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.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Door In The Face

Robert Cialdini and his colleagues conducted a study in 1975, investigating the compliance tactic called rejection then moderation. This is more commonly known as the door in the face technique. The foundations for their study started by looking at the foot in the door technique which describes a situation where a small favour is asked first, and after complied with, a larger favour is asked of the helper. Studies showed that this tactic shifted peoples self perception so they see themselves as those who are helpers, who comply to requests for things they believe in. This makes them more likely to comply with a larger request (Freedman & Fraser, 1966). The next step towards the study in question was to purpose that another effective technique is doing those things the other way round. This theory was based on work concerning the concept of reciprocation. Gouldner (1960) stated that the norms of reciprocity exists in all societies, and describes it in its simplest form as: “You should give benefits to those who give benefits to you.” This leads on to a related aspect of the norm of reciprocity which is that you should make concessions to those who make concessions to you. Mutual concessions and compromise is essential to any negotiation. Studies have shown that a concession by one party increases the likelihood of a concession by the other leading to a successful compromise (Benton et al., 1972). This leads on to the basis for the study in question. By the analysis of Benton et al. (1972) it seems likely that by offering an extreme favour initially, and then asking for a smaller favour after it is rejected, you will see an increase in the likelihood of compliance than when compared to just asking for the smaller favour outright.

Cialdini et al. (1975) carried out three experiments to investigate the door in the face technique. The first was designed to see the effects of the rejection-moderation technique and also prove that the effect seen was not mediated by a perceptual contrast effect. The conditions of this experiment were the rejection-moderation condition where the participants were asked to perform the target favour after previously rejecting the larger favour. The exposure control where participants heard a description of both the larger and the target favours and then asked to pick one. The last was the target favour only condition where they were only asked to perform the target favour. Results showed no significant difference between the two control conditions showing that the effect was not mediated by a perceptual contrast effect. They also showed a significant increase in compliance for the target favour in the rejection-moderation condition compared to the control conditions. The table below shows the percentage of participants complying with the smaller request.

Percentage of Subjects Complying with the Smaller Request: Experiment 1

% Compliance
Rejection-Moderation condition
Exposure Control
Smaller Request Only Control

The next experiment tested the need for the participants’ perception that the requestor has made a concession on their own concession. The first condition was where the participant was asked to perform a favour by a single requestor. The second was where the participant was asked to perform the target favour after rejecting the larger favour by the same requestor. The third was where the participant was asked to perform the target favour by one requestor after rejected to perform the larger favour by a different requestor. The results were the same in that there was no significant difference between the control conditions and there was a significant difference seen between the controls and the experimental condition. The table below shows the percentage compliance for this experiment.

Percentage of Subjects Complying with the Smaller Request: Experiment 2

% Compliance
Rejection-Moderation condition
Two Requestor Control
Smaller Request Only Control

The third experiment aimed to show that the rejection-moderation condition results seen in the previous experiments were solely due to a persistent requestor and the participant subsided to the request due to this persistence. The findings of this experiment was in concurrence with the first two, showing that the rejection moderation technique, or the door in the face technique is effective, and is due to the rules of reciprocation created when someone perceives the requestor to be making a concession, and so they feel they should make a concession themselves.


Benton, A. A., Kelley, H. H., & Liebling, B. (1972). Effects of extremity of offers and concession rate on the outcomes of bargaining. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology24(1), 73.

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(2), 206.

Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology4(2), 195.

Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement.American sociological review, 161-178.

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