Vanessa Bohns
Photo: Jesse Winter
Photo: Jesse Winter

Iโ€™m a social psychologist studying help-seeking, social influence, compliance, consent, and why itโ€™s so hard to say no.

Do we know how likely people are to agree to help us if we ask them? What about asking someone out on date? Or to do something unethical?

When we are on the receiving end of a request, we know how incredibly awkward and uncomfortable it is to say no. But when we are the ones doing the asking, my research shows that we underestimate how difficult it is for people to say no to us.

The good news is this means we can get needed help more readily than we assume. The bad news is this also means people may feel less comfortable rejecting our romantic advances and unethical requests than we think.

All of this has important implications for understanding the psychology of compliance and consentโ€”and the line between the two. It is also one example of the many ways we underestimate our influence over others.

For full list of publications, see:
CV Google Scholar

Professor Bohns' research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Selected Research Publications

  1. Bohns, V. K. (2016). (Mis)understanding our influence over others: A review of the underestimation-of-compliance effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25, 119โ€‰โ€“โ€‰123
  2. Bohns, V. K. & DeVincent, L. A. (2019). Rejecting unwanted romantic advances is more difficult than suitors realize. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(8), 1102โ€‰โ€“โ€‰1110.
  3. Roghanizad, M. M. & Bohns, V. K. (2017). Ask in person: Youโ€™re less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 223โ€‰โ€“โ€‰226.
  4. Boothby, E. & Bohns, V. K. (2021). Why a simple act of kindness is not as simple as it seems: Underestimating the positive impact of our compliments on others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47, 826โ€‰โ€“โ€‰840.
  5. Bohns, V. K., Roghanizad, M. & Xu, A. (2014). Underestimating our influence over othersโ€™ unethical behavior and decisions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 348โ€‰โ€“โ€‰362.
  6. Sommers, R. & Bohns, V. K. (2019). The voluntariness of voluntary consent: Consent searches and the psychology of compliance. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 (7), 1962โ€‰โ€“โ€‰2033.
  7. Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2010). Why didnโ€™t you just ask? Underestimating the discomfort of help-seeking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 402โ€‰โ€“โ€‰409.
  8. Flynn, F. J. & Lake (Bohns), V. K. B. (2008). If you need help, just ask: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 128โ€‰โ€“โ€‰143.
  9. Deri, S., Stein, D. & Bohns, V. K. (2019). With a little help from my friends (and strangers): Closeness as a moderator of the underestimation-of-compliance effect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 82, 6โ€‰โ€“โ€‰15.
  10. Newark, D. A., Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2017). A helping hand is hard at work: Help-seekersโ€™ underestimation of helpersโ€™ effort. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 139, 18โ€‰โ€“โ€‰29
  11. Newark, D., Flynn, F. & Bohns, V. K. (2014). Once bitten, twice shy: The effect of a past refusal on expectations of future compliance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 218โ€‰โ€“โ€‰225.
  12. Bohns, V. K., Newark, D. & Xu, A. (2016). For a dollar, would youโ€ฆ? How (we think) money influences compliance with our requests. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 134, 45โ€‰โ€“โ€‰62
  13. Bohns, V. K., Handgraaf, M. J. J., Sun, J. M., Aaldering, H. Mao, C. & Logg, J. (2011). Are social prediction errors universal? Predicting compliance with a direct request across cultures. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 676โ€‰โ€“โ€‰680.
For full list of publications, see:
CV Google Scholar