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The effectiveness of an altruistic appeal in the presence and absence of favors

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A substantial corpus of research examining the norm of reciprocity leads to the prediction that doing a favor for another will enhance the probability that that other will comply with a subsequent request made by the favor provider. Experiments have reported data consistent with this prediction, but in these experiments the requests have been pro-social. Other dynamics may be involved, however, when the request is anti-social. Additionally, particular kinds of messages might prove more effective in gaining compliance with an anti-social request. Specifically, following research on the fundamental attribution error it is predicted that altruism messages are more likely to be effective in such circumstances. An experiment was conducted to test these ideas. No evidence of an effect of the norm of reciprocity was observed, and the altruism message was found to be more effective than a direct request message. Unexpectedly, a large sex difference emerged in a direction opposite to that reported in reviews of sex differences, i.e., males were more compliant than females.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Communication at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824

Publication date: December 1, 2001


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