• David de Souza

Commitment & Consistency Bias:


Commitment & Consistency Bias:

People have a strong desire, once they commit, to behave in line with that commitment. For example: Asking someone if they are going to vote will increase the likelihood that they will. Professor Robert Cialdini encourages people to write down and make public their commitments to encourage people to live up to their promises.



multidisciplinary Examples:


Mental models are like bridges that connect ideas between different subjects. The more mental models you have the better your multidisciplinary thinking will be.


Let's see how the mental model of commitment & consistency bias connects between different subjects:



1. Negotiation

  • When possible, mention precedents and past practices. Something you have done before is less likely to be contested.

  • Research on the non-rational escalation of commitment shows that we have a strong desire to justify our prior decisions and behaviors. If someone isn't doing something, say: "I'm guessing you haven't got around to...." . Either the person responds with pride or they double down on their commitment.

  • Use a commitment (and loss aversion) to avoid a bidding war, for example: "We're going to commit to a financial package that will be at the top of the industry, but we're not going to reveal it until we have your commitment to take it or reject it. We don't want this package to be used to start a bidding war with your current company."

  • Everyone thinks they are open-minded because the opposite is being closed-minded. People's perception of their open-mindedness makes them feel obligated to explore possibilities."It seems like you are giving them a choice, when you are heavily weighting the only option you are giving them. Ask: "How open-minded are you about at least trying..?"

2. Persuasion

  • Consistency is powerful in influencing human behavior because of commitment. Researchers asked people to predict if they would vote on election day. As most people want to seem virtuous they said 'yes' and this acted as a commitment device and more people went to vote.

  • Charities use consistency when calling and asking "How are you?" Our natural reaction is to say "Fine/Good" and they then reply with "I'm glad to hear that because I am calling to see if you can help the unfortunate victims of....'

  • Give a person the label of a certain trait and then make a request consistent to that trait (and provide examples of when they have done something similar).

  • Highlight a discrepancy between what a person might recommend others to do and what they are doing. This technique works because we strive for consistency. We want our beliefs and behaviors to align.

  • It relieves discomfort when you can show people there is a pattern.

  • To overcome the effects of peoples' consistency bias, avoid framing their commitment as a mistake. Tell them: "Their decision was correct at the time they made it"

  • After a person has answered a question favorably, say "I'll let the others know" to increase commitment as their decision has now been publicly declared.

  • People who write down a statement are more committed to it even after new evidence is provided, especially those who do so publicly. People who do not write down a statement are more willing to change their minds.

  • You can increase the likelihood that someone will come to an event by saying: "We'll mark you down as coming then, Okay?" [Pause]

  • Foot-in-the-Door Technique: Start by asking for a small request in order to gain compliance for a larger request.

  • Throwing a Low-Ball Technique: The seller does not intend to sell at ad low price, their only goal is to get the buyer to decide to buy. Once this is done a number of steps cement the commitment: Paperwork, financing, etc.

3. Storytelling

  • Structure is the most important part of story writing. The brain needs a pattern and order to follow.

  • Use ideas & concepts that people already understand. Schemas increase memory and comprehension.

4. Copywriting

  • The Rule of Belief: "If you violate your prospect's established beliefs in the slightest degree nothing you promise him, no matter how appealing, can save your ad."

  • Ask a prospect: "Will you do me a favor and try our product and give you their opinion."

  • Be a rebel with sufficient independence of mind to express your private opinion and not the party line.


5. Influence

  • Humans are creatures of habit and control. They like to see consistency and predictability. This is why natural disasters scare us so much. By being unpredictable you will exhaust people and make them flustered and unbalanced.

  • If you corner someone they will fight harder as there is no way out, they are committed. Sometimes it is better to leave an escape route that tires and demoralizes the enemy, which results in less work and causalities for your side.

  • Power relies on appearance and one way to improve your image is to be independent and not commit. You seem beyond petty politics. As you become known for being independent and unbiased both sides will want you on their side as a judge and a beacon that their side is right.

  • "Persistence works because it wears down the opposition. Much like water eroding a rock, over time, keeping at something creates results. In addition, staying in the game maintains the possibility that the situation will shift to your advantage."

  • The most important thing to turn a prospect into a customer is to get them to commit, it doesn't matter how small that initial purchase is. Make the commitment:

  1. Simple

  2. Small

  3. In line with their needs.

  • Once we make up our mind, we are at pains to remain consistent. Even if you can convince someone they are wrong, the person's ego will make it difficult for them to back down. They want to save face. Use the principle of consistency when persuading by saying, for example:

  1. "I have always respected your willingness to listen and that you are big enough to change your mind when the facts warrant it."

  2. "You are a natural leader. I'm going to need your help in making this team the best in the department".

5. Questions

  • Jeff Bezos says 'if you have a conviction....even if there is no consensus say: "Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? [can we disagree and commit?]



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