Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Seventeen Cents? Mindful Persuasion and the Pique Technique1


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    We thank Renee Bator and Samantha Faber for assistance with data collection and Peter Farquhar, Carrie Fried, and Marlene Turner for comments on an earlier draft of the paper. The authors also express their sincere appreciation to an anonymous compliance professional working in downtown Seattle, WA for suggesting the hypotheses investigated in this research.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Anthony R. Pratkanis, Board of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.


According to the pique technique, a target is more likely to comply if mindless refusal is disrupted by a strange or unusual request. We demonstrated the use of this technique in two experiments. In Experiment 1, passersby on a local municipal wharf were approached by a confederate panhandler who made either one of two strange requests: “Can you spare 17¢ (or 37¢)?” or made either one of two typical requests “Can you spare a quarter (or any change)?” Subjects in the strange conditions were almost 60% more likely to give money than those receiving the typical plea. In addition, a strange request piqued interest as evidenced by increased verbal inquiries about the request. Experiment 2 replicated the first experiment in a laboratory setting and provides additional evidence (via a cognitive response analysis) that strange requests piqued subjects' interest in the appeal as well as increased liking for the panhandler.