How to Engineer an Effective Bribe—And Get the World to Do What You Want

Think about what makes for a great bribe.

If you swing by the makeup counter at Nordstrom’s and the sales associate tells you that if you spend $100, she’s going to—drum roll—“give you something special,” that makes for a terrible bribe, because “something special” could be a used Q-Tip, for all we know, and if we don’t know what it is, we can’t want it.

Similarly, if you found yourself face-to-face with a dirty cop in rural Nevada, you probably wouldn’t look up at his sweet, glistening mustache and try to bribe him by offering him “something really awesome that you promise you'll mail to the police station later.”

Neither of these are effective for two reasons:

(a) They’re too vague and nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about
(b) The lack of specificity makes you seem like you’re full of it

Turns out, the key to offering an effective, well-executed bribe is a specific, concrete promise.

And we get that, when it comes to real-world scenarios. But the minute we get online, all of our common sense goes out the door. We start offering people “goodies” and “free updates” and “very vague things that may or may not happen in the future.”

But bribes on the Internet aren’t any different.

Specificity, not generosity, wins.

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