Ben Franklin Effect

Benjamin Franklin, was among the prominent Founding Fathers of the United Sates. Some say he was an author. Some say he was a scientist. Some say he was a politician and a civic artist. While some say he was all of this put together. Among his literary contributions his theories are very well known. One such theory put together by Ben Franklin is a theory about trust. It came to be known as the Ben Franklin Effect.

It is a very interesting theory. It states that we like somebody more when we do them a favor. In his time it came across as a very absurd theory but subsequent test actually proved the theory. Ben Franklin’s statement of this theory was that somebody who has already helped you once is more likely to help you again than somebody whom you have helped. Normally, it is expected that when we do some one a favor he is more likely to return it. But it is not so. Somebody who has done you a favor is more likely to help you again. The reason behind this is that we tend to think to ourselves that when we do a favor we did so because we like that particular individual. He also proposed the converse of this theory. Just like we tend to like somebody whom we have done a favor conversely we tend to hate our victims. For example in a war, one tends to subject the enemy to horrible atrocities to reduce the dissonance of killing. These are atrocities which we would normally never indulge in.

To prove that we tend to like whom we have done a favor on, a test was conducted. Two researchers Jecker and Landy introduced some students in a contest where the students won a lot of money. After that they divided the students in three groups. The first group was requested by the researchers to return the prize money and was told that the money had come from their own fund and now they were falling short of money. The second group was approached by their secretary and told them that this was his money and requested them to return it. The third group was not approached at all. After this they were asked to rate the researchers. Expected results were that the since the third group won the money they should rate the highest, followed by second group and worst by the third.

The results were rather surprising. The second group rated the researchers higher than third. However, first group rated the researchers higher than the third group! Those who were actually asked to return the money rated higher than those who earned prize money. This amply proved that asking for a personal favor increases liking.

This is because when we do somebody a favor our brain tends to justify the action as liking to that person. Ben Franklin linked this effect to developing trust. He simply stated that to get somebody to like and trust you more ask him or her to do you a small favor. Them doing a favour will make them like you better. This came to be known as the Ben Franklin Effect.