first and then, when it is declined, following up with a lesser favour there is greater compliance.

Countering the Double Whammy

Just being aware of this technique is all the defence you need. When someone hits you with a request for a substantial favour, which you feel compelled to decline, just be aware that if they are familiar with this technique, a second request may follow. Remember it is YOUR decision whether you agree to the lesser favour.