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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How to get free beer.

In the recent past one of my housemates decided to go home for the weekend – leaving behind fifteen refreshing bottles of ice cold lager beer. Armed with a wealth of knowledge about persuasion, I grabbed my cellular device. The following text conversation reveals what happened next:

By using the door-in-the-face (DITF) technique I persuaded my housemate to let me have two of his beverages. The DITF technique involves making an unreasonable request that would usually be declined. This is followed by a second, more reasonable request. People are more likely to agree to the second request if it follows an unreasonable one, when compared to asking the second request alone.

Pascual and Gueguen (2006) provide a convincing demonstration of DITF in a field experiment. Participants were young adults who happened to be sitting alone at a bar in a French seaside resort. The participants were unaware that the male and female sat on the next table were confederates. After both ordering and drinking a lemonade, the male confederate leaves and proclaims (loudly enough for the participant to hear) that he is leaving to buy a part for his bicycle. Two minutes later the female confederate tries to leave, before being told by a staff member that the male confederate had not paid the bill. Participants were randomly allocated into one of two conditions.

In the door in the face condition, the female confederate approaches the participant and asks them to pay for the full cost of the drinks - as she had no money. No participant agreed to pay the full bill. Then the participant is asked to donate just “two or three francs to pay part of the bill”. 75% of subjects agreed to comply with the second request. In the control condition participants were only asked to comply with the second request. Then, only 10% of participants agreed to donate. 

The results are depicted in figure 1.

The DITF technique allowed me to persuade my housemate into giving me a couple of free beers. My intention was never to get the full crate. However, administering an unreasonable request first made the second request (of just two bottles) seem more than reasonable. As Pascual and Gueguen (2006) would predict, if I first asked for two free beers my housemate would probably say no.

Free beer... That's got to be the best psychological application ever, right?

Pascual, A., & Gueguen, N. (2006). Door-in-the-face technique and monetary solicitation: an evaluation in a field setting. Perceptual and motor skills, 103, 974-978.

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