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Is It Bad to Ask People for Small Favors?

Can you do me a small favor? Read this item and tell me what you think. If the so-called "Benjamin Franklin Effect" works the way it’s supposed to, you’ll end up liking me. That’s the centuries-old psychological phenomenon proposed by the esteemed American statesman Benjamin Franklin, who wrote about this maxim in his autobiography: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” The hypothesis is that we agree to help people because we must like them. The opposite rationale is also thought to be true -- that we end up hating a person whom we have wronged. According to this theory, we dehumanize them in order to justify the bad things done to them.

Making foes into friends:

  • The Benjamin Franklin effect has been cited within cognitive dissonance theory, which says that people change attitudes to resolve tensions, or dissonance, between their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
  • The effect can be useful for improving relationships in the office. In sales, for example, it can be used to build rapport with a prospective client.
  • In Dale Carnegie’s well-known book How to Win Friends and Influence People, the author interprets the request for a favor as “a subtle but effective form of flattery.”
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