Stealing Sunshine Tactic

Stealing Sunshine Tactic at-a-glance

Disclose the information favorable to your opponent before he or she does and you’ll reduce its effect on your audience. Although the research hasn’t yet revealed why this technique works, it is likely that an audience finds a person more credible after she reveals information favorable to her opponent; increased credibility leads to increased overall effectiveness.

The Study on Stealing Sunshine Tactic

Stealing thunder tactic is a technique backed up by the solid research. Many experiments showed that stealing thunder works in courtrooms, political arenas, public relations, and elsewhere. Stealing sunshine tactic is a blood relative of stealing thunder: before your opponent mentions information that’s favorable to him or her (sunshine), you mention it yourself (stealing sunshine).

The first preliminary study on this technique was done by two University of Haifa (Israel) researchers – Ronen Perry and Dana Weimann-Saks. Their study, however, is limited because it tested the tactic only in the context of a criminal trial. Moreover, the sample was unrepresentative of a general population and relatively small – 82 participants. Still, because the stealing sunshine is essentially a flipside of stealing thunder, it probably works for the same reasons that stealing thunder works.

In the study, participants read a criminal trial transcript. The prosecution charged a defendant with causing a death by dangerous driving: he collided with another car while driving home from a party at 3:00 am. Although he suffered only minor injuries, a young woman driving the other car died after being trapped in a car with her two-year-old child (the child survived).

The researchers divided the participants into two groups – sunshine and stealing sunshine.

  • In the sunshine group, the defendant brought up favorable facts about himself – that he had no criminal record, that he didn’t even have a traffic violation, and that he also volunteered for a non-profit traffic safety organization.
  • In the stealing sunshine group, the prosecutor stole the defendant’s sunshine by revealing the same positive information about the defendant before the defendant did.

The results showed that this tactic works pretty well:

Measure of Defendant’s Guilt (1 – not guilty, 10 – definitely guilty):

  • Sunshine M = 5.64
  • Stealing Sunshine M = 6.82

Punishment (0-10 years in jail):

  • Sunshine M = 3.71
  • Stealing Sunshine M = 5.08

Interestingly, stealing sunshine did not damage the defendant’s credibility. On the contrary, it slightly increased the defendant’s credibility (sunshine: M-6.57; stealing sunshine: M=6.62).

Unfortunately, the study omitted one important variable: the prosecutor’s (the one who stole the sunshine) credibility. This could explain why the technique worked even though it also it did not reduce the defendant’s credibility.