In the first part of this series, we discussed Caldini’s 1st weapon of influence–reciprocity. In this post, we’re going to discuss one other weapon comprised of accompanying techinques: commitment-and-consistency. These weapon is the result of our natural desire to appear reliable and preserve our self-image.
A great way to establish trust is to be both committed to an act or stance and consistent in that act or stance. Without commitment or consistency, people appear to be whimsical, unpredictable, and unreliable. However, not only does this system of commitment and consistency allow us to trust others, it also allows us to trust ourselves; it’s also hardwired in us to adhere to it.
When we decide to act on something, we immediately feel compelled to make other choices or form other opinions that justify our former actions, even if it’s wrong; consistency is sometimes even more valued than being right. With consistency, we are able to gain perspective of the world around us which allows us to make proper decisions.
Our automatic response to remain consistent is driven by two basic things:
- Efficiency – We don’t want to spend a lot of time constantly thinking about what choices to make. Consistency allows us to make decisions quickly.
- Avoidance – The idea of forming an opinion that jeopardizes our perspective is threatening to our psyche. It’s easier for us to accept things that superficially coincide with our perspective than to question why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Along with social pressure to remain consistent, these two factors are major components that reinforce consistency and can predetermine how we will act in the future.
When we make a commitment to something, we have effectively created an image of ourselves which we then try to preserve. Studies suggest that when larger commitments are made, we are more likely to form opinions and act in ways that consistently coincide with those commitments.
Commitments are strengthened when they’re:
- On the Record – When we make verbal or written commitments we feel further compelled to adhere to those commitments. Furthermore, written commitments are suggested to be more effective since writing something down requires more effort than saying something.
- Made Public – As the likelihood that our actions may be made public (like a testimonial for a product/service) the fear of scrutiny in light of falling back on those commitments increase and with it, the strength of our commitment and consistency increase.
Getting Your "Foot in The Door"
Additionally, when we make small commitments, we are likely to subconsciously make gradually larger commitments. Known as the Foot in The Door technique.
Caldini illustrates the effectiveness of this technique when he observes the behaviors of US soldiers in Korean POW camps who would effectively defect to Communism almost effortlessly. The prison warden would first force the prisoner to make small written statements like “the US is not perfect” and through a series of gradually more substantive commitments, could get the soldier to willfully divulge sensitive US information.
What This Means for Performance Marketers
One word: compliance. We can use the automatic response of consistency-and-commitment to our advantage and ensure favorable actions with our campaigns. Things like check-boxes or radio buttons allow us to have the user commit to a small “yes” or “no” question which can then lead them to an offer that they would feel further compelled to opt-in.
Modal windows that affirm the user’s decision to click on a CTA can also strengthen their commitment to an offer, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.
Not only do these techniques allow us to get our foot in the door, it also invokes a sense of personal responsibility and choice. Even small affirmations from a modal window can trick us into thinking it was our idea to provide an email or sign up to something, when it really was a request by someone else, building and reinforcing previous commitments.
Consistency-and-commitment is the mind’s way of making sense of our actions. We prefer to act in ways that are congruent with previous acts and avoid anything which may threaten our consistency. However, if we feel that outside forces are influencing us, we will resist compliance; subtlety is required so that those we are influencing feel as though they are freely making a choice to do something, and will increase the likelihood of future continued compliance.