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Aversive Stimulation

 

Techniques General persuasionKellerman and Cole's 64 Strategies > Aversive Stimulation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Get others to do as you wish by making them uncomfortable or unhappy until they agree.

If they do not comply in the short term, you can escalate your actions, for example taking them more often or doing things that are increasingly uncomfortable for the other person.

Example

A child nags their parent until they get what they want. If the parent seems to ignore them, they nag more loudly, more frequently, more aggressively and then start to cry.

An interrogator keeps a prisoner awake and without food until the prisoner supplies useful information.

Do it now! Do it now! Don't wait, just do it right away!

Discussion

Aversive stimulation can seem like a logical thing to do. For people with limited understanding of motivation, it can also seem like the obvious thing to do. The only problem is that it not only causes discomfort -- it also causes opposition and dislike, such that the other person may refuse to comply simply as a means of revenge and asserting their own control as a reaction against you trying to control them.

While torture is indeed aversive therapy, and even less physical means can cause great distress, more moderate forms aversive stimulation are both common and sometimes a reasonable option.

Considerations when to use this approach:

  • There really are no other options
  • You have no time for other persuasions which are less negative but more protracted
  • The person is likely to respond in the way you want
  • They are unlikely to try to take revenge
  • You can make an ethical argument for this action

Aversive Stimulation is the eighth of the 64 compliance-gaining strategies described by Kellerman and Cole.

See also

Conditioning, Using Repetition

 

Kellermann, K. & Cole, T. (1994). Classifying compliance gaining messages: Taxonomic disorder and strategic confusion. Communication Theory, 1, 3-60

 

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