IACM VSS: Saying “No” Is Harder Than You Think: Implications for Compliance and Consent

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IACM Virtual Seminar Speaker:  A Monthly Series on Conflict and Negotiation Research

Saying “No” Is Harder Than You Think: Implications for Compliance and Consent

 Click Here to Register for the Session

Professor Vanessa Bohns, Cornell University
Moderator: Professor: Jessica Li
Using “Schedule 1”
45 minutes


Friday, March 4th                   

Schedule 1:
8 AM US Pacific
11 AM US Eastern
5 PM Amsterdam
11 PM Singapore
1 AM (next day) Melbourne

Authors: Vanessa Bohns

Abstract:  Saying “no” is hard. By refusing a request—whether a request for help, a romantic advance, or something more nefarious—one risks offending one’s interaction partner and embarrassing everyone involved. As a result, people regularly agree to things—even things they would prefer not to do—in order to avoid the considerable discomfort of saying “no.” Yet when we are not the ones facing the immediate prospect of saying “no,” we tend to discount the power of these concerns as drivers of behavior. I will demonstrate that this tendency to underestimate the role of discomfort in driving compliance leads people to underestimate the likelihood that people will agree to both their prosocial and unethical requests, and view compliance with such requests as more voluntary than targets experience their own acquiescence. These findings have important implications for determining whether someone has voluntarily consented to a request or merely complied.

Bio:  Vanessa Bohns received her PhD in Social Psychology from Columbia University and her AB in Psychology from Brown University. Prior to joining Cornell, she taught at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo in Canada. Her research has been published in top academic journals in psychology, management, and law, and has been featured in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Economist, among other media outlets. She is an outgoing associate editor at the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and sits on the editorial board of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Her first book You Have More Influence Than You Think (2021, Norton) was published last September.

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