One well cited and robust method of compliance is the good old 'door in the face technique' (Ciadini et al, 1975). The procedure goes a bit like this, you originally present an individual with a request which is both costly and unattractive knowing that they will reject it, only then to follow it up with the final and target request which is less horrendous and therefore likely to gain compliance (sneaky right?). This technique has been tried and tested and gained large empirical support and because of such has been used in more large scale scenarios such as policy enforcement. One study which has recently looked at its power of compliance was conducted in a French hospital and aimed to look at its ability to change the attitudes and behavior towards smoking at work (Pansu, Lima &Fointait, 2014)
Pansu, Lima and Fointiat (2014) measured the smoking behaviors of 43 smoking workers in two hospitals in Grenoble, one hospital was allocated as information campaign group and another as the door in the face experimental group. They all received a self report measure questionnaire on attitudes towards smoking and perceived dependence etc, their score and their actual smoking behavior was measured unknowingly to them .
After completing the questionnaire when approached on a smoking break they were then asked to leave their contact details and invited to an information group (initial request) at an inconvenient time and location (Friday after work) in a months time. In the experimental group the participants were asked to write their own names on a list, to emphasis their active role in the procedure, the other group had their names written down by the experimenter to put them in the role of a passive recipient. 5 weeks later the experimenter called the experimental group, saying she accepted how inconvenient the meeting was and understood their reluctance (hopefully inducing guilt) and therefore changing it to a more convenient and accessible session in two days time at the hospital. One week after the session, participants completed the questionnaire again as a post test and their smoking behavior was again measured.
Those in the experimental group attended less smoking breaks (Figure 1) amongst showing other behavioral and attitude chances compared to the information campaign group.
Figure 1: Number of smoking breaks at pre and post test for the information campaign group and experimental group.
This study concludes that this method of compliance is under used, understanding that this was an exploratory study with obvious limitations such as the modest effect found and the differing instructions between the two groups (e.g. writing their own names down). However its still significant in its finding, adding to the field of literature on this concept and further emphasizing quite how easy it is to get people to do what you want... simply get them to say no.
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 Psychology, 31(2), 206.
Pansu, P., Lima, L., & Fointiat, V. (2014). When saying no leads to compliance: The door-in-the-face technique for changing attitudes and behaviors towards smoking at work. Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée/European Review of Applied Psychology, 64(1), 19-27.