Need to ask somebody a big favor? Don't discount the importance of a little friendly physical contact. It can make even a total stranger want to do your bidding, even if the favor involves a very large, very energetic dog.
That, at least, is what a pair of researchers from France's University of Southern Brittany found out back in 2002. They wanted to probe just how much touch affects a person's willingness to help another person out, and they begin their summary with some rather awesomely catty comments about how tiny the favors in previous experiments were:
The effect of touch on compliance to a request has traditionally been tested with small solicitation (answer to a small questionnaire, give a dime to a confederate ....). In our experiment a larger request was evaluated. Passersby, 53 men and 67 women, were asked by two confederates to look after a large and very excited dog for 10 minutes because each wanted to go into a pharmacy where animals were prohibited. In half of the cases, subjects were touched during the request. Analysis showed that, when touched, 55% of the subjects agreed with the request whereas 35% only in the no-touch control condition agreed. This finding indicates that touch was positively associated with the subjects' compliance (p<.03).
The real question here is how many people would have agreed if it was the dog that had touched them. I demand answers, science!