# A Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique of Social Influence

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3 194 DAVIS AND KNOWLES Table 1 Percentage of Targets Who Complied in Each Condition Condition Study 1 Study 2 Study 3 Disrupt-then-reframe ("They're 300 pennies... that's \$3. It's a bargain.") Price only ("They're S3.") Reframe only ("They're \$3. It's a bargain.") Disruption only ("They're 300 pennies That's \$3.") Reframe-then-disrupt ("It's a bargain... They're 300 pennies. That's S3.") Note. In each condition, n = 20. Dashes signify conditions not tested in each study. Conditions DTR. In this condition, the salesperson provided a disruption to the action plus a new label for it. Specifically, she stated, "This package of cards sells for 300 pennies." After a 2-s pause, she said, "That's \$3. It's a bargain." We believed that the "300 pennies" description occurring first provided the disruption to the ongoing script. We followed this after several seconds with the price stated in dollars so that all conditions would have the price stated in the same way at least somewhere in the offer. We presumed that saying, "300 pennies... That's \$3," would be a subtle disruption to the script. We also presumed that the reverse order, "\$3... That's 300 pennies," would not disrupt the show-product/tell-price script, because the usual price designation would come first but would merely draw attention to the salesperson. 2 Price only. In this control condition, the salesperson stated that the price of the package was \$3. Reframe only. A second control condition was added in which the salesperson stated that the price of the package was \$3, then, after a 2-s pause, added, "It's a bargain." Compliance The salesperson waited for a response from the resident. A purchase of any number of packages was recorded as complying with the request. When the respondent decided not to purchase the cards, the salesperson thanked him or her for listening and left. All money collected was turned in to the Richardson Center. Results and Discussion Table 1 presents the proportions of respondents who decided to purchase cards in Study 1. The two salespeople had nearly identical sales in each condition, so their results are combined in Table 1. The first question addressed was whether the DTR condition produced more compliance than the price-only condition. When respondents were given a mild disruption ("The cards are 300 pennies") and then a refraining ("It's a bargain"), they complied with the request at a much higher level (65%) than did the respondents in the price-only condition (35%), ^( 1, N = 40) = 4.49, p <.05. The second question addressed was whether compliance would be increased by the refraining alone. Both the price-only condition and the reframe-only condition had exactly the same level of compliance (35%), indicating that the statement "It's a bargain" had no effect by itself. Together, the results of this study show that a mild disruption coupled with a new emergent label for the event increased compliance. The results reveal subtle but powerful processes. The difference between the experimenter's behavior in the reframe-only condition ("These cards sell for \$3 It's a bargain") and the DTR condition ("These cards sell for 300 pennies... that's \$3. It's a bargain") seems on the surface to be quite minor but is quite distinguishable, as demonstrated by the framework of action identification (Vallacher & Wegner, 1985) and Ericksonian change (Erickson, 1964) theories. This subtle difference in the request had a great impact on behavior, almost doubling the rate of compliance. Study 2 Study 1 demonstrated that the DTR technique can increase sales. Action identification theory (Vallacher & Wegner, 1985) and Ericksonian change theory (Erickson, 1964) imply that both components, the disruption and the reframing, are required for this effect to occur. Without a disruption to the action sequence, the old label is maintained and the new characterization is not accepted. A disruption by itself provides no reframing and thus does not change the understanding of the action. A person will recapture the previous high-level representation. The second study focused more directly on the necessity of both the disruption and the reframing. A salesperson sold a packet of note cards door-to-door for \$3. The statement of the price sometimes involved a disruption ("The price is 300 pennies"), sometimes included a reframe label ("It's a bargain"), and sometimes included both. The DTR change theories imply that the reframing would be accepted only when accompanied by the disruption. Overview and Participants Method On nice days in February and March, a female salesperson (Barbara Price Davis) went door-to-door selling packages of eight note cards. The cards were printed with attractive pictures drawn by clients of the Richardson Center, the same center as in Study 1. The houses sampled were single-family detached and duplex dwellings in different parts of the same metropolitan area as in Study 1. Eighty residents were offered the opportunity to purchase these cards; 20 residents were randomly assigned to each of four conditions. When a resident answered the door, the salesperson introduced herself as a representative from the Richardson Center, showed the packet of cards, and explained that the money collected from the sales 2 We subsequently tested this presumption by telling 20 households, "This packet of cards sells for \$3, that's 300 pennies... It's a bargain." This order produced limited sales (25% of the households purchased the cards), many puzzled looks, and a generally awkward interaction, much more so than in the DTR condition.

7 198 DAVIS AND KNOWLES door sales. The DTR offer could be seen as distracting the resistance to door-to-door sales while the reframing provided extra incentive to support the worthy charity. The disruption by itself did not change the respondents. To be effective, the influence required both the disruption and the reframing, in that order. Action identification theory (Vallacher & Wegner, 1985; Wegner & Vallacher, 1986) also sees the disruption as upsetting an equilibrium between opposing desires, specifically between the desire to maintain competent behavioral control of the event and the desire to understand the broader meaning of the event. Disruption upsets the balance between these desires, returns attention to the lower level issues of behavioral control, and opens an opportunity for reframing into a different meaning. The cardselling encounter invoked a regular script in which the seller described the cards and disclosed the price, and the buyer decided whether to purchase the cards. The 300-penny offer momentarily disrupted this script, requiring the respondent to attend to the details of the offer rather than the implications or meanings of the encounter. This attention to details of the script allowed the script to be reframed with a different meaning. The reframing could be provided directly, as in the case of our DTR conditions, or perhaps be implied by some feature of the script. For instance, we believe the that's-not-all technique (Burger, 1986) involves a disrupting revision of an offer coupled with an implied reframing (Pollock, Smith, Knowles, & Bruce, 1998). Boundaries to DTR Techniques It might be useful at this point to speculate on the limiting conditions for the technique we have presented. We suspect that careful, central-route consideration of an offer may be able to counteract the reframing offered by DTR techniques. When people are motivated and able to give careful consideration to an offer, they engage a more rational decision process. In this more rational process, people might consider the strength of their desire, the quality of the product, the probability that it will satisfy the desire, their ability to pay, and the compatibility of the product with other goals and desires (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Pious, 1993; Schoemaker, 1982). The mild disruptions in the DTR technique might not interfere with a highly motivated and careful consideration of an offer (Pollock et al., 1998). The Subtlety of Some Social Influence On the surface, the difference between telling a prospective customer that the price of note cards is \$3, which is a bargain, and telling her that the price is 300 pennies, which is a bargain, appears trivial. Nonetheless, the second form of the offer consistently produced nearly twice the sales of the first. Ross and Nisbett (1991) remind us that large consequences from small differences imply dynamic systems in tension, as proposed by both of the change theories discussed in the introduction. What emerges from these studies is a view of the subtlety of some social influence. The reframing "it's a bargain" can double sales or be quite ineffective, depending on the subtle manipulation of attentional focus. First, the target's focus on the script of the offer needs to be disrupted enough to make the reframing effective. Without a disruption here, there is no acceptance of the reframing attempt. Disruptions presumably need to be quite subtle, enough to disrupt the script but not so much that the disruption draws critical attention. It is easy to envision a disruption that would divert attention away from the offer and onto the disruption or its author. In these cases, a reframing attempt would probably lose any effectiveness, because the target's attention is now on the salesperson and the implications of the disruption. This seemed to happen in the reframe-only condition of Study 2. Of course, these studies used only one disruption and one reframing. It is clear that fuller understanding of the DTR technique will require investigation of a range of disruptions and a range of reframings. Second, the offer and the disruption probably need to be processed by the target via the peripheral route (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Our note card studies were effective presumably because the objects were attractive, the prices relatively trivial, and the disruptions easily overcome. Change any one of these features and the DTR family of influence techniques may lose its effectiveness (Pollock et al., 1998). For instance, Santos, Leve, and Pratkanis (1994) showed that stating an unusual price piqued the target's interest and instituted more mindful consideration of the encounter. Santos et al. found that an unusual request (begging for 78 cents or 73 cents instead of 75 cents) produced greater compliance, presumably because of the greater mindfulness produced by this novel request. However, Santos et al. did not introduce a reframing statement after their unusual request. We suspect that if the unusual request increased mindfulness, it would diminish the effectiveness of any reframing message that was offered. More generally, these studies reinforce the need to understand the molecular cognitive and motivational processes involved in social influence. Minor variations in the request, the context, and the order., of components can produce major differences in the outcome. The DTR techniques demonstrate how subtle some social influence can be. References Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Ajzen, I., & Madden, T. J. (1986). Prediction of goal-directed behavior: Attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioral control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Erickson, M. H. (1964). The confusion technique in hypnosis. The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 6, Erickson, M. H., Rossi, E. L., & Rossi, S. (1976). Hypnotic realities: The induction of clinical hypnosis and forms of indirect suggestion. New York: Irvington. Festinger, L., & Maccoby, N. (1964). On resistance to persuasive communications. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68, Gilligan, S. G. (1987). Therapeutic trances: The cooperation principle in Ericksonian hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel. Haley, J. (1973). Uncommon therapy: The psychiatric techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. New York: Norton. Lewin, K. (1951). Frontiers in group dynamics. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers by Kurt Lewin (pp ). New York: Harper. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer- Verlag.

8 DISRUPT-THEN-REFRAME TECHNIQUE 199 Pious, S. (1993). The psychology of judgment and decision making. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pollock, C, Smith, S. D., Knowles, E. S., & Bruce, H. (1998). Mindfulness limits compliance with the that's-not-all technique. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, Rosenthal, R. (1994). On being one's own case study: Experimenter effects in behavioral research 30 years later. In W. R. Shadish & S. Fuller (Eds.), Social psychology of science (pp ). New York: Guilford Press. Rosenthal, R. (1995). Interpersonal expectancy effects: A 30-year perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 3, Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill. Santos, M. D., Leve, C, & Pratkanis, A. R. (1994). Hey buddy, can you spare seventeen cents? Mindful persuasion and the pique technique. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, Schoemaker, P. J. H. (1982). The expected utility model: Its variants, purposes, evidence and limitations. Journal of Economic literature, 20, Sherman, S. (1988). Ericksonian psychotherapy and social psychology. In J. K. Zeig & S. R. Lankton (Eds.), Developing Ericksonian psychotherapy (pp ). New York: Brunner/Mazel. Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1985). A theory of action identification. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1987). What do people think they're doing? Action identification and human behavior. Psychological Review, 94, Wegner, D. M., & Vallacher, R. R. (1986). Action identification. In R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior (pp ). New York: Guilford Press. Wegner, D. M., Vallacher, R. R., Macomber, G., Wood, R., & Arps, K. (1984). The emergence of action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, Zeig, J. K. (1982). Ericksonian approaches to hypnosis and psychotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel. Received June 16, 1997 Revision received October 13, 1998 Accepted October 14, 1998 Low Publication Prices for APA Members and Affiliates Keeping you up-to-date. All APA Fellows, Members, Associates, and Student Affiliates receive as part of their annual dues subscriptions to the American Psychologist and APA Monitor. High School Teacher and International Affiliates receive subscriptions to the APA Monitor, and they may subscribe to the American Psychologist at a significantly reduced rate. In addition, all Members and Student Affiliates are eligible for savings of up to 60% (plus a journal credit) on all other APA journals, as well as significant discounts on subscriptions from cooperating societies and publishers (e.g., the American Association for Counseling and Development, Academic Press, and Human Sciences Press). Essential resources. APA members and affiliates receive special rates for purchases of APA books, including the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and on dozens of new topical books each year. Other benefits Of membership. Membership in APA also provides eligibility for competitive insurance plans, continuing education programs, reduced APA convention fees, and specialty divisions. More information. Write to American Psychological Association, Membership Services, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC

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