Researchers have tested many persuasion strategies, including the foot-in-the door and the door-in-the-face techniques, in a variety of contexts. Ultimately, the principles are effective in selling products and changing people’s attitude, ideas, and behaviors (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004).
Get Your Foot in the Door
The first effective strategy is the foot-in-the-door technique (Cialdini, 2001; Pliner, Hart, Kohl, & Saari, 1974): If a persuader—such as a salesperson—gets an individual to say yes to a small request, they are more likely to also get the buyer to agree to a larger request at a later time. This technique illustrates the principle of consistency (Cialdini, 2001): Our past behavior often directs our future response, and we have a desire to maintain consistency once we have a committed to something.
How would a company use the foot-in-the-door technique to sell you an expensive product? For example, say that you are looking to buy a new smartphone, and the salesperson offers you the latest model at a discounted price. When you agree, the salesperson then suggests a bigger purchase: the most expensive data plan. After agreeing to the smaller purchase, you are more likely to also buy the larger item.
The Door Won’t Slam Twice
Another effective persuasion strategy is the door-in-the-face technique (Cialdini et al., 1975): If a person first turns down a large demand, they are more likely to agree to a smaller request at a later time. For example, in a business setting, an employee should first ask their boss for a 30% increase in salary. When that request is denied, the employee would mention a smaller amount, like a 10% increase, instead. The boss is more likely to agree to this modified request because they believe they are making a concession to the employee.
The foot-in-the-door technique was first demonstrated in a study by Freedman and Fraser (1966). In the experiment, participants were asked if they would either post a small sign in their yard or endorse a petition. Those who consented were subsequently more likely to put a larger sign in their yard compared to people who declined the initial request.
In addition, the door-in-the-face technique was first demonstrated in a study by Cialdini and colleagues (1975). Participants who first turned down a request to commit to two years of community service were more likely to agree to an afternoon of volunteering than participants who were only asked to make the smaller commitment. Both requests also needed to be made by the same person so that the second, smaller one appeared to be a concession that both the requester and participant were making.
This text is adapted from OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX.