Have you ever agreed to a small request, only to later find yourself agreeing to a larger request from the same person? If so, you may have been a victim of the foot-in-the-door technique. Learn more about the foot-in-the-door technique from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.
Definition of Foot-in-the-Door Technical
The foot-in-the-door technique is a persuasion tactic in which you get a person to comply with a large request by first asking them to comply with a smaller request. Let’s look at an example.Sam is completing a science project, which requires him to design and create a model of the solar system. He asks his mother, Nora, to help him create a design for his project.
Nora draws a sketch and gathers the supplies for Sam. Sam then asks his mother to help him glue the pieces together, which she does. In the end, Nora ends up constructing the entire science project with little help from Sam. Nora wonders how this happened.
Sam used the foot-in-the-door technique to get his mother to complete his science project.
Freedman and Fraser: Why Foot-in-the-Door Works
The foot-in-the-door technique was first studied by Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser in 1966. The idea is to get the targeted person to say ‘yes’ to a simple, small request right before asking for a big ‘yes.
‘Freedman and Fraser found that once a person agrees to a small request, they are more likely to agree to a larger request than they would be if you didn’t already have your ‘foot in the door’ with the small request. In the example of Sam and Nora, Sam was able to get his mother to put together the pieces of his science project (a large request) by first getting her to agree to the smaller request of helping him create a design. Eventually, Sam was able to get his mother to carry out an even larger request, finishing his entire project.
The foot-in-the-door technique is effective because it alters how people perceive themselves. It allows individuals to use their own behavior as a guide for future attitudes and behaviors. In our science fair example, Sam’s small initial request to create a design helped shape Nora’s self-perception to include the belief that I, Nora, am the type of person who helps my son with science projects. Because of this belief, Nora is subsequently more likely to agree with other requests that are consistent with her self-perception, hence Nora agreeing to the larger requests.
- You convince a friend to let you borrow $100 dollars after the friend has already loaned you $20.
- A friend asks you to borrow a sweater, to which you agree. The next week she asks to borrow an entire outfit and shoes, to which you also agree.
- Your parents ask you to clean your room, to which you comply.
They later get you to clean the entire house.
- You walk into a department store, and a perfume saleswoman gets you to agree to try a sample of their newest perfume. Later, she asks you to buy a bottle for $80, to which you agree.
- A marketing company gets you to agree to let them put an advertisement on your front lawn. Later, they get you to agree to participate in a marketing focus group that lasts for four hours.
The foot-in-the-door technique is when a small request is initially made in order to get a person to later agree to a bigger request.
An example of this is when a friend asks to borrow a small amount of money, then later asks to borrow a larger amount. The foot-in-the-door technique is commonly used by marketing companies, advertisers, and salesmen.
As you grow in your understanding of the foot-in-the-door technique, you may test your capacity to:
- Paraphrase the foot-in-the-door technique and indicate why it is effective
- Give several examples of the technique