Another technique discussed in Influence is how our in-built need to appear consistent can easily be taken advantage of. The book explains that if we have stated that we think a particular way, we feel the need to support that way of thinking, even if it is exposed as faulty or ill-informed. It details that once we label ourselves, we find it very difficult to remove that tag.
A study explained in the book involved a researcher posing as a volunteer worker. This person would go to houses and ask residents to install a huge billboard on their front lawn with ‘Drive safely’ on it. Understandably, not many accepted, with 83% turning down the offer (I’m surprised that number wasn’t even higher).
However, the same experiment elsewhere, but with a small precursor, produced markedly different results. In this one, the only difference was that the residents had been approached weeks before by a different fake volunteer. They had asked them to display a small sign that read ‘Be a careful driver’. Being such an innocuous request (seemingly), most accepted it. But when it came time to be asked about the billboard (which 83% of another group had rejected), an astonishing 76% agreed to it. The most logical explanation for this being that acceptance of the small sign caused these people to label themselves as caring, either about driver safety or more generally about others. They convinced themselves that they were the type of person who would care about such a thing, and thus were more pliable to the far more significant suggestion.