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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Inconvenience Store

Living opposite Sainsbury’s tends to come in very handy, but this week it turned from a convenience store into more of an inconvenience. Having just walked through the door one evening, still with my shoes on, one of my housemate calls to me “would you mind popping across to Sainsbury’s? I’ve just run out of X” As going herself would mean her having to go all the way up the stairs, putting a coat AND shoes on etc I agreed, hoping she might reciprocate this at some point - trying to think ahead of the game. Instead it was she who was already two steps ahead. After I had agreed to go I found myself with a list of around 4-5 items, with a request to see if there was anything reduced that she might fancy too! So before I’d even got my foot in the door of my house, she’d got her foot in the door of this persuasive technique. Having already agreed to go to Sainsbury’s for her I could hardly say no once she’d more than quadrupled her list.  

Pliner, Hart, Kohl and Saari (1974) carried out a replication of the original Freedman and Fraser (1996) foot in the door study. Pliner et al. (1974) based their study in the context of raising money for a charity drive. They allocated subjects to either a moderate prior request, a small prior request, or a no prior request group. In the small request group participants were asked if they would wear a pin advertising the charity drive, in the moderate request group they were asked if they would wear the pin and persuade another member of their family to wear one as well. In the no prior request group there was no request made. The following evening, after the establishment of the prior requests, the participants were asked if they would agree to make a donation to the charity – a large request. The results can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1 –

Participants in both the small and moderate prior request condition were both significantly more likely to agree to the large request than those in the no prior request condition. This is then in support of the foot in the door technique – a prior request does make you more likely to agree to a later, larger request.

This is then the situation I found myself in; having agreed to a small request I found myself not able to say no to the later larger request - if she’d asked I’d have probably ended up doing her weekly shop.


Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1996). Compliance without pressure: The foot in the door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Pscyhology, 4, 195-202.

Pilner, P., Hart, H., Kohl, J., & Saari, D. (1974). Compliance without pressure: Some further data on the foot in the door technique. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 10, 17-22.

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