The Warm Glow of the ‘Maybe Favor’

One of my favorite parts of writing a blog post is coming up with the title. I’ve even resorted to clickbait once or twice…

But I have to give credit where credit is due. Tonight’s title comes directly from Dan Ariely’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Here is the letter Dan received:

I volunteer for a local conservation organization, and I’m trying to round up people to help with a weekend afternoon cleanup of a popular hiking trail. In the past it’s been hard to enlist volunteers. What can I do to get more people to help out? —Zarak

Here is Dan’s response:

You might consider asking people for a “maybe favor.” A maybe favor is a request for a commitment that might not actually have to be carried out. In your case, you could call for volunteers while making clear the possibility that the clean-up will be cancelled in the event of rain.

Recent research suggests that adding a “maybe” to a request for a favor increases people’s willingness to help. When subjects were asked if they would be willing to donate their earnings from participating in the study, 53% agreed. A different group was asked the same question but told that 5% of those who agreed would have their donations randomly cancelled. Under this condition, 66% chose to donate, which increased the total value of the donations even after eliminating the 5%.

One possible explanation for the increased willingness to donate is that we value the “warm glow” we get from agreeing to help. If we think that there is some probability that we will not be asked to do the favor, the warm glow remains, while the cost of doing the good deed is potentially mitigated.


It’s an interesting concept, and I like the term “maybe favor”.

So I figured I’d give it a shot.

As I’ve written about before, Saturdays are my worst day for blog stats. So while it’s too late to do much about today’s stats, I would like to ask a favor of anyone reading this post.

For next Saturday’s post, could you like it whether you really like it or not? There is a chance that I won’t post a blog next Saturday, in which case you would be off the hook.

Thank you in advance. Maybe next week won’t be Another Saturday Night…

44 thoughts on “The Warm Glow of the ‘Maybe Favor’

  1. I think when parents tell their children “maybe” to a question, that is usually code for, “No, and maybe you’ll forget that I put you off before with my maybe.”

    What’s your theory on why Saturday posts aren’t as popular? I would guess more people are out and about and devote less time to quieter activities like blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, some great answers to maybe favour…Methinks you will be posting the chances of me reading it on Saturday is maybe but it could be read on Sunday.(like) today but then that mucks Saturdays stats up and improves Sundays…I’ll quit while I am ahead …:) X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tell you what, if you do me a ‘favour’ next Saturday and post videos of Sam Cooke and Cat Stevens, which is what I was expecting from your title, then ‘maybe’ I’ll give the post a like….

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve only featured Caroline once before, but not with this song, so I’m guessing I either shared the link with you or pointed you in its direction. She’s currently on tour with the Zac Brown Band, making a name for herself.

        Liked by 1 person

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