Door-in-the-face (DITF) is a sequential request strategy and therefore an effective compliance-gaining tactic. It refers to the gaining of compliance with an initial large request that is expected to be rejected by the request-receivers, followed by a smaller and more reasonable request. So, what is the rationale behind? Why is it effective? The underlying mechanisms remain unclear.
Two of the common explanations for the DITF effect refer to reciprocity and social responsibility. According to Cialdini et al. (1975), the DITF sequences are similar to bargaining or negotiation. That means when the askers back off from the initial request and make a more reasonable one, they are in fact making a concession. Perceiving the concession made, the receivers will thus feel compelled and comply with the smaller request as reciprocate. A sense of obligation is as well observed, with the notion that individuals will give benefits in return to those who have given them benefits. (Gouldner, 1960) Rather than perceiving the situation as negotiation, Tusing and Dillard (2000) suggested the DITF interactions were seen as a helping situation. Hence, for the social responsibility model, social responsibility is an internalised standard that guides one’s behaviour. From which, when people turn down the initial request, they will feel guilty due to the violation of standard, and do not want to reject the subsequent request again. This leads to compliance.
In view of these two explanations, Turner et al. (2007) conducted a field experiment on door-to-door request for donations on behalf of Bowling for Scholars (BFS). 50 confederates were trained on the sequential request strategies. The test consists of 10 experimental conditions in total: request type (initial request, DITF request, and small request), size of initial request (moderate and large), and solicitor familiarity (friends and strangers). According to this paper, the norm of reciprocity can be regarded as a strong moral obligation for strangers in social interactions, and negotiation can be seen as the concession from large to smaller request. Therefore, if reciprocity acts as the rationale behind DITF, compliance will increase with more donations when the receivers are strangers and the initial request is large, with the use of DITF strategy. On the other hand, this paper indicates the notion that individuals are more compliant with helping request from friends than strangers in social responsibility model. The receivers will perceive the situation as helping the askers, regardless of the initial request size. Hence, donations will increase if the receivers are friends of the askers, even when the initial request size is small or similar to the second request.
Results on table 1 show that friends are more likely to be complied with than strangers are in general. While for both friends’ and strangers’ condition with initial large request, DITF messages increase compliance as compared to small request only (baseline) with the rises of 87% and 121% respectively. Yet, neither helping nor obligation significantly increases compliance rate. As helping refers to the situation of social responsibility model, the insignificant result suggest that social responsibility may not be able to fully explain DITF. Likewise, reciprocity involves obligation, the insignificant difference between DITF and initial request only situation thus failed to show the effectiveness of obligation towards DITF on compliance. Hence, both findings lead to the inability in providing full explanation for DIFT.
In fact, the results suggest the possibility that neither reciprocal concession nor social responsibility serves as the best explanation for the mechanisms of the Door-in-the-fact tactic. What else can you think of?
Ching Yiu Ng
Ching Yiu Ng
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, 206-215.
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement. American Sociological Review, 25, 161-178.
Turner, M. M., Tamborini, R., Limon, M. S., & Zuckerman-Hyman, C. (2007). The Moderators and Mediators of Door-in-the-Face Requests: Is it a Negotiation or a Helping Experience? Communication Monographs, 74, 333-356.