Ben Franklin effect

According to Ben Franklin in his autobiography

This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

The old maxim is often misattributed to Ben Franklin himself and the phenomenon is sometimes called the “Ben Franklin effect“. (Not to be confused with the “benjamins effect“.)

According to this

When we do a person a favor, we tend to like them more as a result. This is because we justify our actions to ourselves that we did them a favor because we liked them. […] The reverse effect is also true, and we come to hate our victims, which helps to explain wartime atrocities. We de-humanize the enemy, which decrease the dissonance of killing and other things in which we would never normally indulge.”

Aside: When you’re not feeling loving, when you’re faith is flagging, take a positive “as-if” action, pointing the way to the happier you. Likewise, little compromises with evil can trigger “gangrene of the soul”.

The tendency to rationalize our bad investments means there is a risk in consenting to favors, even if they are initially only small ones. You may feel an unreasonably growing fondness and willingness to help and not notice that you are being manipulated.

You won’t feel the true source of this new habit, but will instead find further rationalizations for why you continue to invest.

As “Talk Talk” sang

Funny how I blind myself
I never knew if I was sometimes played upon
Afraid to lose,
I’d tell myself what good you do
Convince myself

The process may even all be innocent. The injured stray dog you nursed back to health is dear to you because of that — you didn’t take it in because it was dear to you. Yet you’ll naturally feel there’s something “special” about that dog.

But there are people who have taken on the lifestyle of getting as many favors as they can, acting “needy”. It may not be a conscious plot, but they are still a drain, perpetually begging like a baby bird for more regurgitated grub.

You become their magic well — each time they pump the handle the water flows out stronger.

Examine your relationships and see without emotion whether this dynamic is at work. Where you find it, cut the offenders out of your life without regret.


Tell me (anonymous OK)

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