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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Oh go on, just have one drink...."

We've all been there- you agree to just have one drink, and then before you know it you're in bed nursing a hangover and hearing about how hilarious you were in smack last night. I can’t be the only one to have found themselves in this unfortunate scenario, with no idea what made me carry on from that "just one drink". (I promise I'm not an alcoholic!)

Research from Freedman and Fraser (1966) could help to shed some light on this. One way of persuading people to agree to do something that they might otherwise have thought better of is to first ask them for something else. While this may sound counter-intuitive, in their study Freedman and Fraser found that participants were significantly more likely to agree to a large request if they were first asked to carry out a smaller, related request. 

In the case of their study this large request was to allow a group of men to visit the participant's home and spend around two hours counting and classifying their personal belongings. For most people this would seem like an outrageous request, and indeed of those who only received this request (one-contact condition) only 22.2% complied, as shown in the table. However, among those who agreed to answer a short survey on the kinds of cleaning products they use in their homes 52.8% went on to agree to the larger request 3 days later (performance condition).

This is known as the foot-in-the-door technique, and it works because those who agree to a smaller request later feel obliged to comply to larger requests later on. Just goes to show, you should be careful when agreeing to seemingly trivial requests, or you could suffer the consequences!

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.

By Georgia Kelly

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