The Ben Franklin effect is a very normal occurring phenomenon that we feel in our daily life. It refers to a psychological phenomenon in which a person who has already performed a favor for someone, is more likely to do another favor for the same but only if they had received a favor from that very person. An explanation for this can be cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance can be defined as the state of mind in which one has inconsistent thoughts, or beliefs, or attitudes that are especially related to behavioral decisions and the change in attitude. When asked, the people reason that they come forward to help others because they like them, even if they do not because their minds have fought a struggle to maintain this kind of logical consistency between their actions and their perceptions.

EARLIER RESEARCH

The Benjamin Franklin effect is also said to be the resultant of person’s concept to come under a mode of self-attack. Every person develops his own persona. A persona is an aspect of the personality of a person as seen by others or from other people’s points of view. This persona persists because the amount of inconsistencies in one’s personal narration gets rewritten and is often misinterpreted.

The initial study of this effect was done by Jecker and Landy in the year 1969 in which some students were invited to take part in a Q&A competition run by the researchers and they could win some money as well. After this competition was over, about one-third of the students who had actually won was approached by a researcher and then were asked to return the money on the basis that he had to use his own funds to pay the winners and was running short of money.

The second third part of the students was asked by a researcher to return the money because they told them that it was from the psychology department and funds were low now. The last third part of the students was not approached at all.
All three groups were then asked how much they liked the researcher that was there. He came to know that the second group liked him the least, while the first group liked him the most. For this, they suggested that a refund request by an intermediary had decreased their liking, while a direct approach had increased their liking.

LEARNER-TEACHER EXPERIMENT

In around 1971, at the University of North Carolina, there were two psychologists John Schopler and John Compere. They carried out a very interesting experiment. They had taken their subjects to administer learning tests to accomplices pretending to be other students. The subjects were told that the learners would watch as the teachers used some sort of sticks to tap out to the long patterns on a series of wooden cubes presented before them. The learners would then be asked to repeat the same patterns. Each teacher was to try out two different methods on two very different people but only one at a time.

In one go, the teachers would encourage when the learner got the patterns all in the correct manner. In the other run of the experiment, the teacher insulted and criticized the learner when they did any mistake. Afterward, the teachers were asked to fill out a questionnaire that included some questions about how attractive and likable the learners were. Across the board, the subjects who received the insults were rated as less attractive than the ones who got the encouragement.

In short, we can say that the subject’s own manner towards the accomplices shaped their perception in the eyes of them. Thus we can very easily say that people tend to like the people who are kind to them and dislike the people who are rude towards them. Some of the results were found to be much similar in a more recent but smaller study by psychologist Yu Niiya who had Japanese and American subjects.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

Our observing brain does not like it when our actions do not match the beliefs and thoughts that we have about ourselves. This kind of situation is commonly referred to as cognitive dissonance. So, whenever our behavior is in conflict with our beliefs for anything that we do or see, this conflict immediately sets off an alarm in the brain. The brain already has a very clever response to this. It goes about changing how you feel in order to reduce the conflict that is running in your mind and turn off the alarms.

In the field of sales, the Ben Franklin effect can be used to build up a rapport with a client. Instead of offering to help the potential client, a salesperson can instead ask the potential client for any kind of assistance. This small favor that you give to them can build up a strong likability that will enhance your ability to earn a good time of the client and investment in the future.

IMPACT ON RELATIONSHIPS

The Benjamin Franklin effect can also be observed in a successful mentor and the relationships that they have with their protégé. Such relationships are mainly defined by their fundamental balance of knowledge and influence they have on each other. Any attempt to actively reciprocate the favors with a mentor can cause a backfire to the protégé.

The Ben Franklin effect was also mentioned in Dale Carnegie’s bestselling book named, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. The Ben Franklin effect also has a connection with dog training; the more affection you show for the dog, the more natural you make him feel. And thus more easily the dog will respond to you and will start liking you. This proves that this phenomenal effect is not only observed in humans but in the animal and human relationships also.

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