|I'm a winner!|
I know what you’re all thinking; how on Earth did I win so much and what am I going to do with all that money? Well sorry to disappoint but this isn’t as simple as it first seems. A couple of weeks ago I received this email and without hesitation deleted it, knowing it is a very common scam. The sender alerts you to the fact you have somehow been given a lot of money and all you have to do to receive it is to send them some personal information. Firstly they’ll ask for basic information such as your name and address. Even with this simple information they could probably commit some sort of scam but the sender won’t stop there. Upon receiving your name and address the next step is to ask for you bank details so they can “transfer the money”. To many it seems blatantly obvious the route this would take if I were to comply with their requests, but not everyone is as clued up and many end up penniless because of such scams. So why does this technique work?
It’s an example of Freedman and Fraser’s (1966) Foot in the Door technique.
Freedman and Fraser (1966) aimed to examine whether you are more likely to comply to a second, larger request if you comply to a smaller request first. In an experiment participants were split across a performance condition and a one contact condition. In the performance condition participants were first asked to complete a smaller request then 3 days later were asked to complete a larger, related request. The one contact condition on the other hand just asked participants to carry out the larger request.
The first smaller task involved the experimenter ringing an individual and asking if they could answer a few short questions about what household products they use. The larger request was to allow a number of individuals to enter your home and verify what household products you have. Freedman and Fraser (1966) hypothesised that those in the performance condition would be more compliant.
As you can see in table 1, 52% of those who were first asked to complete a smaller request went on to complete the larger request, whilst only 22% of those who were only asked to complete the larger request did so. This therefore supports the foot in the door technique in which once you have asked for a small favour and have your foot in the door, the participant feels obliged to carry on with the course of action and so will continue to comply.
In the case of my email, if I send them my name and address and they consequently ask for more information such as my bank details, they already have their foot in the door asking for a small request and so I should feel obliged to then comply with their next larger request, which in this case will most likely be my bank details. Luckily for me however I'm obviously taking this persuasion module and can see right through their attempts of persuasion!
Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 4(2), 195.