Once bitten, twice shy: The effect of a past refusal on future compliance

Once bitten, twice shy: The effect of a past refusal on future compliance

By
Francis J. Flynn, D. Newark, V. Bohns
Social Psychological and Personality Science.
2013

Four studies examined help-seekers’ beliefs about how past refusals affect future compliance. In Study 1, help-seekers were more likely than potential helpers to believe that a previous refusal would lead a potential helper to deny a subsequent request of similar size. Study 2 replicated this effect and found that help-seekers underestimated the actual compliance rate of potential helpers who had previously refused to help. Studies 3 and 4 explain this asymmetry. Whereas potential helpers’ willingness to comply with a subsequent request stems from the discomfort of rejecting others not once, but twice, help-seekers rely on dispositional attributions of helpfulness to estimate the likelihood of hearing “yes” from someone who has previously told them “no.”