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solicitor asks you to sign a petition condemning drunk driving. Now most people would
be happy to sign such a petition. After all, it is for a cause that most people support, and
it takes a minimal amount of effort to sign a petition. Imagine further that you agree to
this initial request and sign the petition. After you sign the petition, the solicitor then
asks you for a $5 donation to PADD (People Against Drunk Driving). You ¬nd yourself
digging into your wallet for a $5 bill to contribute.
Consider another scenario. You are again in the mall doing some shopping, when a
person from PADD approaches you and asks you for a $5 donation to help ¬ght drunk
driving. This time, instead of digging out your wallet, you tell the solicitor to hit the
road, and you go back to your shopping.
These two scenarios illustrate a common compliance effect: the foot-in-the-door foot-in-the-door technique
(FITD) A social in¬‚uence
technique (FITD). In the ¬rst scenario, you were ¬rst asked to do something small
process in which a small
and effortless, to sign a petition. Next, you were asked for a donation, a request that
request is made before a
was a bit more costly than simply signing a petition. Once you agreed to the ¬rst,
larger request, resulting in
smaller request, you were more inclined to agree to the second, larger request. This more compliance to the larger
is the essence of the FITD technique. When people agree to a small request before a request than if the larger
larger one is made, they are more likely to agree to the larger request than if the larger request were made alone.
request were made alone.
Social Psychology

In the experiment that ¬rst demonstrated the FITD technique (Freedman &
Fraser, 1966), participants were contacted in their homes by a representative of a
¬ctitious marketing research company under four separate conditions: (1) Some par-
ticipants were asked if they would be willing to answer a few simple questions about
the soap products used in their households (a request to which most participants
agreed). The questions were asked only if the participant agreed. This was called the
“performance” condition. (2) Other participants were also asked if they would be
willing to answer a few simple questions, but when they agreed, they were told that
the company was simply lining up participants for a survey and that they would be
contacted later. This was called the “agree-only” condition. (3) Still other participants
were contacted, told of the questionnaire, and told that the call was merely to famil-
iarize people with the marketing company. This was the “familiarization” condition.
(4) A ¬nal group of participants was contacted only once. This was the single-contact
(control) condition.
Participants in the ¬rst three conditions were called again a few days later. This
time a larger request was made. The participants were asked if they would allow a team
of ¬ve or six people to come into their homes for 2 hours and do an inventory of soap
products. In the single-contact condition, participants received only this request. The
results of the experiment, shown in Figure 7.4, were striking. Notice that over 50% of
the subjects in the performance condition (which is the FITD technique) agreed to the
second, larger request, compared to only about 22% of the subjects in the single-contact
group. Notice also that simply agreeing to the smaller request or being familiarized with
the company was not suf¬cient to signi¬cantly increase compliance with the larger
request. The FITD effect occurs only if the smaller task is actually performed.
Since this seminal experiment, conducted in 1966, many other studies have veri¬ed
the FITD effect. It even works in an online environment using web pages to make the
small and large requests (Gu©guen & Jacob, 2001). Researchers quickly turned their
attention to investigating the underlying causes for the effect.

Figure 7.4 Compliance
to a large request as a
function of the nature of an
initial, smaller request. The
highest level of compliance
for a large request was
realized after participants
performed a smaller request
¬rst, illustrating the foot-in-
the-door technique.
Based on data from Freedman and Fraser
Chapter 7 Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience 249

Why It Works: Three Hypotheses
One explanation for the FITD effect is provided by self-perception theory (Bern, 1972).
Recall from Chapter 6 that we sometimes learn about ourselves from observing our
own behavior and making inferences about the causes for that behavior. According to
the self-perception hypothesis, the FITD works because agreeing to the ¬rst request
causes changes in our perceptions of ourselves. Once we agree to the smaller, original
request, we perceive ourselves as the type of person who gives help in that particular
situation, and thus we are more likely to give similar help in the future.
In a direct test of the self-perception explanation, Burger and Caldwell (2003) paid
some participants $1 to sign a petition supporting aid to the homeless (the initial request
in a FITD procedure). Other participants received a bookmark that said “Itʼs great to see
someone who cares about people in need” (self-concept enhancement). Two days later
participants received a telephone call asking them to volunteer time to sort items at a
food bank to help the homeless. The results showed that participants in the enhancement
condition were more likely to agree to the second request than those who were paid $1.
Burger and Caldwell explain that those in the enhancement condition showed a shift in
their self-perception toward perceiving themselves as helping individuals. Those paid
$1 did not show such as shift. Generally, other research has provided support for the
self-perception explanation for the FITD technique (Dejong, 1979; Goldman, Seever,
& Seever, 1982; Snyder & Cunningham, 1975).
Originally it was believed that merely agreeing to any initial request was suf¬cient
to produce the FITD effect. However, we now know differently. The FITD effect works
when the initial request is suf¬ciently large to elicit a commitment from an individual
and the individual attributes the commitment to internal, dispositional factors. That is,
the person reasons, “I am the type of person who cooperates with people doing a market
survey” (or contributes to PADD, or helps in particular types of situations).
Although self-perception theory has been widely accepted as an explanation for
the FITD effect, another explanation has also been proposed. This is the perceptual
contrast hypothesis, which suggests that the FITD effect occurs because the smaller,
initial request acts as an “anchor” (a standard of reference) against which other requests
are judged (Cantrill & Seibold, 1986). The later request can be either assimilated to
or contrasted with the anchor. Theoretically, in the FITD situation, the second, larger
request is assimilated to the anchor (the smaller, ¬rst request) and is seen as less burden-
some than if it were presented alone. That is, the second and larger request is seen as
more reasonable because of the ¬rst request with which the person has already agreed.
Although this hypothesis has generated some interest, there is not as much support for
it as there is for the self-perception explanation.
Another explanation for the effectiveness of the FITD effect focuses on the thought
processes of its recipients. It was suggested that information about the solicitorʼs and
recipientʼs behavior affects compliance in the FITD effect (Tybout, Sternthal, & Calder,
1983). According to this view, targets of the FITD technique undergo changes in atti-
tudes and cognitions about the requested behavior. Compliance on a second request
depends, in part, on the information available in the participantʼs memory that relates
to the issue (Homik, 1988).
This hypothesis was put to the test in a ¬eld experiment involving requests for
contributions to the Israeli Cancer Society (ICA; Hornik, 1988). Participants were ¬rst
asked to ful¬ll a small request: to distribute ICA pamphlets. Participants agreeing to
this request were given a sticker to display on their doors. One version of the sticker
touted the participantʼs continuing involvement in the ICA campaign. A second version
Social Psychology

suggested that participants had ful¬lled their obligation completely. Ten days later par-
ticipants were contacted again and asked to donate money to the ICA. Additionally, the
control group of participants was contacted for the ¬rst time.
The results of this study con¬rmed the power of the FITD technique to produce
compliance (compared to the control group). Those participants who received the
sticker implying continued commitment to the ICA showed greater compliance with
the later request than did either those who had received the sticker showing that an
obligation was ful¬lled or those in the control group. Participants in the continued-
commitment group most likely held attitudes about themselves, had information avail-
able, and had self-perceptions suggesting continued commitment. This translated into
greater compliance.

Limits of the FITD Technique
As you can see, the FITD technique is a very powerful tool for gaining compliance.
Although the effect has been replicated over and over, it has its limits. One important
limitation of the FITD technique is that the requests being made must be socially accept-
able (Dillard, Hunter, & Burgoon, 1984). People do not comply with requests they ¬nd
objectionable. Another limitation to the FITD technique is the cost of the behavior called
for. When a high-cost behavior is called for (e.g., donating blood), the FITD technique
does not work very well (Cialdini & Ascani, 1976; Foss & Dempsey, 1979). Does this
mean that the FITD technique cannot be used to increase socially desirable but high-
cost behaviors such as blood donation? Not necessarily. A small modi¬cation in the
technique may prove effective: adding a moderately strong request between the initial
small and ¬nal large requests. Adding such an intermediate request increases the power
of the FITD technique (Goldman, Creason, & McCall, 1981). A gradually increasing,
graded series of requests may alter the potential donorʼs self-perceptions, which are
strongly associated with increased compliance in the FITD paradigm.
Interestingly, although the FTTD technique does not increase blood donations sig-
ni¬cantly, it can be used to induce people to become organ donors (Carducci & Deuser,
1984). However, there are even some limits here. In an experiment by Girandola (2002),
participants were exposed to a FITD procedure under one of four conditions. Some par-
ticipants received the second request immediately after the ¬rst request and others after a
delay of 3 days. Half of the participants were presented with the second request (indicate
how willing they were to become an organ donor) by the same person making the initial
request or a different person. As shown in Figure 7.5, the FITD procedure was effective
in increasing willingness to become an organ donor in all conditions except when the
same person who made the ¬rst request made the second request immediately.
Why the difference between blood and organ donation? It may be that the two behav-
iors involve differing levels of commitment. Blood donation takes time and involves
some pain and discomfort. Organ donation, which takes place after death, does not.
Blood donation requires action; organ donation requires only agreement. It appears that
blood donation is seen as a higher-cost behavior than organ donation. Under such high-
cost conditions the FITD technique, in its original form, does not work very well.
Finally, the FITD technique does not work equally well on everyone. For example, it
works better on individuals who have a stronger need to maintain cognitive consistency
than on those who have a weaker need (Cialdini, Trost, & Newsome, 1995; Guadango,
Asher, Demaine, & Cialdini, 2001). Additionally, individuals who have a clear sense of
their self- concepts (high self-concept clarity) were more affected by a FITD manipula-
tion than those low in self-concept clarity (Burger & Guadango, 2003).
Chapter 7 Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience 251

Second Requestor
Same Different



Mean Award



Figure 7.5 The
relationship between the
time of a second request
and the identity of the
person making the second
Immediate Delayed
Time of Second Request Based on data from Girandola (2002).

Door-in-the-Face Technique
Imagine that you are sitting at home reading a book when the telephone rings. The caller
turns out to be a solicitor for a charity that provides food baskets for needy families
at Thanksgiving. The caller describes the charity program and asks if you would be
willing to donate $250 to feed a family of 10. To this request you react as many people
do: “What! I canʼt possibly give that much!” In response, the caller offers you several
other alternatives, each requiring a smaller and smaller donation (e.g., $100, $50, $25,
and $10). Each time the caller asks about an alternative you feel more and more like
Ebenezer Scrooge, and ¬nally you agree to provide a $25 food basket.
Notice the tactic used by the solicitor. You were ¬rst hit with a large request, which
you found unreasonable, and then a smaller one, which you agreed to. The technique
the solicitor used was just the opposite of what would take place in the FITD technique
(a small request followed by a larger one). In this example you have fallen prey to the
door-in-the-face technique
door-in-the-face technique (DITF).
(DITF) A social in¬‚uence
After being induced into buying a candy bar from a Boy Scout who used the DITF
process in which a large
technique, one researcher decided to investigate the power of this technique to induce request is made before a
compliance (Cialdini, 1993). Participants were approached and asked if they would be smaller request, resulting in
willing to escort a group of “juvenile delinquents” to a local zoo (Cialdini et al., 1975). more compliance to the smaller
request than if the smaller
Not surprisingly, most participants refused this request. But in the DITF condition, this
request were made alone.
request was preceded by an even larger one, to spend 2 hours per week as a counselor
for juvenile delinquents for at least 2 years! It is even less surprising that this request
was turned down. However, when the request to escort delinquents to the zoo followed
the larger request, commitments for the zoo trip increased dramatically (Figure 7.6).
Subsequent studies veri¬ed the power of the DITF technique to induce compliance (e.g.,
Cialdini & Ascani, 1976; Williams & Williams, 1989). As with the FITD technique, the
DITF technique also works in an online environment (Gu©guen, 2003).
Social Psychology

Figure 7.6 Compliance
to a small request as a
function of the nature of an
initial request. Participants
complied more with a
second, smaller request if it
followed a larger request,
demonstrating the door-in-
the-face technique.
Based on data from Cialdini and colleagues

Some researchers have suggested that the DITF technique works because the
target of the in¬‚uence attempt feels compelled to match the concession (from the ¬rst,
larger request to the smaller, second request) made by the solicitor (Cialdini et al.,
norm of reciprocity
1975). The social psychological mechanism operating here is the norm of reciprocity
A social norm stating that you
should help those who help (Gouldner, 1960). The norm of reciprocity states that we should help those who help
you and should not injure us. Remember Aesopʼs fable about the mouse that came across a lion with a thorn in its
those who help you. foot? Despite the obvious danger to itself, the mouse helped the lion by removing the
thorn. Later, when the lion came on the mouse in need of help, the lion reciprocated by
helping the mouse. This is an illustration of the norm of reciprocity. The norm of reci-


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