Article

Evocation of freedom and compliance : the « but you are free of... » technique

Current Research in Social Psychology 09/2000; 5(18):264-270.

ABSTRACT Many investigations showed that the semantic characteristics of a request could lead to more
compliance. A feeling of freedom is also a factor favoring compliance to numerous types of
requests. An experiment was carried out, in which the evocation of freedom was formulated
verbally, following a demand for money made by confederates. Results show that the verbal
incentive used (demand for money + "but you are free to accept or to refuse") increased the
rate of subjects’ compliance as well as the average amount of granted gifts. The semantic
activation of the feeling of freedom is discussed within the framework of numerous paradigms
of research on compliance.

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    ABSTRACT: This study compares the effectiveness of three sources of influence [conformity, obedience to authority, and the “but you are free to…” (BYAFT) technique] to induce smokers to put their cigarettes butts in an ashtray rather than dropping them on the ground. Conformity was operationalized with a sign placed above ashtrays. This sign mentioned that most people throw their cigarette butts in the ashtrays. The BYAFT technique was operationalized with a sign mentioning that people were free to throw their cigarette butts in the ashtray. Finally, obedience was operationalized by the setting of the experiment: the Préfecture symbolizing authority and the shopping mall, a “non-authority” setting. Results indicated the main effect of conformity and obedience but not the BYAFT. However, the BYAFT effect depended on the presence or absence of authority and conformity. Interactions between the three influence sources are discussed.
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