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compliance gaining (behavioral compliance gaining)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Compliance gaining (behavioral compliance gaining) is the process of getting someone to do what you want them to do despite any disinclination on their part. As a field of study, compliance gaining originated in the social sciences and has been applied in marketing, website design, human resources management (HRM), public relations (PR) and political campaigns, among many other areas.

The concept of compliance, in this context, is often confused with persuasion, which can be thought of as one route to compliance gaining. Persuasion marketing, for example, might attempt to convince the recipient of a message that a particular product or brand is right for them. However, while persuasion seeks to change people's beliefs and attitudes, compliance gaining is designed to elicit actual behaviors from the target, such as making a purchase, flouting a security policy, promoting a brand or voting for a particular politician. Compliance is also distinct from obedience, which implies some authority or requirement, because the individual is free to respond as desired or not.

Most people encounter -- and attempt -- compliance gaining on a daily basis at home, at work and online. Strategies for achieving compliance include offering rewards, threatening punishment, using flattery and convincing people that the target behavior is the right or intelligent thing to do.

The efforts behind compliance gaining may be overt or covert, and the intention may or may not be ethical. Online, particularly through social media, people are bombarded with attempts to gain their compliance for a myriad of purposes. Efforts often involve segmenting the audience for targeted communications and exploiting social influence to increase the effectiveness of a campaign. Less ethical attempts include social engineering, fake news and weaponized information.

This was last updated in March 2018

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