other publications

No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, by Naomi Klein.

No Logo: Globalization and its Discontents

In No Logo, Naomi Klein writes, "This book is hinged on a simple hypothesis: That as more people discover the brand-name secrets of the global logo web, their outrage will fuel the next big political movement, a vast wave of opposition squarely targeting transnational corporations, particularly those with very high name-brand recognition....[This book] is an examination of a largely underground system of information, protest and planning, a system already coursing with activity and ideas crossing many national borders and several generations." (xviii) In our class discussion, we'll explore where we can see evidence of Klein's prediction of this underground movement of resistance, or evidence that she is, so-far, mistaken. Selections from No Logo

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Chapter 3: Commitment and Consistency.

In this chapter, Cialdini discusses how the need to be--or appear to be--consistent exerts a powerful influence on our decisions. Once we place our bet at the racetrack, we are more convinced that we made the right choice than before we place the bet. If someone asks us to watch their belongings, we're more likely to apprehend a thief who tries to steal them than if we had not been asked. Consistency is a powerful motivator for action because it is generally valued as a character trait, and is the basis of logic, rationality, stability, honesty, and ethics. An inconsistent person is often seen as a hypocrite, or careless, or undisciplined.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.)

Automatic consistency, like reciprocation, offers a shortcut through life's decisions, though it may prompt us to behave in ways that are not sensible or not in our best interests. Being unthinkingly consistent allows us to stop thinking about a subject: "That's what I believe...." Unthinking consistency can also provide a safe haven from disturbing ideas and feelings--such as guilt or shame--and is a form of defence against unbearable ideas (to cite Freud). Automatic consistency can be a shield against deeper thought. In the example of transcendental meditation (TM), people signed up in greater numbers after the recruiters' lecture was challenged for its logic; they needed to make a decision quickly before the logic destroyed their hope of finding a solution to their problems (62-64).

Compliance professionals exploit our own need to be consistent for their benefit. Toy manufacturers undersupply new toys which parents have promised children they will give them for Christmas. When the toys become available in January and February, the parents feel compelled to keep their agreement, even though they have already purchased other toys to make up for the one that wasn't available.

Commitment --> Consistency: Commitment activates the key that engages the desire to be consistent. If we tell a phone solicitor that we are feeling "fine," then we set ourselves up for agreeing that we are, indeed, able to help the less fortunate. The Chinese "lenient policy" during the Korean War had a high degree of success in turning American prisoners-of-war into informants and collaborators by securing small or trivial concessions and building on them towards larger confessions. Their success was based on the insight that people judge both others and themselves more on their actions than on their words. Our actions are our primary source of information about ourselves. Prisoners of the Chinese were asked to write out questions and their responses; the process of writing is an action signifying a commitment, or at least a trivial concession. As well, the written statement can be used to convince other people that the prisoner had certain beliefs. "Public commitments tend to be lasting commitments" (81; see experiments of Deutsch and Gerard 82-3). Prisoners were encouraged to compete with one another in essay contests for small favours, and were more likely to win if they made concessions to the Chinese view. Their letters home were also more likely to pass the censors if they included positive statements about their experiences. These small concessions were then used as propaganda or leveraged into larger concessions. Testimonial contests--"Why I like this product..."--work in a similar way.

Salespeople use the "foot-in-the-door" technique to leverage small purchases into larger ones: once we have signed a purchase order, even for a small item, we have ceased to become a prospect and have become a (valued) customer. Salesmen often have customers fill out the sales agreement, thus ensuring a higher degree of commitment to the sale. People who sign a public-spirited petition are more likely to agree to have a billboard placed on their lawns at a later date, possibly because their image of themselves has changed, and they want to behave with consistency. This is similar to saving face.

Jurors who publicly declare their initial verdicts by a show of hands are less likely to change their minds than those who use secret ballots. Public declarations are a powerful force for ensuring consistency and commitment, and are important elements of AA, Weight Watchers and other self-help organizations. Public rituals such as baptism, bar mitzvahs, initiations, and marriage encourage people to keep their commitments--all involve public declarations of intent.

The more sacrifice--or suffering!--these initiations entail, the greater the commitment. Aronson and Mills write, "Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort" (89). Severe duress during fraternity hazings, military boot camp, or tribal initiations help secure the solidarity and survival of the group. Severity heightens commitment. Commitments are most effective in changing self-image when they are "active, public, and effortful" (92). However, they are even more effective when the participants have been made to take "inner responsibility" for their actions, to own them. Thus, the Chinese interrogators provided only small rewards for winning an essay contest; fraternities are reluctant to temper their initiation rites with public-service activities. "Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures" (93).

A strong threat may produce immediate compliance but is unlikely to result in a lasting commitment (94). Freedman's research found that adding a strong threat to a request for compliance, over the long term, was less effective in deterring behavior in boys 7- to 9-years old. Freedman concluded that, in the first instance, the threat discouraged the boys from disobeying him; without the attendent threat, however, the boys convinced themselves internally that they did not want to disobey at a much later time. Children are more likely to comply--not to lie, for example--if they can be encouraged to take personal responsibility for their behavior with the least "detectable outside pressure" (97). Commitments that produce inner change are transferrable to other situations, and are lasting.

Low-balling trades on our commitment, even when the terms of our original decision are no longer so favorable. "An advantage is offered that induces a favorable purchase decision; then, sometime after the decision has been made but before the bargain is sealed, the original purchase advantage is deftly removed" (99). Studies of fuel consumption indicate that consumers increased their efforts to reduce fuel cost even after the original inducement--public acknoweldgement in local newspapers--was withdrawn after the first month. They had convinced themselves of the benefits of conserving energy and wanted to remain consistent with their new image of themselves. New supports for their decision had been put in place; enough so that removing the original support had no effect on their decision to comply.


Self-Reliance: Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous essay on independence, consistency, and the pressures of society to conform.