Chapter 2

We Assume Others Will Say No

The amount of agony we feel when asking for help depends, in part, on how likely people are to reject our request. And when it comes to figuring out that likelihood, well, frankly, we get it surprisingly wrong.

Vanessa Bohns doesn’t tell her research participants to ask strangers for favors just for the fun of watching them squirm. She does it in order to try to understand a very perplexing phenomenon: people seriously underestimate how likely others are to comply with a direct request for help.

Before she sends them out on their help-seeking missions, Bohns asks participants to guess what percentage of the strangers they approach will agree to help (or in some versions, she asks them how many people they ...

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