The Pique Technique: Overcoming Mindlessness or Shifting Heuristics?
An unusual request can increase compliance in situations in which the typical response to the request is refusal. This procedure, called the pique technique, is said to be effective because the unusual request causes people to give mindful consider- ation to it. We tested this explanation in 2 studies. Passersby were asked for either a common amount of change or 37 cents. Participants who inquired about the unusual amount were given either a specific or an uninformative reason. The pique technique increased compliance, but only when participants stopped to ask about the request. These participants gave more money, regardless of the reason provided. The findings failed to support the notion that an unusual request leads to a mindful consideration of it. A direct-mail fundraiser lists several suggested amounts for donations, including one for $22. A traffic sign directs drivers to slow their vehicles to 19 mph. And a stationery store distributes coupons that give customers 23% off the regular price of any item. Intended or not, each of these real-life examples appears to be taking advantage of a compliance procedure known as the pique technique (Santos, Leve, & Pratkanis, 1994). The technique is designed to increase compliance in situations in which people typically pay little attention to the request or routinely reject it. Practitioners of the tactic present individuals with an unexpected request, such as asking for an unusual amount of money. If successful, the procedure leads to higher rates of com- pliance than a condition in which the request is presented in a predictable and uninteresting manner. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the pique technique, Santos et al. (1994) had undergraduates act as panhandlers on the Santa Cruz, California, wharf. The location was selected because wharf visitors typically ignore the panhandlers who congregate there. The experimenters asked passersby for money, using either a traditional request ("a quarter" or "any change") or an unusual request ("17 cents" or "37 cents"). A higher percentage of passersby gave money when presented with the unusual request than when hearing the