How Much Influence Do We Have Over Each Other?


Vanessa Bohns, organizational behavior, studies social influence, specifically how much more likely people are to do things than we think they are. Recently, together with Frank Flynn at Stanford Graduate School of Business, she has conducted a series of studies testing participants’ intuitions about whether or not they can persuade other people. Participants are told they must go to a designated public place and make a specific request of random strangers, with the expectation that most strangers would decline their request. However, the findings of the studies showed that their expectations were false. “Across the board we find people think others are more likely to say no than they actually are,” says Bohns.