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 18, 2018

Want to read more?

Lots of newspapers now ask you to pay to access their online content. This is understandable: with people getting more of their news online, newspapers need a way to make profit. However, I have noticed one particularly frustrating method news companies are using. I often find newspaper articles through Facebook: one of my friends will have liked or shared an article that sounds interesting, so I’ll decide to read it. At first, there will be no problems; I’ll start reading the article and get invested in it. Then I’ll scroll down and see that the text fades out, often in the middle of a sentence, and is replaced by a little box telling me I need to sign up to read more. This is an example of a behaviour change method known as the ‘foot-in-the-door technique’. Freedman and Fraser (1966) found that people were more likely to agree to a large request (putting a large sign in front of their house) if they had already completed a small request (signing a petition). This research shows that once someone has already made a commitment, they are more likely to make a further, bigger commitment. In this case, the initial commitment is to click on and start reading an article, while the larger commitment is to pay to access the rest of the article (and other articles on the site). This could also be seen as an example of sunk costs: once someone has invested in something (in this case, invested time and effort reading the start of the article) they are more likely to keep going with it (e.g. Arkes & Blumer, 1985). Newspaper companies using this are clearly hoping it will persuade people to pay for their content. However, personally I have yet to find an article interesting enough to pay for it!


Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985). The psychology of sunk cost. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140.

Freedman J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 195– 202.

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