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What can chess teach us about Persuasive Moves!

It’s April 2005 and in spite of strong censure by the USA, a Sovereign Nation overwhelmingly granted citizenship to former world chess champ, Bobby Fischer.

What country would do this to defy the USA. — lceland. (a USA ally)


Persuasive moves!

Why would they willingly defy the USA after Fischer had violated a UN sanction and played a $5m chess match in Yugoslavia.

The answer: 1972 :— the world chess match between Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky which was played in Iceland.

Fischer, was eccentric  and the match was played at the height of the Cold War — generating huge, worldwide publicity.

It was seen as a significant gift Fischer had  bestowed on the  isolated nation, because he had played his World Chess championship game against the Russian, in Iceland.

In fact, it put Iceland on the world map.

The significance being  that  30  years   later the Icelanders had not forgotten what Fischer had done for them,  and were keen to repay the favour, even though Fischer was  unlikable.

What’s the Importance of this — It’s the universally known Law of   “Norm of Reciprocation”

  • It obligates us to repay others for what we have received
  • The norm drives us toward fairness in everyday social interactions

When a Study was done with  people  receiving a small  unsolicited gift from stranger i.e. a can of coke,   they purchased twice as many raffle tickets when asked as those who didn’t receive the can of coke.

It made no difference even if there was a significant time delay between the gift being given and the  request.  (Just as in the gift Iceland gave Fischer 30 years later)

And no reference was made to original gift when selling raffle tickets

Those who received the can of coke—  made their  purchase decisions completely irrespective as to whether they liked the seller or not.

It demonstrates the feeling of indebtedness, caused by the ‘Power of Reciprocity’

The mistake we usually make is when we try to persuade or influence others, we often ask:  Who can help me here?    This need to change to: “Who can I help”.   It’s the “Norm of Reciprocity.”



Adapted from the book

Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion