Collection: Charlie Munger - #76 'Bias From Reciprocation Tendency'


Video Link: https://youtu.be/a0JV8pxAm6E


In this episode, Charlie Munger shared the seventh causes of human misjudgment, bias from reciprocation tendency.


In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is reciprocation tendency?

  • Cialdini reciprocation tendency demonstration.

  • What you do will change what you think.

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[Transcript]

CHARLIE MUNGER 00:08

Seventh. Bias from reciprocation tendency, including the tendency of one on a roll to act as other persons expect. Well here, again, Cialdini does a magnificent job at this, and you’re all going to be given a copy of Cialdini’s book. And if you have half as much sense as I think you do, you will immediately order copies for all of your children and several of your friends. You will never make a better investment.


It is so easy to be a patsy for what he calls the compliance practitioners of this life. But, at any rate, reciprocation tendency is a very, very powerful phenomenon, and Cialdini demonstrated this by running around campus, and he asked people to take juvenile delinquents to the zoo. And it was a campus, and so one in six actually agreed to do it. And after he’d accumulated a statistical output he went around on the same campus and he asked other people, he said, “Gee, would you devote two afternoons a week to taking juvenile delinquents somewhere and suffering greatly yourself to help them,” and there he got 100% of the people to say no.


But after he’d made the first request, he backed off a little, and he said, “Would you at least take them to the zoo one afternoon?” He raised the compliance rate from a third to a half. He got three times the success by just going through the little ask-for-a-lot-and-back-off.


Now if the human mind, on a subconscious level, can be manipulated that way and you don’t know it, I always use the phrase, “You’re like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.” (Laughter) I mean you are really giving a lot of quarter to the external world that you can’t afford to give. And on this so-called role theory, where you tend to act in the way that other people expect, and that’s reciprocation if you think about the way society is organized.


A guy named Zimbardo had people at Stanford divide into two pieces, one were the guards and the other were the prisoners, and they started acting out roles as people expected. He had to stop the experiment after about five days. He was getting into human misery and breakdown and pathological behavior. I mean it was awesome. However, Zimbardo is greatly misinterpreted. It’s not just reciprocation tendency and role theory that caused that, it’s consistency and commitment tendency. Each person, as he acted as a guard or a prisoner, the action itself was pounding in the idea.


Wherever you turn, this consistency and commitment tendency is affecting you. In other words, what you think may change what you do, but perhaps even more important, what you do will change what you think. And you can say, “Everybody knows that.” I want to tell you I didn’t know it well enough early enough.

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