Ben Franklin Effect – Influencing People

By Anupum Pant

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Influencing people

Named after Benjamin Franklin, who observed this effect, the Ben Franklin effect is a lesser known yet interesting Psychological finding that can be used to influence people. According to it:

  1. If we do someone a favor then we tend to like them more. (read till the end for an example of a practical application)
  2. The reverse of this effect is also true – If we harm someone, we are more willing to harm them again as a result.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin:

“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Side note: I love biographies. I love them because, there you have an access to a treasure of life-long experiences of great people. I feel, it is like collecting XP (experience) points in a Pokémon game. The more you manage to collect, the better you do in life. And biographies are one of the most efficient sources for XP.

While going through Ben’s autobiography a few months back, I found a lot of his observations to be extremely interesting and I had noted this down in my notes.

How he used his observation

He was able to befriend a rival legislator by trying this out. The following is an excerpt from his biography:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

Jecker & Lendy published a study in the year 1969 which used 3 groups of students to prove this scientifically. In the study, the students from the first group liked a professor more than the other two groups. It was to this group the professor had asked for a favor.

How can you use it?

  1. If you want someone to like you (or influence someone), even though it may seem counter-intuitive, you could just ask him/her for a favor.
  2. If some random stranger asks you for a favor, you could be a little more cautious about you liking him/her.
  3. To get a better effect, ask a person who is tired.

No wonder, guys after fetching a 100 chocolate ice-cream cups for their girl-friends, only tend to fall more in love with them.