Riblet#39: They shoot Messengers, don’t they?

Tom Bonner, weatherman for KARK-TV in Little Rock Arkansas told of how he was in a bar when an inebriated, burly farmer walked up to him and poked him in the chest saying: “You’re the one that sent that tornado and tore my house up… I’m going to take your head off.’  Bonner looked around for assistance but found none, so he said: “That’s right about the tornado, and I’ll tell you something else, I’ll send another one if you don’t back off.”


Weather forecasters often suffer abuse and threats of violence by being associated with bad weather.  Clearly, they don’t cause it, but nevertheless the association is enough to make them victims of abuse, much as any messenger of defeat in battle in Ancient Persia was immediately slain.  Of course, if it was a case of victory in battle then the messenger was treated to food, drink and the sexual delight of their choice.  This is the Association Principle in action.


In social psychology, “compliance professionals”  are people who are trying to get you to do something.  They may be in sales or marketing or public policy, but they are all doing essentially the same thing.  One of the key factors in getting someone to do something, to comply, is “liking”.  If you like someone, you are more likely to do what they ask; and one of the ways to become liked is through association.


Extensive surveys of fans of sports teams have found that when asked about a recent victory of their team, they say “we won” garnering the prestige to themselves.  However when asked about  a defeat, they tend to say “they lost”, i.e. they dissociate themselves from defeat.


Risk professionals need to take care not to be seen as “business prevention”  or focussing on “what could go wrong”.  In order to exploit the Association Principle, they should focus on how the organisation can ensure that ambitions and goals are met and that things of value (customers, colleagues, reputation, assets) are protected.


Data Source:  Influence, the psychology of persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini

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