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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Please Don't Stop the Music

Distracted by the piercing voice of Ariana Grande telling me to ‘break free’, I realise I am actually humming along rather than working -  thanks to my library neighbour pushing the volume of the music so high, I’m almost expecting a flash mob to come alive. Dare I mention that there are no advert breaks between songs; some individuals should not be allowed access to Spotify Premium.

Nothing screams ‘pick me’ more than the offering of a free trial. The repeated “Don’t worry; I’ll cancel it when I reach the end of the trial” is often heard. Yet, when the time comes there is the quick realisation that once the premium has been experienced, one can never return to the advert ridden, limited, free version.


 SO, why do the victims of this free-trial then commit to the product after this trial is over?

Quite simply, the classic ‘foot-in-the-door’ technique, (Freedman & Fraser, 1996), a strategy employed by millions of companies to encourage customers to commit to products. An effective tactic encouraging individuals to accept a small request, i.e. sign up to the free-trial, followed by a larger request, i.e. continuing with the Premium Spotify – you’ve already given all your details, so why not?  By getting the individual to accept the initial request, Spotify have their ‘foot-in-the-door’, making the individual more likely to pay for the pricey product.

Snyder and Cunningham (1975) investigated this phenomenon to determine why an individual may feel compelled to accept or follow-through with an action they previously may not have.

92 participants were randomly selected from telephone directories and randomly assigned to conditions:
-          Condition 1: Large Initial Request
-          Condition 2: Small Initial Request
-          Condition 3: No Initial Request

Each participant was asked to answer a specific number of questions in a telephone survey, for one of two public service organisations. Those in Condition A were given 50 questions and Condition 2 presented with 8 questions, Condition 3 received no initial phone call.  

A second call was made to participants 2 days later, the experimenter associated themselves with the public service organisation that the participant was not previously accustomed with – subjects were asked to answer 30 questions for a new fictitious survey. Subjects in Condition 3 were contacted on the same day, but had no prior contact with experimenter.

Responses of 62* subjects to the second request were recorded and compared. Over half of the participants in Condition 2 agreed to the second request, in comparison to those in Condition 1, of which under a third were prepared to comply – Demonstrated in Graph 1

Graph 1 – Comparison of the rate of compliance to the second request.

True to the ‘foot-in-the-door’ technique, those in Condition 2 (small initial request) were significantly more likely to comply to the second request in comparison to those in Condition 1 (large initial request) and Condition 3 (no initial request) . Thus, researchers were able to conclude, asking for a little can achieve a lot.
Spotify Premium is one of many who lure the unfortunate money-saving seekers into the ‘free-trial period’ trap. From an easy sign-up to a  free trial, to only a measly £9.99 a month…Beware, that’ll only leave you £120 poorer a year to listen to your favourite Justin Bieber song with no adverts.

*62 to responses due to drop-outs/could not be reached for the second contact.


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. 

Snyder, M., & Cunningham, M. R. (1975). To comply or not comply: testing the self-perception explanation of the "foot-in-the-door" phenomenon. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 31(1), 64.

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