Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Getting children to do more academic work

Two well-known methods of compliance are the ‘foot in the door’ and ‘door in the face’ techniques (Ciadini et al, 1975).  The basic mechanism of the foot in the door technique is to first make a small request to which a person is likely to say yes to.  After a person has said yes, you later make a larger request and they are more likely to say yes to the large request than they would do if the small request was not asked first.  The door in the face technique is basically the reverse where a large request is made first, which people are likely to turn down, followed up by a more reasonable request. The idea is people turn down the first request because it is too much, but agree to the second because they feel like the requester has made a concession for them.  Both these techniques have a large amount of empirical support and because of this are used every day by businesses and charities to try and get people to buy products and donate money.  One study has investigated into whether these two techniques can get children to do more academic work and which one is more effective at doing so (Chan & Au, 2011).

To investigate this 60 children aged 6-8 were randomly assigned to either the foot in the door, door in the face or single request (control) condition.  Children in the foot in the door condition were first asked to complete a 5 question arithmetic worksheet and then later asked to complete a 20 question worksheet.  Children in the door in the face condition were asked to complete a 100 question worksheet and when they refused asked just to complete 20 questions.  In the control condition, children were asked just to complete the 20 question worksheet.

Results showed that 90% of children in the door in the face condition agreed to complete the 20 question worksheet whereas only 60% agreed in the foot in the door condition and 35% in the control condition (figure 1). 

Chan and Au (2011) concluded that the door in the face technique is the most effective way to get children to do more academic work and could be used by parents and teachers as a useful tool to motivate children to do more academic work than they would otherwise.  One limitation is that this study was only carried out on Chinese children.  It is therefore difficult to say how well it will generalise to other cultures where the relationship between children and adults may be less hierarchical.  The door in the face technique has been shown to be widely effective across North America and Europe (O’Keefe & Hale, 2001; Pascual & Gueguen, 2005) so Chan and Au’s findings will most likely generalise to Western cultures.


Chan, Annie. Cheuk-ying ., & Au, Terry. Kit-fong. (2011). Getting Children to Do More Academic Work: Foot-in-the-Door versus Door-in-the-Face. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 982-985.

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of personality and Social Psychology31, 206-215.

O’Keefe, D. J., & Hale, S. L. (2001). An odds-ratio-based meta-analysis of research on the door-in-the-face influence strategy. Communication Reports, 14, 31-38.

Pascual, A., & Gueguen, N. (2005). Foot-in-the-door and door-in-the-face: a comparative meta-analytic study. Psychological Reports, 96, 122-128.

Amy Bennoson

1 comment:

  1. This is brilliant, a blog i will remember and share with people!


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