The Power Of “Because”

The Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer did an experiment where she asked people who were waiting in line to use a Xerox machine if she could cut in front of them.

Langer would walk up to the front of the line and simply say, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

94% of the people she asked this let her cut in front of them.

But when she changed her statement just a little bit and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Only 60% of the people let her cut in front of them.

The only obvious difference between these two statements is the latter half of the statement: “because I’m in a rush.”

But this is not the reason that made the people in line more likely to let her cut in front of them. Instead, it was Langer’s use of the word “because.”

Langer did another option where she did not provide a reason to cut in line, but added the word “because” and restated the obvious, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have five pages?”

And Langer found that 93% of these people let her cut in front of them.

This is a great tool of persuasion worth remembering.

In the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” psychologist and marketing professor Robert Cialdini says,

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

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11 thoughts on “The Power Of “Because”

  1. Interesting – very interesting. I think i would have let her cut in either way, but at the same time if i was in a rush and i only had five pages – i might be a bit …. well – i say that but, i think i am a big softie – but then again –

    Like

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