The Principle of Consistency

I recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Project Management to further my career as a project manager in the oil and gas industry. The education that I received through my studies has proved to be invaluable. I use my newfound tools and techniques on a daily basis while trying to juggle several projects at work and also maintain a social life.

I read several papers through my studies, but this one below really grabbed my attention. This paper was supplied to me as part of my course titled: Relationship, Influence and Leadership. Robert B. Cialdini is a university professor, focusing on psychology and marketing. He has authored many books and papers on persuasion and influence, which are worth reading.

These “principles” are commonplace in the psychology world and I have even mentioned some in my previous blogs. The one that jumped out at me in this paper was the Principle of Consistency.

There are a few different examples in this section. My favourite was the study from 1955 that asked college students to estimate the length of lines projected on a screen. The first group was asked to write their choices on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand the paper to the experimenter. The second group was asked to write their choices on an erasable slate, then erased the slate immediately. The third group was asked to keep their decisions to themselves.


Next, the experimenters presented all three groups with evidence that their initial choices may have been wrong. The results showed that the third group was most likely to change their original answers, followed by the second group. The first group was found to be the most reluctant to change their answers, by a large margin, compared to the other two groups.

The experiment reinforced the Principle of Consistency. We humans like to be consistent when we make commitments to others. The level of commitment among the three groups was vastly different and showed a clear correlation with their willingness to change their answer.

So, how does this relate to the bucket list? When I started the bucket list, in 2010, I posted the 100 items in a Facebook album. I then proclaimed that I would take a photo each time that I crossed an item off the bucket list. I told the world that I would not stop until I had 100 photos in this album.


Unknowingly, I was abiding by the Principle of Consistency. I wanted the drive to complete this one day, so I made a public commitment that I could not shy away from. It was cool to read this, 10 years later, and to realise that, what I actually did, had a purpose behind it. Even before reading this article I always told people that they must write down their bucket list. Our minds are great tools, but they can’t remember everything. Chances are you will forget what’s on your mental list before you actually get around to doing it.


Now that I have this paper, I have a little bit more science behind my belief of writing it down. If you want to do something, I mean really do something, it’s as easy as two simple steps. Write it down and make it public. Furthermore, I think you need to write it down on paper. Writing it in your phone doesn’t quite cut it. Writing it on paper makes it physical, it makes it real. This will help you to truly commit to accomplish that which you desire the most.

When have you abided by the Principle of Consistency? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “The Principle of Consistency

  • Frank

    Hello Dave. I promised Anton that he could borrow my canopy. I sent it today, even though I had some good reason why I should have reneged on my promise.

    I thought about this as soon as I read this chapter of your blog. Haha.

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