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Acquiescence Effect

 

Explanations > Theories > Acquiescence Effect

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When asked a question by another person, our answer is based not just on a rational consideration of what is being asked. In particular, our identity needs lead us to consider how we will appear to others.

We thus will tend to answer more in the positive rather than the negative, particularly if a leading question is used. We seek to acquiesce to the needs and direction of others, particularly when:

  • They seem to be a superior in some way.
  • They have a need whereby we can easily help them.
  • Answering the question fully seems like hard work.

People thus tend to agree with one-sided statements. They will also agree with two contradictory statements when they are framed for agreement.

Example

If you were asked 'Do you think the government makes mistakes?', you may well say yes. If you were asked whether the government generally gets it right, you may also agree.

Lawyers will ask complex questions of people in the witness box, who may give in and agree rather try to unravel what is being asked of them.

A butcher asks a customers 'Do you want the best cut?'. The customers agrees.

So What?

Using it

Use leading questions to get people to agree with you. Use neutral questions if you want a more honest response.

Defending

Before you answer a question, consider the bias in the question and also the bias in your head. Don't say 'yes' just to make others happy.

See also

Leading questions, Theories about conforming, Prosocial Behavior, Looking-glass Self

References

Kunda and Fong (1993), Bless et al (1992)

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