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.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Using Persuasion For Good!

The current lack of organ donors is a problem. According to the NHS (2014), there were 7022 people on the transplant waiting list on 31st December 2013 and they are expecting this number to increase heavily in the next decade.  They also have evidence that while 9 in 10 people support organ donation, less than 1 in 3 have signed up.

Girandola (2002) conducted a study about the application of the foot in the door technique for organ donation. This compliance tactic was introduced by Freedman and Fraser (1966) and basically means start small, aim high. By getting a person to agree to an initial small request, they are more likely to comply with a larger one later on.

In the study, participants completed a personality test and were then told a computer needed time to scan their data. “In the meantime”, the experimenter said he knew of another study they could take part in and went to get another researcher.

The first request from this second experimenter was for participants to complete a questionnaire about their views on organ donation. Using the “foot in the door” analogy, let us say this is like a salesman knocking on your door and not having it immediately slammed in his face. The second request was for participants to complete another task, where they simply had to indicate their intention to become organ donors. Girandola chose not to have the second request be to actually register as an organ donor on ethical grounds.

Participants’ experience of the second request varied by two factors; whether the second requester was the same as the first, and whether the second request came immediately after the first or three days later when they returned for the original personality “experiment”. A control group was also included where participants completed the personality test and were then immediately presented with the second request.

So what did he find?

The rating of intention to become organ donors was done on a twenty point scale, where 1 = no intention at all and 20 = strong intention.  Participants in the experimental conditions, with the exception of the immediate same-requester condition, gave significantly higher ratings of intent compared to the control group.

The most effective technique was having the same requester ask three days after the first request, indicating that the foot in the door technique can last at least for this period of time. Perhaps this condition was most effective because participants had time to think about organ donation and were familiar with the requester. In the immediate same-requester condition, participants were being bombarded with requests from the same person and getting nothing in return- in other words, there was a lack of reciprocity. At least in the immediate same-requester condition they had input from more people, a signal that organ donation really is an important issue.

Regardless, the results show that the foot in the door technique could be useful under certain conditions for increasing the number of people who intend to register to become donors. Obviously, intention may be meaningless in this situation as some people “don’t get round to it”- but it’s a start, and an extension of this research could include presenting people with an easy opportunity to register. Nonetheless, research such as this is important because it shows that while companies may use compliance tactics to get you to buy their product or people could influence you into doing something you do not want to do, the same methods can be used to make a real, positive difference.


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.

Girandola, F. (2002). Sequential requests and organ donation. The Journal of Social Psychology, 142, 171-178.

NHS (January 2014). Organ donation and transplantation data. NHSTB- Organ Donation. Retrieved February 15, 2014 from

Emma Barry

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