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, February 20, 2014

Excuse me, can I ask a tiny tiny favour?

Picture this. Your lecturer has given you a really difficult essay to do and you desperately need some help with it. There are two ways to approach this. As Freedman and Fraser (1966) describe, you could ask them to provide a piece of research to get to started, and then later ask them to write it for you. In this way, we can elicit compliance to a small request before a significantly larger one (Foot in the Door Technique - FID). Alternatively, you could ask them to do everything, have them refuse, and then follow it up with the smaller request. This Door in the Face (DIF) technique has proved successful in eliciting compliance (Cialdini, 1975). Both approaches use the principles of commitment and comparison: in the FID technique, the person has already committed to the smaller request, so the large one can’t be too taxing. In the DIF technique, the smaller request seems incredibly minor and impossible to refuse in comparison to the large request.


Harari, Mohr and Hosey (1980) tested these techniques, hypothesising that both the DIF and the FID techniques would elicit more compliance than the control condition, when students asked academics for help. Participants were 154 university faculty members. There were three conditions – FID, DIF and the control condition. In the experiment, a confederate (acting as a student) first asked the academic to answer questions for twenty minutes (FID) or commit to two hours a week of discussion and paper review until the end of the semester (DIF). This was then followed by the moderate request (commitment of six hours work). The control condition received this moderate request alone.


They found that the Door in the Face Technique was the most effective in eliciting compliance (78%) compared to the Foot in the Door technique and the control condition. Interestingly, participants in the control condition complied more often than those in the FID condition (see Figure 1).

It seems that the “softly softly” FID approach may not be too effective in persuading university faculty members. Next time you have an essay to do, go straight up to your tutor and ask them to write it for you. When that fails (it will!),  you could ask them for an essay plan: a considerably smaller request. You never know, you might end up with that first after all!

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.

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.

Harari, H., Mohr, D., & Hosey, K. (1980). Faculty Helpfulness to Students A Comparison of Compliance Techniques. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 6(3), 373-377

Philippa Mundy

1 comment:

  1. Think i'll share this with the other staff in the department Pippa!


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