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

Lets Talk Business

Previous studies have shown the success of the Door-in-the-Face compliance technique. Most research was conducted in a non-business setting (charity situations) but this paper deals with the ‘face’ technique in a business setting (insurance company survey). Previous research by Tybout (1978) and others have deemed the face technique unsuccessful in noncharity contexts.

Mowen and Cialdini (1980) test the generality of this compliance technique and attempt to apply it in a nonbusiness context. The face technique increases compliant responses because of the societal norm of reciprocal concessions. The requester will start with a large initial request and then move on to a smaller favour, the smaller one being the desired request. The target feels that since the requester has made a concession regarding his request, he should reciprocate this by agreeing to the request.  

The study shows that some conditions must be met for the technique to work. In a business setting, it is important for the request to be perceived as legitimate and the concession must move from a large request to a small one.    

Two studies were conducted to for the legitimacy of the face technique. Both had a 2x3 factorial design. Study 1 investigated whether the gap between the larger and smaller request had to be greater in the business setting, the size of the large request was varied. Also, in a business setting, people are more wary and distrustful of anyone asking a favour, so they emphasized that a response would really help the company. The norm of social responsibility may cancel the effects of distrust.

192 subjects were chosen at random along university walkways and asked to participate in an hour or two-hour long survey.  After the subject declined to participate, they were asked to do a 15-minute survey instead. In one group help was emphasized. The table below shows the results for this study.


What’s intriguing is that a face effect occurred only in the second condition. The explained this by the ceiling effect. Maximum compliance rate in the help emphasized condition was as high as 50%. Emphasizing help and using face technique both resulted in compliance reaching the maximum obtainable compliance level.  Thus, when neither technique was used, a baseline compliance rate was obtained, against which face technique could be observed. thus, due to the lower compliance rate in the control group (unlike earlier studies), the face effect could be observed.

Study 2 deals with the issue of having the second request being a smaller version of the first request rather than something different. With previous studies on the topic, we usually saw the smaller request as being completely different from the initial request, therefore reducing the perception of a concession. The ceiling factor manipulated the time of the second survey (10 or 15 minutes). For the perceived concessions factor, the relationship between the small and large request was varied. Results are shown below.

These results support the hypothesis that both factors need to be considered during the face technique. When looking at the ceiling factor, we see that the compliance rate is much higher in the moderate condition compared to the control.

These findings have important implications for businesses. The size of the second request can be increased without lowering the overall compliance rate. It is also important to remember that the making of the concession should be unambiguous and preferably a reduced part of the original request rather than a completely different one.

-Maia Jasubhoy.


Mowen, J. C., & Cialdini, R. B. (1980). “On implementing the door-in-the-face compliance technique in a business context.” Journal of Marketing Research, 17, 253-258.

1 comment:

  1. I like that you have applied this technique to a business setting, well done.


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