How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Before you ask a person for something, first give them some kind of reward or do them a favor.
This does not have to be a physical item. A pregiving message is something that is said to create a sense of obligation in the other person by saying something that makes them feel good.
The request may be delayed, as long as the person remembers and responds to your later request.
Would you like a sweet? Now can I show you the introduction video?
Thanks for stopping by. Could you tell me how much you have to spend?
You look wonderful. I've just the dress for you. Could you try this on?
Pregiving is intended to trigger the reciprocity norm, creating a sense of obligation through the need to complete an exchange. The giving beforehand makes the person feel they should respond by giving something in return, which is of course what you want to receive.
When you give a person something before they act, they may just take the reward and not comply with your request. Yet while some people may do this (typically children and teenagers), the social pressures to reciprocate are so high that few in practice will act this way.
For pregiving to work, the target has to believe that the gift is an altruistic act and not related to the later request.
Boster et al (1995) found that strangers would be more likely to buy raffle tickets if they had been giving a pregiving message, while friends were equally likely to comply whether pregiving was used or not.
Pregiving is best when the request is social and in alignment with values. Boster, Fediuk and Kotowski (2001) tried using pregiving to get a person to perform an anti-social act (not reporting an exam cheat) and found this did not work.
Generally be careful when pregiving, especially if the reward you are giving is significant or where there is no opportunity for the other person to be socially punished if they do not respond to your request.
Boster, F.J., Rodriguez, J.I., Cruz, M.J. and Marshall L. (1995). The Relative Effectiveness of a Direct Request Message and a Pregiving Message on Friends and Strangers, Communication Research, 22, 4, 475-484.
Boster, F.J., Fediuk, T.A. and Kotowski, M.R. (2001) The effectiveness of an altruistic appeal in the presence and absence of favors, Communication Monographs, 340-346.
Regan, Dennis T. (1971). Effects of a Favor and Liking on Compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 7, 627-639.