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50% of Students Will Agree to a Request to Vandalize a Book



(p. 12) Do we realize how much power we wield with a simple request, suggestion or dare? New research by my students and me suggests that we don't.

We examined this question in a series of studies in which we had participants ask strangers to perform unethical acts. Before making their requests, participants predicted how many people they thought would comply. In one study, 25 college students asked 108 unfamiliar students to vandalize a library book. Targets who complied wrote the word "pickle" in pen on one of the pages.


. . .


Our participants predicted that an average of 28.5 percent would go along. In fact, fully half of those who were approached agreed. Moreover, 87 percent of participants underestimated the number they would be able to persuade to vandalize the book.


. . .


American culture idolizes individuals who stand up to peer pressure. But that doesn't mean that most do; . . .



For the full commentary, see:

VANESSA K. BOHNS. "Gray Matter; Would You Lie for Me?" The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., FEB. 9, 2014): 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date FEB. 7, 2014.)


The article summarized above is:

Bohns, Vanessa K., M. Mahdi Roghanizad, and Amy Z. Xu. "Underestimating Our Influence over Others' Unethical Behavior and Decisions." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40, no. 3 (March 2014): 348-62.






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