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But You Are Free (BYAF)


Techniques General persuasion > Sequential requests > But You Are Free (BYAF)

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Make a request or suggestion to the target person. Then tell them they are free to accept or reject the request or suggestion. This leads to increased acceptance and compliance with what you are seeking from them.

Let them know they have a free choice, even though it may be obvious that they can choose as they wish.

The basic format is to make a suggestion and then say 'but you are free' to make your own choice. Other variants of language you can use to suggest freedom of choice include:

  • It's up to you
  • It's your choice
  • Make your own mind up
  • Whatever you like
  • Of course you are free to choose

You can also suggest freedom, but with an assumptive edge that presumes that non-action is not an option, such as:

  • When you are ready
  • Whichever you choose
  • Whatever your people want


An activist seeking petition signatures gets more on their list by saying people are free to add their names or not.

A sales person sells more by saying that customers are free to come back later if they are not ready to buy now.


In the original study, Guéguen and Pascual (2000) found that when subjects were asked in a street to give money to a cause, only 10.0% complied. However, when the phrase "...but you are free to accept or to refuse" was added, 47.5% now complied.

Pascual and Gueguen (2002) found this wording led to more money being donated to a social cause. Gueguen et al (2002) noted the importance of the semantic evocation of freedom. It is not enough to ask, you have to specifically tell people they are free to accept or refuse.

Guéguen and Pascual (2005) asked people to complete a survey. 75.6% of those asked to complete the survey, but not told they were free to accept or refuse, complied. Yet 90.1% complied when they were told they were free to accept or refuse.

The review by Carpenter (2012) confirmed its effectiveness and the importance that the target person decides to take the suggested action soon after the suggestion.

We have a fundamental need for a sense of control. When we are asked to do something it may well feel that the requesting person is taking control. As a reaction, we are then more likely to refuse, asserting our ability to sustain control.

When the person is told they are free to accept or refuse, then they are formally given control and so do not have to wrest it back.

This wording also sets up an exchange dynamic whereby they feel obliged to repay the kindness in giving a free option to disadvantage the requesting person by not refusing the request.

The word 'free' is a common power word and may have an additional effect as it causes particular attention and excitement. 'Free' appeals not only to the need for control but also to greed. While this does not directly affect things, the unconscious triggering of desire may help to tip the balance further towards compliance.

'But You Are Free' can also be used in combination with the Foot In The Door (FITD) method. Guéguen et al (2010) found that both methods together were more effective at persuading people to sort household waste (78%) in comparison with FITD alone (60%) or just BYAF (56%).

See also

Foot In The Door (FITD), Low-ball, Exchange principle


Carpenter, C.J. (2012). A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of the “But You Are Free” Compliance-Gaining Technique, Communication Studies, 64, 1, 6-17

Guéguen N. and Pascual A. (2000), Evocation of freedom and compliance: The "But you are free of… " technique, Current Research in Social Psychology, 5, 264-270.

Guéguen N., Pascual A., Jacob, C. and Morineau, T. (2002). Request solicitation and semantic evocation of freedom: An evaluation in a computer-mediated communication context. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 95, 208-212.

Guéguen N. and Pascual A. (2005), Improving the Response Rate to a Street Survey: An Evaluation of the "But You Are Free To Accept Or To Refuse" Technique, The Psychological Record, 55, 297-303.

Gueguen N., Meineri, S., Martin, A. and Grandjean, I. (2010). The Combined Effect of the Foot-in-the- Door Technique and the ‘‘But You Are Free’’ Technique: An Evaluation on the Selective Sorting of Household Wastes, Ecopsychology, 2, 4, 231-237

Pascual, A., and Guéguen, N. (2002). La technique du «Vous etes libre de ... " : Induction d'un sentiment de liberte et soumission a une requete ou Ie paradoxe d'une liberte manipulatrice. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 15, 45-82.


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