Incidental Similarities and Compliance

We are more likely to com­ply with requests from strangers if we believe we share seem­ingly uncom­mon, incid­ent­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics (e.g. first name, birth­day, etc.), accord­ing to a 2004 research study pub­lished in the Per­son­al­ity and Social Psy­cho­logy Bul­let­in (pdf):

Four stud­ies examined the effect of an incid­ent­al sim­il­ar­ity on com­pli­ance to a request. Under­gradu­ates who believed they shared a birth­day (Study 1), a first name (Study 2), or fin­ger­print sim­il­ar­it­ies (Study 3) with a requester were more likely to com­ply with a request than par­ti­cipants who did not per­ceive an incid­ent­al sim­il­ar­ity with the requester. The find­ings are con­sist­ent with past research demon­strat­ing that people often rely on heur­ist­ic pro­cessing when respond­ing to requests and with Heider’s descrip­tion of unit rela­tion­ships in which per­ceived sim­il­ar­it­ies lead to pos­it­ive affect. Con­sist­ent with the unit rela­tion inter­pret­a­tion, par­ti­cipants did not increase com­pli­ance when hear­ing about an incid­ent­al sim­il­ar­ity with someone oth­er than the requester or when they believed the fea­ture they shared with the requester was com­mon.

Won­der­ing why there were two birth­day-related posts today? Today I am 25!

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