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2015 | 1 | 32-48

Article title

Complaining Decreases the Efficiency of Dialogue as a Method of Social Influence


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Purpose: The aim of the paper is to examine the efficiency of complaining as a method of social influence (Doliński, 2005). In Polish culture, complaining seems to be an efficient technique for initiating a dialogue, potentially increasing the effectiveness of persuasive messages expressed in a conversation. Methodology: The hypothesis was tested in two natural experiments. In the first one, a random sample of persons (n=246) were asked to let the experimenter through to the checkout counter at a supermarket. The request was preceded either by (1) a dialogue, (2) a complaint, or (3) no prior contact. It was either substantially or seemingly justified. In the second study, customers in a shop (n=46) were invited to pursue conversation initiated with (1) a positive statement or (2) a complaint regarding an extensive range of products. Findings: Study 1 proved that a seemingly justified request preceded by complaining is less effective (65.6 per cent) than a request preceded by a dialogue (93.8 per cent); this result is similar to the result of the control group (53.1 per cent). When the request was substantially justified, both dialogue and complaining seemed equally effective (86 per cent and 90 per cent respectively) – more effective than the results of the control group (46 per cent). In Study 2, positive and negative remarks initiating a conversation triggered similar responses in terms of willingness to pursue the dialogue (73.1 per cent and 78.3 per cent respectively). Constraints to research: Natural experiments presented in the paper were not controlled for such variables as environmental factors or individual differences. Originality: Complaining has never been subject to systematized examination as a method of social influence.






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  • Kozminski University
  • University of Warsaw


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