Understanding our influence over others
In my primary research, I explore social influence via the levers of self-conscious emotions, such as guilt (Bohns & Flynn, 2013) 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 the United States (Bohns & Flynn, 2013; 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). 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). We have explored 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, 2017), and one’s relationship to the person being asked, as well as the downstream consequences after someone has agreed to an initial request (e.g., Newark, Flynn & Bohns, 2014; Newark, Bohns, & Flynn, 2017). I am currently exploring how these dynamics play out in a number of practical domains in which underestimating one's influence over others via a simple request can have important consequences, such as romantic or sexual advances that are made in the workplace (Bohns & DeVincent, 2018) and consent to be searched solicited by law enforcement (Sommers & Bohns, 2018).
- Emotion, Mood, Affect
- Ethics and Morality
- Helping, Prosocial Behavior
- Interpersonal Processes
- Judgment and Decision Making
- Organizational Behavior
- Persuasion, Social Influence
- Social Cognition
Note from the Network: The holder of this profile has certified having all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to post the files listed below. Visitors are welcome to copy or use any files for noncommercial or journalistic purposes provided they credit the profile holder and cite this page as the source.
- 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.
- Roghanizad, M. M. & Bohns, V. K. (2017). Ask in person: You’re less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 223-226.
- 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.
- Newark, D. Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. (2017). A helping hand is hard at work: Help-seekers’ underestimation of helper effort. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 139, 18-29.
- 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.
- 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., 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., 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., & 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., & Flynn, F. J. (2013). Underestimating our influence over others at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 33, 97-112.
- Bohns, V. K., & Flynn, F. J. (2013). Guilt by design: Structuring organizations to elicit guilt as an affective reaction to failure. Organization Science, 24, 1157-1173.
- Bohns, V. K. (2016). (Mis)understanding our influence over others: A review of the underestimation-of-compliance effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
- Sommers, R. & Bohns, V. K. (2019). The voluntariness of voluntary consent: Consent searches and the psychology of compliance. Forthcoming in Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128.
- Bohns, V. K. & DeVincent, L. (2018). Rejecting unwanted romantic advances is more difficult than suitors realize. Forthcoming in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
- 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.
- Bohns, V. K., & DeVincent, L. (2018). To reduce sexual misconduct, help people understand how their advances might be received. Harvard Business Review.
- Bohns, V. K. (August 3, 2015). You’re already more persuasive than you think. Harvard Business Review.
- Bohns, V. K., Newark, D. A. & Boothby, E. J. (2018). When do we feel responsible for other people’s behavior and attitudes? Forthcoming in S. Thye & E. Lawler (Eds.), Advances in Group Processes (vol. 35). New York: Emerald.
- Bohns, V. K. (April 11, 2017). A face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email. Harvard Business Review.
- Bohns, V. K. (February 9, 2014). Would you lie for me? Why we underestimate our own powers of persuasion. The New York Times.
- 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