Difference Between Coercion and Undue Influence

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Coercion and Undue Influence

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There involve different personal interactions that may cause influence a person’s will or decision-making process. Two terms denoting unknowing influence or forceful influence on a possible victim are ‘Coercion’ and ‘Undue influence. The approach inflicted on the victim may be pretending trustworthy relative or friend or an aggressive threat. It differs in varying conditions and based on the type of victim and the perpetrator. However, both the terms denoting a violation of intruding into another person’s personal space are considered a violation by the law.

Coercion Vs. Undue Influence

Coercion is the forceful persuasion of a victim to act involuntarily as demanded by the perpetrator. The negligence or ignorance of the demand could inflict harm, torture, or abuse on the victim. A victim is often forced to perform in favor of the perpetrator. The perpetrator of coercion is usually a stranger that comes into your life unexpectedly and causes you to inflict mental or physical torture for a favor in return. These people are the ones who exploit her for personal gain or financial benefit.

Depending on the type of victim, the methods used may differ from one victim to the next. For example, it could be pointing a gun or placing a knife at the throat of a robber or gangster, whereas the threat of exploiting secret information or documents that might be personal to an individual.

Difference Between Coercion and Undue Influence in Tabular Form

Main parameters of comparison  Coercion Undue influence
Definition Coercion involves compelling a person to perform a favor, and its negative compliance may result in undesirable effects.  An influence that the victim may be unaware of but still affects his decision-making and other actions. 
Types Coercion can be classified based on goal, choice of approach, or based on the effects it can have on the victim. 

This can be physical or psychological. The methods used could be positive persuasion, negative persuasion, or neutral demands. 

 This can also be classified based on the approach and physical or mental condition of the victim. The victim may know or remain unaware of any such influences, as these usually come from personal relations and friends who are entrusted to the victim.
Effects Coercion has a persuading effect on the victim, who usually performs it involuntarily.     The perpetrators will inflict pain over decisions made by the victim. The favor or demand made is usually associated with personal gain or financial benefit for the exploiter. 
Components involved It involves a demand that is usually against the individual's will and the absence of freedom of choice for the victim affected.  Often seen in vulnerable sections of society. It includes the elderly, debilitating terminal patients, the physically or mentally challenged, or others.
Interaction or approach Usually threatening with possible undesirable effects on the victim, which include physical harm, torture, or emotional blackmail.  The approach may vary depending on the age and condition of the victim. 
Used by Used by robbers, gangsters, and other lawbreakers Usually, undue influence is observed in domestic, hostage, prisoner, or dictatorship settings.
Rights or individual freedom  There is no individual choice about whether the action can be performed or ignored. It has a compelling nature of the approach to the victim that keeps him at stake.   Their choices are influenced even though they do not express threats.

What is Coercion?

Coercion involves a compelling demand for an action to be completed, usually in the favor of the perpetrator. This may involve the threat of causing physical or mental harm, injury or reward offered once the job is done. This may often be used with "persuasion." However, there are several differences between the two terms and they cannot be used correctly. Some parameters that can be used to differentiate these two terms are the intent, interest, results, and whether the person has a choice or not in doing an action they are asked to perform.

These might include violence, torture, and extortion. It is considered a crime on the face of the law. This involves someone forcing a victim to act per an individual’s interests. Usually, these actions are in favor of the individual itself.

Coercion can be considered the opposite term to freedom of choice in one’s actions. Here, a person must do things against their will, which is a pure violation of the rights offered to individuals by the constitution. Sometimes this method is used in health-assisting fields where the patient is encouraged to choose a predefined treatment plan involuntarily.

Researchers have discovered different coercive methods that include

  1. Negative persuasion includes swearing, threats to end a relationship, and verbal abuse.
  2. Positive persuasion: making promises, compliments, and offering rewards in return for doing a favor for them. This can be difficult to realize, even after confronting, because there is a widespread belief that being nice and being violent cannot coexist in the same person.
  3. Nagging, requests, and annoyance are all part of the package.
  4. Touch, kissing, fear of being attacked, and other physical abuses are examples of physical methods.

Other classifications used are based on:

  1. Effects: legal, ethical, or others.
  2. Aim or goal behind it.

The most common form of coercion is physical coercion, where there is a possibility of harm being inflicted on the victim, his or her family, or their property. A person with a gun points out and asks for all the money. A negative reaction could inflict a kill by the attacker.

Psychological coercion involves using emotions and relations that are kept at stake. A common example is an emotional blackmail, where a negative response could result in effects not desired by the victim.

What Is Undue Influence?

Undue influence usually refers to a legal term when a person uses unfair means to influence the victim’s decision through different tactics, strategies, or other malpractices. It usually results in a financial gain or benefit for the person who does it.

Undue influence may mostly go unnoticed in the daylight and is always performed personally behind closed doors. Hence, there might not be any witnesses that may prove this unfair influence.

This influence is usually misused or exploited by people who care for the victim and are dependent on them for various needs. For the same reason, the most affected victims could be the elderly, who are more vulnerable to this sort of influence.

The undue influence could occur in different areas. This includes domestics, hostages, prisoners, or even dictatorships.

Gaining independence from the perpetrator is a necessary component for releasing the victim from these unfair practices. The victim is unaware of this unknown influence on him or her due to trusted relations and bonds they share. It might be unimaginable for them that their close ones could influence them without their knowing about it.

 Some other factors that make a section more susceptible to these influences are:

  1. Age
  2. Living in isolation or depression
  3. The recent death of a beloved member of the family.
  4. Diagnosed with terminal diseases and thus unable to work
  5. The physical dependence on others for their needs (This could include caregivers, children, drivers, staff, office assistants, and others.)
  6. Use of drugs that might cause impaired mental function (temporary or permanent).

An example of actual undue influence includes one party threatening to end a relationship with the other unless they enter into a specified contract. Another example may include one party constantly pestering and threatening to only stop if the other enters into a specific transaction.

  The Main Difference Between Coercion and Undue Influence in Points

  • Definition

Coercion is defined as forceful or compelling action to induce a victim’s action in favor of the perpetrator. Undue Influence is a legal term that indicates unfair means chosen to affect the victim’s decision-making. However, this malpractice often takes place unknowingly without any evidence or witnesses.

  • Components involved

In coercion, there can be physical or psychological components used to inflict threat or harm on the victim. This includes physical abuse, sex, pointing guns, emotional blackmail, etc. Components included in undue influence can be an unknown influence on the victim by the perpetrator, who is usually a person the victim entrusts or is dependent on for various needs. It includes threats that might be taken back only with some contracts or papers signed in the favor of the perpetrator. It usually involves a personal gain or financial benefit in the favor of the perpetrator.

  • Used by

Coercion is often used by gangsters and robbers and is purely a violation of the law and hence is considered a crime. Undue influence is more often used by people in personal interaction with the victim. This includes family members, office staff, and other caregivers who support their dependence due to various physical inabilities. The victim may remain unaware of this unfair influence over him. 

  • Approach the victim

The approach to a victim in coercion is forceful persuasion and threatened with undesirable effects that could be inflicted through negligence or ignorance of the demand. The approach to the victim may vary depending on the condition of the victim. If the victim is dependent on these perpetrators, it is much easier to cause an undue influence even without letting him know or without threats expressed. However, if the person shows negligence, then various threats are inflicted that could be only resolved if the victim enters into a contract or signs official papers as demanded. 

  • Methods used 

The different methods used for persuasion include mental, physical, or verbal components. The effects could be of a positive, negative, or neutral impact on the victim of coercion. A similar mode of approach could be used for undue influence also. However, the more common method is to imitate someone who can be believed or entrusted for various reasons. The victim often remains unaware of such influences, as these are usually from people who are expected to respect and support the victim. And for the same reason, such actions by these people could be unexpected as well.

  • Effects

In coercion, the effects could be the cessation of individual rights and freedom of choice and working against one’s own will and in favor of others. Usually, the victim is forced to do something that is only of personal interest or favor to them. It might also include forceful infliction on their will and the decision-making process. For example, such influences may happen while writing a will or dividing the property among a person’s children.


Both these terms, "coercion" and "undue influence," involve a demand that must be met even if it is against an individual’s will. For the same reason, it is a violation of the face of the law and is considered a crime. The approach might include physical, verbal, or mental components used to inflict threats or harm on the victim. Physical threats include attack, physical abuse, pointing guns, etc. The psychological threats include putting relations and emotions at stake, which are exploited for an individual's favor. This might involve threats, torture, and recurrent exploitation of the victim, and there is no guarantee that this would be ended by the attacker once the demanded task is done.

The term "undue influence" is usually a legal one and is used to indicate any unfair tactics used to affect a person’s decision-making or will in favor of the perpetrator. This type of influence is most commonly observed from relatives, family, staff, or caregivers who remain in close association and personal interaction with the victim. There can be vulnerable sections that are more affected by such influences, which include debilitating terminal patients, old age, physical challenges, mental challenges, or other causes. For the same reason, the individual may be unaware of such influences over him, which is unusual.

So, in conclusion, both these practices, whether the victim knows about them or not, are still considered violations of freedom of choice and hence a crime.


  • https://www.advarra.com/blog/the-many-faces-of-coercion-and-undue-influence/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercion



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"Difference Between Coercion and Undue Influence." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-coercion-and-undue-influence-154>.

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