The Benjamin Franklin Effect Explained

Request someone to do you a favor, and they will begin to like you more. Sounds contradictory? This is what is dubbed as the Benjamin Franklin effect in social psychology. PsycholoGenie explains the story behind this naming, and how it is tested to be true.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Benjamin Franklin
One of the founding fathers of the U.S., a political theorist, politician, diplomat, and scientist who is known to have invented the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove.

"Throw kindness around like confetti."
As the saying goes, we often engage in acts of kindness. What goes on in our minds when we decide to go for such benevolence? What is the prize that we expect for ourselves? Or do we simply intend to impress someone? That would be a sure 'Yes', in some delicate affairs!

But how about someone else being impressed by you while YOU just ask that person to do you a favor, and sit back. This might seem unbelievable, or no less than a deceptive trick in the beginning. But it has been an exceptional behavioral marvel, proven and experienced by many, including the polymath Benjamin Franklin himself.

Why is it Called the Ben Franklin Effect?
The reason behind the naming of this effect goes back to one of the incidents in the life of Benjamin Franklin, as mentioned in his autobiography. There, he has written about how he dealt with one of his rival legislators during the 1730s. This wealthy and influential legislator was strongly arguing for a different candidate. Franklin wanted this powerful advocacy to be on his side. He found out that this person had a collection of some quite scarce and rare books. He thus wrote to this person, requesting him a favor to lend one of those rare books for a few days. The person sent the book immediately to him, which Franklin read and returned within a week, along with a note expressing and acknowledging the favor.

This is what Franklin wrote about the next meeting between the two,

"When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."

While accounting this experience in his memoirs, Franklin has given the following as an 'old maxim' he found to be true,

"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."

The Benjamin Franklin Effect
It is a psychological phenomenon, where a person having done someone a favor is more likely  to do another favor for him/her, than they would be if they had received a favor from that person.

In simple words, the meaning of this effect is understood as - Ask someone to do you a favor, and they will like you more. So, if we do a favor for someone, it makes us like that person more, and not the other way round. As described in Franklin's autobiography, he used this phenomenon to turn his hater into a friend.

In Love
SoulPancake, a media company, tried to study the validity of this psychological effect on couples. Couples were tested for the attraction they had for each other. Then, one person from every couple was made to stand outside. The people left inside were asked to carry out different tasks to prove how they felt about their partners (standing outside). This, they did, by carrying signs of appreciation, praising them with the best compliments, and most remarkably by getting a beverage for their sweethearts.

After this activity, the levels of attraction between these couples were tested again. And it was observed that the partners who were engaged in all the graceful acts found themselves to be more attracted towards their partners than when they were originally tested.

Don't think that you can always expect more affection by stealing every chance of being helpful and considerate. Let your beloved do you some favors too. Because, it's seen to be working that way!

In the Service Industry
The Ben Franklin effect is known to help sales professionals build a connect or rapport with their customers. In cases where the usual approach of service or help is not working out, the clients themselves can be asked to give in some suggestions. Their opinions about the future trends in the market, their assessment of upcoming range of products, etc., help in the client developing an inclination towards the sales professional and his firm. This favor done to the client results in ensuring that he/she turns into a prospective investor for the firm.

The Reverse Ben Franklin Effect
However, the reverse of this effect is also believed to be true. If the Ben Franklin effect is understood to be a favor done to someone because we like the person, the reverse of harming the person because we hate him/her is considered to be a similar logical inference. The likelihood of willingness to harm someone is more than the chances of the victim initiating a counterattack. This causation helps explain atrocities taking place during wars.
Asking a favor usually seems to be a simple and routine act. We are not really aware of how it can impact a mutual relation in such a slender manner. Foot-in-the-door technique, a theory in social psychology about compliance and persuasion, can be another such surprisingly true psychological process that occurs in our everyday life, without us noticing it at all.