Personality Traits and Social Influence: Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Cialdini’s Compliance Principles

Term Paper, 2012
18 Pages, Grade: 7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses
2.1. Compliance Strategies
2.2. Personality Factors
2.2.1. Neuroticism
2.2.2. Extraversion
2.2.3. Conscientiousness
2.2.4. Agreeableness
2.3. Intention to Comply

3. Methodology
3.1. Sampling
3.2. Measures

4. Analysis

1. Introduction

Over the previous decades, researches have scrutinized social influence – the methods used for changing people’s attitudes and behaviors. According to Key et. al. (2005), social influence encompasses two forms of influence: persuasion and compliance. While the former refers to alteration of attitudes, the latter denotes change in behavior. Both forms of social influence have been researched (Albarracin et. al., 2005), although the impact of personality differences has mostly been assessed in the context of persuasion, not compliance (Key et. al., 2009).

Marwel and Schmitt in 1960s originally conceived compliance by producing a series of compliance-gaining tactics. Decades later, Robert Cialdini distinguished between six principles through which compliance with persuasive request can be obtained. Compliance according to Robert Cialdini (2001) is the process of getting people to conform to a request. The target complying with the persuasive request may or may not apprehend that he or she is being impelled to act in a particular way (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Jointly Cialdini and Goldstein (2004) define compliance as a submission made in response to a persuasive request.

Research on compliance is significant since it is a form of social influence that affects people’s everyday behavior (e.g. social interaction). This paper infers how responsiveness to Cialdini’s compliance principles varies by personality. Historically, researchers interested in the study of personality differences have mostly relied on the five-factor model (FFM) also referred to as Big Five personality factors (Richard et. al., 2001). Currently, this model is widely used to explain crucial features of personalities among different individuals (Judge et. al., 2002). The five-factor model from Costa and McCrae (1992) has been recognized as a great model for apprehending the association between personality and various behaviors (Poropat, 2009). Each of the bipolar factors (e.g. extraversion) includes several facets (e.g. sociability) with more specific traits (e.g. talkative, outgoing) (Gosling et. al., 2003).

Conclusively, this paper serves as useful reference for both marketers and health promoters to apprehend the association between various personality traits and their responsiveness to different compliance techniques.

RQ: Do individuals differ in their susceptibility to Cialdini’s compliance principles?

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses

2.1. Compliance Strategies: Robert Cialdini in his comprehensive observation of commercial compliance professionals attempted to make an effort to discover the distinct compliance procedures being applied across advertising, promotions, merchandising and fund-raising (Cialdini & Sagarin, 2005). In this process, Cialdini accounts that he looked for predominant compliance principles that occurred in multitude of versions and within numerous compliance professions; had been previously applied successfully; and were employable by most compliance professionals. Among numerous principles, six held out from the rest: authority, liking (similarity), reciprocity, commitment/consistency, scarcity, and social validation. (Cialdini & Sagarin , 2005). This study focuses on the first four principles that are briefly described in table below.

2.2. Personality Factors: Debate exists in the field of psychology regarding which personality factors have the greatest influence. Unanimity in this matter has grown in favor of a five-dimensional personality structure (Ellen & Empar, 2004). In contemporary psychology, the five-factor model or Big Five personality factor is largely used to describe human personality (Judge & Bono, 2000). There is a cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary consent that the Big Five is a valid model of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992). This model has brought tremendous improvements in the field of personality psychology (Judge & Bono, 2000). Tupes and Christal initially established these five broad domains of personality in 1961 that was later furnished by Costa and McCrae in 1997. The Big Five, which has received tremendous empirical attention over the past several years, consists of neuroticism; conscientiousness; extraversion; agreeableness; and openness to experience. The model has proved to be effective outside of the field of personality studies such that it has developed into a theoretical generality (Cheng, 2008).

2.2.1. Neuroticism: Experiencing negative emotions, such as, anxiety, sensitivity, depression, and low self-esteem characterize neuroticism. Individuals scoring high in neuroticism tend to be emotionally vulnerable and sensitive to stress (Eysenck, 1967). Hovland et. al. in their 1953 study found that individuals who feel inadequate and depressed are susceptible to be influenced. Furthermore, in an attempt to prove neuroticism personality as being low in persuasibility, Irving (1956) was unsuccessful to establish this effect. Cheng (2008) in his study of personality as relational resource and persuasion has shown that highly neurotic individuals tend to handle their interpersonal relationships in reflective manners through hiding their own opinions and focusing on arguments of others. These individuals mirror other people’s statements during communication. Moreover, Cohen in his analysis of association between persuasion and self-esteem found that individuals with low self-esteem tend to be more susceptible to persuasion (1959).

As mentioned earlier, persuasion and compliance are two forms of social influence, which respectively influence attitude and behavior (Key et. al., 2005). According to Ajzen (1988), attitude is one of the determinants of behavior that is mediated by intention. Hence, extending on Cohen’s findings, the present study explores whether there is positive association between neuroticism and the compliance principle of authority. Since neuroticism is connected with low self-esteem, it is expected that a highly neurotic individual will react more to a persuasive request of an authoritative figure.

Ha: A highly neurotic individual complies more to a request when encountered with authority.

2.2.2. Extraversion: According to Eysenck (1967), extraversion is attributed by sociability, talkativeness, and assertiveness. Ellen and Empar (2004) in their study show that extraversion encompasses the fondness for human contact, attention and the desire to inspire other people. Extravert personality type has a long history in academic research with evolving characteristics throughout the years, although the defining characteristic of extraverts as being sociable has persisted integral. Thus, an extravert individual has the tendency to seek out stimulus, impetus and company of others (Eysenck, 1967). In a study of supported living schemes for British citizens, Kinsella (1993) found that highly sociable people prefer roommates who are sociable; in other words, they seek people they have similarity with.

Studies hypothesizing on the association between extraversion and persuasion have reported varied results. Most researchers have anticipated a negative impact of extraversion on persuasion. For example, Gerber et. al. (2008) in their study of Big Five personality and persuasive appeals show that there is negative effect of extraversion on persuasion. Although, they also report that the hypotheses formed to show this negative result was partially supported. On the other hand, John (1963) reports that extravert individuals tend to be good listeners of argumentative speeches and change their minds according to the content of the argumentations. Hence, it is safe to assume that extraverted individuals can also be susceptible to influence.


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Personality Traits and Social Influence: Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Cialdini’s Compliance Principles
University of Amsterdam
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personality, traits, social, influence, individual, differences, susceptibility, cialdini’s, compliance, principles
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Farkhunda Saquib (Author), 2012, Personality Traits and Social Influence: Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Cialdini’s Compliance Principles , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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