Give them an inch and they'll take a mile - believe it or not there is logic behind this madness, and it is exemplified no better than in the "foot in the door" compliance technique.
This tactic relies on the notion of commitment, formed by requesting a small task from an individual and maximising upon this arrangement by asking for a larger request at a later stage as opposed to asking for the larger request to begin with. This very simple tactic has formed the basis of shocking strategies such as brainwashing prisoners of war in Korea (Schein, Schneier & Backer, 1961).
This has formed the basis of a study conducted by Freedman and Fraser (1966), who sought to explore whether compliance to a small request would increase the likelihood of compliance to a larger request. The study consisted of 156 housewives randomly recruited from a telephone directory. All participants (except the those in the familiarisation condition) were contacted via telephone by an experiment who introduced himself and requested completion of a survey.
Participants were split across four conditions:
Performance: Subjects were asked to complete a small request and later a bigger request.
Agree-Only: Subjects were asked if they would be willing to complete a small request but were not required to do so and later asked a bigger request.
Familiarisation: The subject was familiarised with the request but not required to perform a small request, and later asked a bigger.
One-Contact: Subjects were only asked the big request
Small request: Subjects were asked to answer a survey consisting of eight questions regarding household products
Large request: Subjects were asked if several men could visit their home for a couple of hours and classify the household products that they have.
Results indicated that asking subjects to complete a smaller request and then a large request at a later date increased compliance significantly more than familiarisation, willingness to respond or merely asking for the large request outright. This difference is particularly prominent between the Performance and One-Contact condition, with over 30% more participants agreeing to complete the larger request in the Performance condition. This indicates that a small request can induce a sense of commitment in an individual that would increase the likelihood of agreeing to a large request.
Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 4(2), 195.
Schein, E. H., Schneier, I., & Barker, C. H. (1961). Coercive pressure. New York: Norton.