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The low-ball is a persuasion and selling technique in which an item or service is offered at a lower price than is actually intended to be charged, after which the price is raised to increase profits.

An explanation for the effect is provided by cognitive dissonance theory. If a person is already enjoying the prospect of an excellent deal and the future benefits of the item or idea, then backing out would create cognitive dissonance, which is prevented by playing down the negative effect of the "extra" costs.


Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller (1978) demonstrated the technique of low-balling in a university setting. They asked an initial group of first-year psychology students to volunteer to be part of a study on cognition. The researchers were clear about the meeting time being 7 a.m. Only 24 per cent of the first-year college students were willing to sacrifice and wake up early to support research in psychology. In a second group condition, the subjects were asked the same favour, but this time they were not told a time. Of them, 56 per cent agreed to take part. After agreeing to help in the study, they were told that they would have to meet at 7 a.m. and that they could back out if they so wished. None backed out of their commitment.

On the day of the actual meeting, 95% of the students who had promised to come showed up for their 7 a.m. appointment, which means that, in the end, 53.5% of the subject pool agreed to the experiment. Hence, when people have already showed commitment it's least likely for them to back off as they have already made up their mind.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cialdini, R.B.; Cacioppo, J.T.; Bassett, R.; Miller, J.A. (1978). "Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: Commitment then cost". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 36 (5): 463–476. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.36.5.463.