Would You Lie for Me?
By Dave Nussbaum
Think it would be tough to convince someone to lie for you or to vandalize public property? Think again.
The University of Waterloo’s Vanessa Bohns explains that we “often fail to recognize the power of social pressure when we are the ones doing the pressuring,” in the Gray Matter section of this week’s New York Times Sunday Review. Her research, published with colleagues in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, finds that we can influence others to commit unethical acts much more easily that we think.
WHAT is the chance that you could get someone to lie for you? What about vandalizing public property at your suggestion?
Most of us assume that others would go along with such schemes only if, on some level, they felt comfortable doing so. If not, they’d simply say “no,” right?
Yet research suggests that saying “no” can be more difficult than we believe — and that we have more power over others’ decisions than we think.
Social psychologists have spent decades demonstrating how difficult it can be to say “no” to other people’s propositions, even when they are morally questionable — consider Stanley Milgram’s infamous experiments, in which participants were persuaded to administer what they believed to be dangerous electric shocks to a fellow participant.