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We examine how to structure requests to help people feel they can say no (or yes) more voluntarily. Specifically, we examine the effect of having the requester provide the request-target with an explicit phrase they can use to decline requests. Part of the difficulty of saying no is finding the words to do so when put on the spot. Providing individuals with an explicit script they can use to decline a request may help override implicit scripts and norms of politeness that generally dictate compliance. This should make individuals feel more comfortable refusing requests and make agreement feel more voluntary. Hence, we hypothesized that telling people how to say no (by providing them with an explicit script) would make compliance decisions feel more voluntary above and beyond merely telling them they can say no. Across two experimental lab studies (N = 535), we find support for this prediction.


This article was originally published as: Schlund, R., Sommers, R. & Bohns, V.K. Giving people the words to say no leads them to feel freer to say yes. Sci Rep 14, 576 (2024). It is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License