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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.

Low-ball techniqueEdit

A successful low-ball relies on the balance of making the initial request attractive enough to gain agreement, whilst not making the second request so outrageous that the customer refuses.

  • First propose an attractive price on an idea/item which you are confident that the other person/buyer will accept.
  • Maximize their buy-in, in particular by getting both verbal and public commitment to this, e.g. down payment or hand-shaking.
  • Make it clear that the decision to purchase is from their own free will.
  • Change the agreement to what you really want. The person/buyer may complain, but they should agree to the change if the low-ball is managed correctly.

Classic low-ball experimentEdit

Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller (1978) asked students to participate in an experiment. 56% agreed, before being told that the experiment started at 7am. They then told the volunteers that the study was scheduled at 7am, and the volunteers could withdraw if they wished. None did so, and 95% turned up at the scheduled time (the Low-Ball group). When a control group were asked to participate and were told the unsocial timing of the experiment up front, only 24% agreed to participate.[1]

See alsoEdit


  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: 463–476. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.36.5.463.
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