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Reciprocity and Persuasion

Liam Curley
Liam Curley
2 min read
Reciprocity and Persuasion

Reciprocity is part of our DNA. A feature of the human operating system.

Human Operating system

Humans have thrived, for thousands of years, through an inbuilt desire to repay debts.

An inbuilt desire to repay debts

This desire encourages us to share labour and assets. It ties individuals together. We're stronger together.

We evolve with this survival mechanism. Reciprocity is persuasive by design.

But, in marketing, it's the opposite to how you and I work.

Marketing works opposite

Ask first, offer gift in return.

Ask first, offer gift in return.

I used to do this all the time. Let's be honest, so did you.

Reciprocity, on the other hand, looks like the image below. This method is proven to deliver greater results.


Or take the following example. This led to an average 25% increase in food sales.

We're hard wired to want to repay a 'debt' or 'gift.' Our society looks unfavourably on those who don't.

Exchanges don't have to be equal

Exchanges don't have to be equal. A small favour can precede a larger return. For example...

In an experiment, one 'undercover' participant buys another a coke. Later, in the same experiment, on the same afternoon...

The coke 'buyer' asks the 'receiver' to buy a raffle ticket. On average, this generated a 500% return on investment.

500% return on investment

So, if you want to persuade prospects to take action...

Give, then ask.

All examples in this article were taken from the 2021 version of Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini.