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.

That Sweet Scent of Rain

by Anupum Pant

When rain starts falling after a long dry spell, most of us notice a sweet-musky scent around us. Sometimes, it is as if you can smell the rain coming. Have you ever wondered what causes this peculiar smell?

Well, scientists have also wondered the same for a long time and now they have some concrete answers for us. According to them, this evocative scent is a mixture of several individual smells. In essence, there are three factors which combine to form the “petrichor” – The smell of rain.

  1. Bacteria – The best (my favorite) of all the three is caused because of a specific type of bacteria in mud called Actinomycetes. The force, with which the rain water falls, disrupts the bacteria-produced-spores in dry mud, and the moisture present in the air carries them to our noses. Most people love this odor and associate it with rain.
    So, spores of bacteria are responsible for the kind of smell you get, when rain falls on dry mud.
  2. Plant Oils – A blend of oils produced by plants during the dry spell is another main source of this aroma. When it rains, volatile parts of these oils get released into the air. It is the kind of smell you get when you are getting wet in the woods.
  3. Ozone – Another smell associated with the rain, is a minor part of petrichor and it smells like burning wires. This is produced by a reaction caused when lightning strikes, the Nitrogen and Oxygen present in air to form Ozone molecules.

Subjective senses

Besides that, smell is a subjective sensation. That means, you can’t explain a smell to someone, and you can never know what the other person smells. So, it becomes really hard for scientists to communicate to us, which scent is which.

Some of us like the bacteria smell, while others might like the third component of petrichor.

Some like the smell of rain, others don’t. But we’ll never know accurately, if the scent you adore is the same as the one your friend hates. One way to communicate some information about these scents is by comparing them with other popular smells (like I did above). This could probably give you a vague idea, but the exact sensation will remain elusive. It is like trying to explain the color red to a person who’s been blind all his/her life.