In the study of compliance-gaining, power figures heavily. We are suckers for people who have higher status, perceived authority, or power.
So, how do you get power?
The first type of power is formal power.
Formal power is conferred to a person through:
Uniforms – Leonard Bickman first published a study in 1974 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology where he tested the hypothesis that uniforms contributed positively to a person’s perceived social power. He did this by assigning confederates (people in on the experiment) to dress either as a civilian, milkman (well, it was 1974!), or a guard. Then, each confederate attempted to get a passerby to either give a stranger a dime, pick up a paper bag, or move away from the bus stop. Subjects complied more with the guard than with the civilian or milkman whether the guard was present or not!
We automatically confer authority to a person in uniform. But, not just any uniform… public safety uniforms.
How do we get that effect today?
Wear formal attire in darker colors. Other studies have shown evidence that subjects comply more with a person when he or she wears dark colors (navy, black) than when he or she wears lighter colors. Additionally, dressing a bit more formally will give a person more social power. IBM knew this back in the 1980’s. Employees were told to wear a dark suit, white shirt, and “sincere tie.”