Article | Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

The Persuasive 'Power' of Stigma?

by Michael I. Norton, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Dana R. Carney and Dan Ariely


We predicted that able-bodied individuals and white Americans would have a difficult time saying no to persuasive appeals offered by disabled individuals and black Americans, due to their desire to make such interactions proceed smoothly. In two experiments, we show that members of stigmatized groups have a peculiar kind of persuasive "power" in face-to-face interactions with non-stigmatized individuals. In Experiment 1, wheelchair-bound confederates were more effective in publicly soliciting donations to a range of charities than confederates seated in a regular chair. In Experiment 2, whites changed their private attitudes more following face-to-face appeals from black than white confederates, an effect mediated by their increased efforts to appear agreeable by nodding and expressing agreement. This difference was eliminated when impression management concerns were minimized—when participants viewed the appeals on video.

Keywords: Power and Influence; Personal Characteristics; Cognition and Thinking; Interpersonal Communication; Spoken Communication; Attitudes; Negotiation Participants; Management Practices and Processes; Competency and Skills; Social Enterprise; United States;


Norton, Michael I., Elizabeth W. Dunn, Dana R. Carney, and Dan Ariely. "The Persuasive 'Power' of Stigma?" Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 117, no. 2 (March 2012): 261–268.