A Three-Factor Experimental Analysis of Promises and Threats

Authors

  • Jeffrey Z. Rubin,

    Corresponding author
    1. Tufts University
      Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Jeffrey Z. Rubin, Department of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155.
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  • Roy J. Lewicki

    1. Dartmouth College
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    • 2

      The authors wish to thank Carol T. Mowbray and Lora-Jean Collett for their assistance in conducting the experiment and Gerrit Wolf for his advice about the Markovian analysis of the data. Appreciation is also extended to Carol Milligan and J. Richard Hackman, as well as the students and faculty of the NIMH Graduate Training Program in Social and Developmental Psychology, Tufts University (BE6Zll), for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Jeffrey Z. Rubin, Department of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155.

Abstract

A questionnaire study was conducted to examine the extent to which variations in the language of promises and threats differentially affect compliance as well as perceptions of the transmitters of these influence attempts. Subjects were asked to imagine that they had been assigned a partner for collaborative work on a project, for which the topic had not yet been decided. In an attempt to persuade them of the value of his topic, the partner (experimenter) sent subjects one of eight promises and threats, which varied along three dimensions: orientation to the consequences of compliance (reward or nonpunishment) vs. noncompliance (punishment or nonreward); transmitter versus recipient orientation of the statement's premise; and transmitter versus recipient orientation of the statement's conclusion. The results indicate that recipient-oriented premise statements and statements of contingent reward or nonpunishment are seen as both more attractive and more likely to gain compliance than those that have a transmitter-oriented premise or that express contingent punishment or nonreward. In addition, compliance was found to be strongly related to a transmitter's attractiveness, but to neither his perceived power nor his activity. The implications of these findings for future research and the resolution of a variety of conflicts were discussed.

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