10 Psychological Studies That Will Boost Your Social Life

10 Psychological Studies That Will Boost Your Social Life


Have you ever wondered why you are more likely to tip waiters who treat you well, better than others?


Have you ever wondered why you tend to follow the opinion of the many when you find yourself in a situation of social pressure?


Have you ever wondered why you are more willing to follow me to an adventure if I tell you that you will lose something important rather than if I tell you that you will win something important?


All these questions are part of a psychological puzzle that lies latent in the unconscious mind of every individual.


This puzzle is part of our social contract and signifies, to a huge extent, some of our most reasonable but also some of our most unreasonable acts.


Below you will find a variety of psychological findings that aim to shed some light of reasoning to those acts and also reveal previously hidden insight into human behavior.


With each finding comes a takeaway. A takeaway that can help you apply each finding to your own reality and eventually boost your social life.


Use them wisely.


Psychological Studies – 1. Reciprocity


“We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us.”


The research: In 2002, a team of researchers found that waiters could increase tips with a tiny bit of reciprocity. Tips went up 3 percent when diners were given an after-dinner mint. Tips went up 20 percent if, while delivering the mint, the server paused, looked the customers in the eye, and then gave them a second mint while telling them the mint was specifically for them.


Another fun example: BYU sociologist Phillip Kunz sent Christmas cards to 600 completely random strangers. He received 200 Christmas cards back in response.


Social Life takeaway:


This amazing psychological finding raises two really important points with regards to our social interactions:


  1. People want you to give them first.
  2. People want to feel special.

Being an initiator of kind actions can easily spark a positive chain reaction among your peers or people you meet for the first time. As a social construct, reciprocity means that, in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much nastier and even brutal [1].


One must always be careful though because when it comes to reciprocity there is always a caveat. The secret to successful use of reciprocity lies in the delivery. Being extremely nice can easily cause miscommunication of your message and consequently lead to the demonstration of needy characteristics. Balancing your frame between assertiveness and confidence is always a good way to go.


Psychological Studies – 2. Consistency Principle


We like to keep consistent what we think, say and do, and will change to ensure this is so. 


The research: Princeton researchers asked people if they would volunteer to help with the American Cancer Society. Of those who received a cold call, 4 percent agreed. A second group was called a few days prior and asked if they would hypothetically volunteer for the American Cancer Society. When the actual request came later, 31 percent agreed.


Social Life takeaway:


When you meet new people, the best way to achieve deeper connections is to create expectations.


  • Do you want to meet them later? Ask them something along the lines of: “Do you enjoy after-parties?” or “Do you like pizza after a night out?” If they answer yes, they will definitely be more open to a future suggestion.
  • Do you want to get more intimate with them? Start creating subtle and non-intrusive mental and physical contact early enough in the interaction.
  • You want them to answer your text? When you text them make sure to mention something that they were positive about while interacting with you in the past.

Psychological Studies – 3. The foot-in-the-door method


When asked to make a small commitment first, we are more likely to agree to a larger request later. 


The research: The first study on the foot-in-the-door method was performed in the 1960s by Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser. Researchers phoned a number of homemakers to inquire about the household products they use. Three days later, the researchers called again, this time asking to send a group of workers to the house to manually note the cleaning products in the home. The women who responded to the first phone interview were two times more likely to respond to the second request.


Social Life takeaway:


When you want to inspire someone to help you or take part in something you are planning, it is best to start small and later on raise the expectations. Here is how the method works:


Let’s say you know a person that has connections and they most probably can get you in touch with someone important. Be strategic when it comes to asking them to introduce you to others. Start small and ask them to introduce you to the person they are interacting with, the moment you meet them. Keep working on this gradually and subcommunicate that you are a social person that likes to meet new people.


In a future moment, capitalize on the foot-in-the-door method and ask them to introduce you to the person you really want to meet.


As a quick side note, I would suggest being careful not to look like a freeloader when making use of the method. Balance asking with giving, while exhibiting positive social attributes.


Psychological Studies – 4. The Framing Effect


We react to a situation differently depending on whether we perceive the situation to be a loss or a gain. 


The research: Researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman polled two different groups of participants on which of two treatments they would choose for people infected with a deadly disease.


  • Treatment A: “200 people will be saved.”
  • Treatment B: “a one-third probability of saving all 600 lives, and a two-thirds probability of saving no one.”

The majority of participants picked Treatment A because of the clear and simple gain in saving lives.


In Group 2, participants were told the following:


  • Treatment A: “400 people will die.”
  • Treatment B: “a one-third probability that no one will die, and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die.”

The majority of participants picked Treatment B because of the clear negative effect of Treatment A.


Social Life takeaway:


Regardless of the interaction, the power of framing is unquestionable when it comes to how a person will react to your intentions. The two major takeaways from the above research are:


  • Cloak the negative
  • Empower the positive

You want to be as clear as you can when you deliver a positive sentence and as blurry as possible when you communicate something negative.


Psychological Studies – 5. Loss Aversion


We feel the negative effects of loss more strongly than we feel the positive effects of an equal gain. 


The research: Chicago Heights teachers received bonus payments as part of a loss aversion research study. One group of teachers stood to receive bonuses based on the performance of their students on standardized testing. Another group received their bonus at the beginning of the year and stood to either keep it or lose it based on the results of their students’ tests. Per the results of the study, the prepaid bonuses—the ones that could have been lost—had a bigger impact on teachers.


Social Life takeaway:


This research is somehow related to the previous one but this time the power of negative can be used for action-taking purposes. Focusing on the fear of loss rather than the power of gain can be a great way to initiate action.


Typical examples include:


  • “You are going to miss an unbelievable speaker if you don’t join us in that event. He makes public speeches only once a year.”
  • “You don’t want to miss this pizza place. Most of the celebrities chill there and they say that they serve the best pepperoni pizza in town.”

Psychological Studies – 6. Conformity and Social Influence


We change how we behave to be more like others. 


The research: Would you give a wrong answer if you knew it was wrong, just because everyone else was giving it? Solomon Asch found this to be true for a large percentage of people in a study he performed in the 1950s. He hired a group of actors to participate along with students in answering quiz questions. The actors were told to give the wrong answer. The majority of students followed suit, even though the correct answer was obvious.


Social Life Takeaway:


This is not something new. Our actions are constantly influenced by the actions of others since our tribal instincts are urging us to blend in. Identifying this need and finding creative ways to use it during your interactions can be extremely useful when it comes to influence and persuasion. From my personal experience, the most successful way to make use of this need is to take advantage of your social circle and most importantly your friends.


People who respect you and admire you can increase your value dramatically and raise your stature in the eyes of strangers. Discuss this principle closely with your friends and make clear to them the benefits of mutual promotion. Suggest clever ways to promote each other and ask them for support in case you want to increase your personal value to someone.


Psychological Studies – 7. Acquiescence Effect


We give answers based not just on a rational consideration of what is being asked but also in consideration of how we will appear to others. 


The psychology website Changing Minds explains three scenarios when we are most likely to acquiesce to the request of others:


  1. They seem to be a superior in some way.
  2. They have a need whereby we can easily help them.
  3. Answering the question fully seems like hard work.

Leading questions are one way that the acquiescence effect impacts the answers that one gives.


Social Life takeaway:


Don’t be afraid to challenge others. Challenging is a great tool to help you spark interesting conversations and it is also a great way to attract attention.


We usually fail to challenge others because we are afraid to put them in a difficult position. This somewhat limiting belief can be quite a hurdle in one’s attempt to increase their personal value.


Your ability to mentally provoke your environment is an attribute commonly identified in leaders and a skill that communicates mental sharpness and the ability to move away from mundane social patterns.


Psychological Studies – 8. Mere Exposure Theory


The more we’re exposed to something, the more we like it.


The research: Robert Zajonc showed Chinese characters to non-Chinese-speaking participants. He showed each character 1 to 25 times, asking participants to guess the meaning of the characters. The more often a participant saw a character, the more positive meaning they gave.


This theory has a quick effect too. Researchers Kunst and Williams showed their study participants a picture of an octagon for only one millisecond. Later on, though the participants could not explicitly remember seeing an octagon, they showed an increased affinity for the shape.


Social Life takeaway:


Have you ever noticed how some people, even if their first impression of someone is not the best, tend to change their opinion and appreciate them more once they get to know them better?


That’s the power of the mere exposure theory right there.


Even if you fail to make a good first impression, or you notice that someone does not treat you extremely friendly in the beginning, don’t let this affect your emotional state. Let others get a good grasp of who you really are by constantly exposing yourself to them. Eventually, by demonstrating personal value and a congruent identity, the mere exposure theory will work to your advantage.


Psychological Studies – 9. Buffer Effect of social support


People who feel supported by others feel less stress. If you know your friends will support you and there is someone with whom you can talk things through, somehow stressful situations are more tolerable. 


The research: In a study of pregnant women, researchers found that 91 percent of those with high stress and low social support suffered complications whereas only 33 percent of pregnant women with high stress and high social support suffered complications.


Social Life takeaway:


As suggested in study no. 6, your friends can majorly affect the level of influence you have on others and also help you experience a feeling of support when demonstrating your value.


Although in the suggested study this is referred to as the buffer effect of social support, I like to call it the mafia effect. Think of how the mafia members support each other no matter what, thus experiencing this lasting feeling of power and dominance whatever they do.


Try and focus on communicating and demonstrating your support to people you consider important. This behavior can easily elevate your relationships and also give a feeling of security to people around you. Doing so will consequently allow them to trust you and respect you more.


Psychological Studies – 10. The Ben Franklin effect


When we do a person a favor, we like them more. 


The research: Jim Jecker and David Landy tested the theory by inviting participants to take part in a test in which they could win money. The test was administered in a rigorous way by an actor playing the role of scientist. At the end of the study, 1/3 of participants were asked by the scientist if they would be willing to return the money to him. Another 1/3 were asked by the secretary of the study if they’d return the money. A third group was not asked to return the money. All participants then filled out a questionnaire, including a spot for how much they liked the scientist. Of the three groups of participants, the group who gave him the money gave him the most likable scores.


Social Life takeaway:


With the right amount of social intelligence, this theory can prove golden. I am emphasizing the importance of social intelligence here because the power of this theory lies, again, in the delivery. Obviously, if you start going around, asking people to do you favors, you will only be perceived as annoying and needy. Make use of the Ben Franklin effect when you have built rapport with the person and always start small. Ben Franklin explains the effect of his method when he had to deal with a person that disliked him:


“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”




All these findings give us invaluable insight into human behavior and also reveal previously hidden ways on how our mind reacts during social interactions.


Obviously, the idea behind them is to help us become more aware of our environment and also our actions.


There is always a distorted version of the world that doesn’t allow us to see things as they really are.


Familiarizing yourself with social patterns and getting a good grasp of how they work in our daily interactions can put you in a position of advantage and eventually elevate your social life.


The best way to achieve that is by immersing into the “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses.” Its curriculum is packed with social life-related challenges and it can help you dramatically increase your social competence and influence.


p.s. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get our epic articles in your inbox on a weekly basis.



[1] Fehr, Ernst; Simon Gächter (Summer 2000). “Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity”. Journal of Economic Perspectives 14 (3): 159–181.doi:10.1257/jep.14.3.159. ISSN 0895-3309.


[2] Lee, Kevan. “15 Psychological Studies that will boost your Social Media Marketing.” www.blog.bufferapp.com. November 17, 2014. https://blog.bufferapp.com/psychological-studies-marketing. 


Adrian Iliopoulos

I am the founder and main contributor at "The Quintessential Mind" - A unique personal blog that offers a holistic approach to self-development. I am striving to create high-quality content by investing in a reality-based form of self-help, informed by a deep understanding of psychology, philosophy and my own personal experiences and social adventures.
Adrian Iliopoulos