I was walking down the high street recently when I spotted a charity representative dressed in blue and looking to grab somebody’s attention. As we all do, despite it being a potential avoidance of morals, I attempted to avoid eye contact and walk at top speed past him without detection. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed and the man in blue stepped into my path and opened with the line; “Excuse me but could I talk to you for just one of your 1440 minutes of today?” For the first time I was convinced to stop and listen to what a charity rep had to say. Why? Because the request was so simple and when put like that, taking out less than 0.1% of my day seemed like a completely reasonable and easy task.This provides an example of the foot-in-the-door (FITD) technique of persuasion because the beginning request was small and easy to comply with and merely involved listening to information about the charity for one minute. This then of course progressed onto a larger request for a donation to the charity, but one I was more likely to comply with than if I had been initially asked to directly donate to the charity.
Taylor and Booth-Butterfield (1993) present supporting evidence for the FITD technique in their experiment on influencing people with regards to drinking and driving. The field study conducted over a course of 6 weeks involved 30 participants from a bar; half were randomly assigned to the control condition and half to the treatment condition. The treatment condition involved the bartender asking a sober participant to sign a petition against drinking and driving and then handing them a leaflet about drunk driving issued by the State Police Office. Then in the weeks following the bartender observed participants and once a subject became alcohol-impaired and was about to leave the bar, he asked whether he could call a taxi to take them home. In the control condition participants were not asked to sign the petition or given the leaflet, but as in the treatment condition were asked by the bartender if he could call them a taxi when they were leaving the bar in an intoxicated state.The results were concordant with the hypothesis that those who had been asked to sign the petition (comply with a small and simple request) were more likely to agree to calling a taxi (the bigger request). This is shown in the data from the experiment in which 53% of those in the treatment condition complied with the second bigger request while only 10% in the control condition complied. Admittedly the sample size was somewhat small so this difference may be exaggerated. The results are displayed in the figure below as the percentage of compliance with the second larger request can be seen to be a lot higher in the FITD condition (very right hand bar) compared to the percentage of compliance in the control condition (second to right hand bar). A chi-square test was conducted in order to show that the frequency of compliance was statistically significant and it was concluded that there is a large effect size supporting the influence of the FITD technique.
Returning to the opening example, after having complied to the initial simple request of taking one of my many minutes of the day to listen to the charity information, the representative asked me if I would be interested in donating to the charity (which turned out to be for cats…) While admittedly I didn’t donate, this does not undermine the concordance of the example's technique with the results of the aforementioned experiment because I felt more obliged and tempted to (comply with the bigger request) than if he had approached me and just requested money. In that case I’m sure most people would offer a word of dismissal and be on their way and this would be parallel to the experiment's control condition in that the bigger request was dismissed more readily in the absence of a prior small request. But the charity rep's approach was effective insofar as I actually listened to what he had to say and was more persuaded towards the second request because he was successful in getting his foot in the door.
Taylor, T., & Booth‐Butterfield, S. (1993). Getting a foot in the door with drinking and driving: A field study of healthy influence. Communication Research Reports, 10(1), 95-101.