Engendering Cooperation Through Mannequins

I read this interesting article the other day on NPR’s website and it reminded me of a story from my college days.

For those who believe that clicking links is something that other people do, the article says:

In a series of new experiments, researcher Dariusz Dolinski of the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland found that when the initial request was highly unusual, people were more likely to comply with the demand that followed it.

Back when I attended Western Michigan University, my roommate Adam and I decided to make a video for the heck of it. If I remember, the video was to be an ad for toilet paper. In it, a man is chased across campus horror-movie style by a mannequin who keeps saying things like “Softer than ever” in different people’s voices. We used stop motion animation to make the mannequin move. The video featured a car chase and O Fortuna. In the end, the man makes it to his house and hides in the closet only to discover the mannequin there waiting for him. Then a disjointed scene cut to the man and mannequin smiling and saying the happiest “Softer than ever! Quilted Northern Toilet Paper!” that you’ve ever heard.

I believe we were tired when we thought up the idea for the video. Cut us some slack. It was fun at the time. If Adam still has it somewhere, I’ll post it here so we can all be scared together.

The reason the NPR article reminded me of this was because as we were shooting the video, we asked random passersby to stand close to the camera and say “Softer than ever”, and you know what? Everyone complied. Not one person refused us.

Mannequins are super creepy.

Why? I’m pretty sure it was because of the mannequin. For some reason, the craziness of two guys with a video camera lugging a mannequin around just made people want to be a part of what was going on.

It wasn’t until I saw that article today that I realized our mistake. Adam and I asked the crazy question, but we never followed it up with a more reasonable request. I wonder now if we could have gotten money somehow.

Maybe it is time for another video. Anyone have a mannequin I can borrow?

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2 thoughts on “Engendering Cooperation Through Mannequins

  1. I think that would be a hilarious video. I would click on it. ; )

    Your post reminds me of a study someone did years ago about people who walk up to a long line of people and ask to cut in to the front. They politely say that they are in a hurry and would really like to get in the front of the line. Almost everyone allowed them to cut! Even though everyone else was in a rush, too! It’s amazing what people will do.

  2. Yes, mannequins and clowns creep me out. I think you should try this again, now that you know the ‘proper’ method and see what happens. Something to tell the grandkids.

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