Understanding our influence over others
In my primary line of research, I explore social influence via the levers of self-conscious emotions, such as guilt (Bohns & Flynn, 2013a) and embarrassment (Bohns & Flynn, 2010). In particular, I have looked at the extent to which we realize how much influence we have over other people through these levers (Bohns, 2016). People typically do not appreciate how much they influence others' behavior, especially in relatively individualistic cultures like Canada and the United States (Bohns & Flynn, 2013b; Bohns et al., 2011). For example, in the prosocial domain, Frank Flynn and I have found that people don't expect that the simple act of asking for help will elicit the kind of assistance it almost invariably does (Flynn & Lake (Bohns), 2008; see also Flynn & Bohns, 2012; Newark, Flynn & Bohns, 2014). Further, my graduate students and I have found that this effect extends to unethical domains. Just as participants in my previous studies exhibited surprise at how willing people were to help when asked, people are similarly surprised at how willing others are to engage in unethical acts when asked (Bohns, Roghanizad & Xu, 2014). I am currently exploring various moderators of these findings, such as the use of financial incentives to elicit compliance (Bohns, Newark & Xu, 2016), the communication medium by which a request is made (Roghanizad & Bohns, in press), and one’s relationship to the person being asked, as well as the downstream consequences of these findings (e.g., Newark, Bohns, & Flynn, 2016).
In another line of research, I have explored the relational and intrapersonal effects of interpersonal complementarity. I have examined the conditions under which complementarity (as opposed to similarity) is advantageous for relationship partners working together to achieve joint goals (Bohns et al., 2013) and for interaction partners working together on a task (Bohns & Higgins, 2011). I have found that complementarity is advantageous, i.e., "opposites attract," when two individuals can take on their preferred separate roles, i.e., when they can “divide and conquer” goal-related tasks. I have also examined some intrapersonal effects of interpersonal complementarity. For example, people tend to complement another person's nonverbal dominance behaviour, i.e., curl up into a slumped, submissive posture when someone else is interacting in a powerful, dominant manner. As a result, Scott Wiltermuth and I have found that interacting with someone powerful actually makes us physically weaker, i.e., we temporarily experience a lower threshold for pain and weaker handgrip strength (Bohns & Wiltermuth, 2012).
- Emotion, Mood, Affect
- Ethics and Morality
- Helping, Prosocial Behavior
- Interpersonal Processes
- Judgment and Decision Making
- Organizational Behavior
- Persuasion, Social Influence
- Social Cognition
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- Bohns, V. K. (2016). (Mis)understanding our influence over others: A review of the underestimation-of-compliance effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
- Bohns, V. K., & Flynn, F. J. (2013b). Underestimating our influence over others at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 33, 97-112.
- Bohns, V. K., & Flynn, F. J. (2013a). Guilt by design: Structuring organizations to elicit guilt as an affective reaction to failure. Organization Science, 24, 1157-1173.
- Bohns, V. K., & Flynn, F. J. (2010). "Why didn’t you just ask?" Underestimating the discomfort of help-seeking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 402-409.
- Bohns, V. K., Handgraaf, M. J. J., Sun, J. M., Aaldering, H., Mao, C., & Logg, J. (2011). Are social prediction errors universal? Predicting compliance with a direct request across cultures. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 676-680.
- Bohns, V. K., & Higgins, E. T. (2011). Liking the same things, but doing things differently: Outcome versus strategic compatibility in partner preferences for joint tasks. Social Cognition, 29, 497-527.
- Bohns, V. K., Lucas, G. M., Molden, D. C., Finkel, E. J., Coolsen, M. K., Kumashiro, M., Rusbult, C. E., & Higgins, E. T. (2013). Opposites fit: Regulatory focus complementarity and relationship well-being. Social Cognition, 31, 1-14.
- Bohns, V. K., Newark, D. Xu, A. (2016). For a dollar, would you…? How (we think) money influences compliance with our requests. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 134, 45-62.
- Bohns, V. K., Roghanizad, M., & Xu, A. (2014). Underestimating our influence over others’ unethical behavior and decisions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 348-362.
- Bohns, V. K., Scholer, A. S. & Rehman, U. (2015). Implicit theories of attraction. Social Cognition, 33, 284-307.
- Bohns, V. K., & Wiltermuth, S. S. (2012). It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 341-345.
- Flynn, F. J., & Lake (Bohns), V. K. B. (2008). If you need help, just ask: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 128-143.
- Gu, J., Bohns, V. K., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2013). Regulatory focus and interdependent economic decision-making. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 692-698.
- Newark, D., Flynn, F. J., & Bohns, V. K. (2014). Once bitten, twice shy: The effect of a past refusal on expectations of future compliance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 218-225.
- Roghanizad, M. M. & Bohns, V. K. (in press). Ask in person: You’re less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
- Zhong, C., Bohns, V. K., & Gino, F. (2010). Good lamps are the best police: Darkness increases dishonesty and self-interested behavior. Psychological Science, 21, 311-314.
- Bohns, V. K. (February 9, 2014). Would you lie for me? Why we underestimate our own powers of persuasion. The New York Times.
- Bohns, V. K. (August 3, 2015). You’re already more persuasive than you think. Harvard Business Review.
- Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2015). Empathy gaps between helpers and help-seekers: Implications for cooperation. In Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Flynn, F. J., & Bohns, V. K. (2012). Underestimating one’s influence in help-seeking. In D. T. Kenrick, N. Goldstein, & S. L. Braver (Eds.), Six degrees of social influence: Science, application, and the psychology of Robert Cialdini (pp. 14-26). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Leadership and Influence
- Morality at Work
- Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
- Organizational Behavior
- Research Methods
- Values-Based Leadership
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
394 Ives Hall
Ithaca, New York 14853