The Benjamin Franklin effect

The Benjamin Franklin effect

Is a psychological phenomenon that causes us to like someone more after we do that person a favor: We justify our actions to ourselves, that we did them a favor because we liked them.

But the reverse effect is also true - we come to hate our victims, which helps to explain wartime atrocities.

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It suggests that holding 2 or more contradictory beliefs at the same time causes people to experience mental discomfort, which manifests as psychological stress.

And people will always seek to minimize their cognitive dissonance and the discomfort it creates.

The Benjamin Franklin effect has generally been explained using the cognitive dissonance theory.

Essentially, this means that when someone does you a favor, they need to be able to justify it to themself, in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance that might occur from doing something nice for someone that they dislike.

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Using The Benjamin Franklin Effect
  • Remember that the favor matters more than its scope. In most cases, the increase in rapport comes from the fact that the other person does you a favor.
  • Use reciprocity, by performing a small favor shortly before asking for one.
  • After asking for a favor, perform a small favor in return, to increase the likelihood of being helped again.
  • Be realistic with regards to who you asking for favors and what you are asking for.
  • Remember that how you ask for the favor is also important and affects your success rates. In most cases being kind and polite is the ideal.

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Cognitive Dissonance And Bias

Cognitive dissonance makes our mind try to protect our self-image and the connection between our thoughts and actions by modifying our opinions.

Once the justification or new opinion arises, we become more sensitive to any information that supports it. We also get more skeptical of any information that opposes it.

Applying The Benjamin Franklin Effect

Ask for help when you need it, but not too often. 

If you reach a roadblock during a negotiation, ask the investor or negotiating party for a favor and give them a reason to come back to you. This will help you reopen the discussion, and give them a perceived sense of power you can use to your advantage.

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