5 Psychology Hacks to Improve Social Interaction

October 3, 2016

Psychology is, by definition, the study of behavior and of the mind, so if you’re looking to improve your interpersonal interactions, digging into this subject is a sure-fire way to help! But don’t worry Freud Jr…you don’t need a psychology degree to take advantage of these five basic principles and apply them to social situations. Let’s dive in!

Focus on reciprocity.

Think back to a time when someone has done something very nice for you. You probably felt inclined to go the extra mile for them in return. That in a nutshell is reciprocity; people feel inclined to return favors. Furthermore, the reciprocation does not need to be equal. If you buy someone a $5 lunch, they will be focused on the act itself, not the $5. Even something as simple as giving someone a stick of gum can trigger reciprocation.

Main takeaway? Do nice things for others, and they will return the favor. This aspect of reciprocity may seem obvious, but there is yet another cool trick you can utilize. Try flipping the cards.

If you have friction with someone, ask him or her for a small favor (Don’t get carried away here). A psychological phenomenon known as the “Ben Franklin effect” explains that when we do favors for people, it tricks us into believing that we actually like them, regardless of whether or not that is true. In order to avoid confusion, our brains convince us that we did the favor because we like the person.

The “Ben Franklin effect” - Negative attitudes can change by doing a simple favor. Click To Tweet

Reciprocity in Psychology

Consistency and commitment are key.

Need a way to convince someone to help you out when the task isn’t exactly fun? No one likes to appear flaky or inconsistent. You can leverage these psychological truths by locking in your helper by opening with a fun and enticing proposition. For example, ask, “Do you want to come over to my place for pizza and beer on Saturday night?” When they say yes, you can add, “Great, we’re just going to be moving a couple of my things out quickly first.” Since they already committed to the meet up, they’re less likely to back out than if you had just asked them to come help you leave your godforsaken old apartment. Plus, their focus will be on the pizza and beer instead of the loading the moving truck.

Consistency in Psychology


Imitation can go a long way. People like to be surrounded by others who seem to have things in common with them. Don’t overdo it – no need to make them feel like they’re looking at the man in the mirror. The appropriate use of similar gestures and phrases can make you seem more appealing and familiar when meeting someone new. For example if someone leans into a conversation, you can mirror their action and lean in as well to demonstrate a connection.

Recency and Primacy Bias

These may seem like scary terms, but here is the bottom line: people don’t generally remember what happens in the middle of an experience as well as they do the beginning and the end. How can you use this to your advantage? Make sure to make a strong first impression and close with a bang. This can be especially be applied to the dating world. This plays into the [incredibly true] adage that people don’t remember what you say; they remember how you make them feel. So if you can start and end a date well, you can let yourself off the hook about that weird thing you said at some point in the middle. Odds are, they’ve already forgotten about it.

People don’t remember the middle of an experience as well as they do the beginning and end. Click To Tweet

Recency Bias and Primacy Bias

Remember situations effect perceptions of people.

In principle, this is the idea that your environment when you’re with someone colors how you experience that person. For example, if you find yourself on a date in uncomfortable chairs in a hot, humid room, your partner might find himself or herself thinking that the date is going nowhere. Don’t end up in this position. Remember if you get to choose the location for a date, interview, meeting, etc., you should choose a place whose atmosphere you know will bolster an impression that fits with how you want to be perceived.

Psychology might feel like a vast ocean filled with encyclopedias full of complex information, but you can still use it to your advantage in any social situation. You don’t have to be the next Maslow to use these simple hacks.