This is a good piece about how manipulation occurs in every day life.
not sure of the author although I suspect it's Robert Cialdini
A stranger approaches you at the shopping mall one day and politely
asks if she can have a minute of your time. You stop and say, "Yes."
The stranger goes on to describe the importance of the local blood
bank to the safety and well-being of your community. (You nod your
head in polite agreement, but you know there's a gimmick.) Then the
stranger gets to the point:
"Would you be willing to be a blood bank volunteer? You'd have to
give ten hours a week for the next year and solicit blood donations
from the people of our community by contacting them over the phone
or face-to-face. Will you give us your time?"
You think to yourself, "Ten hours a week? For a year?! That's crazy.
Volunteering is important, yes, but no one should have to give up
that kind of time!"
And so you politely tell the stranger, "No." The stranger looks a
little disappointed and says: "Well, if you can't give your time,
could you at least give a unit of blood right now? We have a station
set up right down this hall."
Now this is a more reasonable request. And even though you've never
given blood before you find yourself walking down that hallway with
this stranger . . .
Something happened here. A stranger stops a person. The stranger
makes an extreme request. The person says, "No thanks." The stranger
makes a second less extreme request. The person says, "I'll do it."
Amazing as it may sound, this persuasive strategy is a reliable
means of influencing people. It is also effective at getting
behavior change which can be the toughest kind of change to get. It
does not work in every situation and it is very important to know
its limitations, but the sequential requests strategy is simple to
implement and effective in outcome.
HOW SEQUENTIAL REQUESTS ARE DONE
>From our example, you can see that this tactic has two steps. The
first step is a set up. The first request is not the true target.
Rather it is used to get the receiver in the right frame of mind.
The second step is the real target. It is the action the requester
really wants you to perform.
Now, if you think about it, you can do this Two Step dance two
different ways. The first way is called the door-in-the-face or DITF
for short. The second way is called the foot-in-the-door or FITD.
Both dances require two steps. Both do a set up on the first step.
Both have the real target on the second step. The difference is how
step one hits the receiver.
Our example illustrated the first tactic, the door-in-the-face.
Here, the first request was aimed solely at getting the receiver to
say no very quickly. The second, less extreme request then followed
and is more likely to be accepted.
The other tactic, foot-in-the-door, pushes the first request in the
opposite direction. Instead of starting off with an extreme request,
FITD starts with a little request that almost no one would refuse.
After getting a "Yes!" response to this little request, the receiver
is hit with the second, larger request.
See if you understand the FITD. Take our blood donation example. Our
real target is to get people to give a unit of blood right now. To
do the FITD, the first request has to be small and acceptable. Then,
after we get affirmative action at step one, we hit them with step
two, give blood. Think of a smaller request we could make of a
person that would elicit a "Yes" response before we ask for the
We could . . . ask the person if she would sign this petition here
that offers public support for the local blood bank.
That would work. It is a small request. Takes no time to sign a
petition. It is for a worthy cause; everybody supports it. Almost
everyone would sign that petition, wouldn't they?
Then as soon as the ink dries on the signature, the requester
follows up with, "Well since you obviously support the blood bank
and are willing to say so on this public petition, maybe you'd like
to show a little more support and give a unit of blood right now. We
have a station set up . . ."
Sequential requests are very simple to do. Here is a little diagram
of their action.
DITF get No! (large request)
get Yes! (real request) FITD get Yes!
(small request) get Yes! (real request)
If you have been carefully following along, you realize that both
versions of the Two Step can lead to the same target. With the DITF
we get to the target by starting out with a request that is extreme.
With the FITD we get to the same target by starting out with a
request that is small.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE TWO STEP
You might be wondering just how effective the Two Step is. Over the
past twenty-five years many studies of the Two Step have been
completed. If you read all of them and draw conclusions, here's what
we know about effectiveness.
Imagine that you make only the second request to a group of people
(would you give a unit of blood right now?). Let's say for the sake
of argument that 30% of the group would volunteer right on the spot
if you just ask them. The question becomes, how many more volunteers
could we have gotten if we had used a Two Step?
The research is in strong agreement that on average you would
increase your volunteer rate about 10%. Thus in our running example,
a Two Step would produce a total of 40% volunteers versus the simple
request. If the simple request had gotten, say, 60% volunteers, the
Two Step would have produced a 70% rate.
A ten percent improvement may not sound like much, but consider
this. The requester has only to say a couple of extra sentences to
get that 10%. Merely through a careful and thoughtful consideration
of how to get a "No!" or a "Yes! response at step one can get on
average 10% more impact.
But, there are some important limitations to the Two Step. Notice
that it is a 10% improvement, on average. There are certain
conditions that can boost the improvement even higher or drive it
considerably lower. Let's look a bit closer.
LIMITATIONS TO THE TWO STEP
There are several important limiting conditions on the impact of the
Two Step. Some conditions apply only to DITF and others apply only
to FITD. First, we will examine the DITF.
Limitations on DITF. Two major limitations apply to DITF. First, the
requests appear to work best if they are pro-social rather than
selfish. Second, the requests work best if there is no delay between
The research seems to indicate that selfish appeals do not work well
with the DITF. If the receiver is asked to do something that would
provide a selfish benefit, there is limited influence. By contrast,
if the request is done for more altruistic,
it's-a-good-thing-for-everybody, reasons, the tactic is more
This is great news for teachers if you think about it. We want
students to change their attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors about a
wide range of issues, events, objects, etc. Most of these things are
pro-social in nature. We want our students to like reading or
mathematics, enjoy school and learning, trust their friends and
classmates. All these revolve around pro-social themes and therefore
are amenable to a tactic like DITF.
The second limitation is somewhat obvious. There should be no delay
between the two requests. If the requester waits for a week, a day,
even a few minutes, DITF will not work.
We know that on average DITF produces about a 10% improvement in
influence compared to a simple request. What happens if the above
limitations are followed? If DITF is used without delay between
requests on a pro-social issue, the tactic produces a larger
improvement, about 20% on average.
Limitations on the FITD. There are two major limitations on FITD.
First, FITD works best with pro-social requests just like DITF.
Second, FITD works best when there are no extra incentives offered
for performing the requests.
We have already discussed the importance of pro-social requests
versus selfish requests in the DITF section. The Two Step appears to
work best when the receiver is not acting for selfish gain. And, as
noted before, this pro-social factor is good news for teachers. Since
so many of the things we want our students to prefer or do revolve
around pro-social themes.
The second limitation on FITD concerns incentives. If the receiver
is offered an incentive for performing any request (the first or the
second), then FITD will not work. Thus, when people are promised
rewards (money, gifts, or anything that is valuable to them), they
will not be influenced.
This makes common sense. We already know that the Two Step works
with pro-social requests. When people are offered gifts or money to
"help" others, the reason is transparent. They are doing it solely
for the reward.
You will recall that on average the FITD produces about a 10%
improvement in influence over the simple request rate. Now we know
that there are two limiting factors on the FITD. What happens to the
success rate if these factors are kept in mind? If there is a
request on a pro-social topic for which the receiver has no incentive
to perform, the influence rate will improve to about 20%.
WHY DOES THE TWO STEP WORK?
Surprisingly there is not widespread agreement on why either the
DITF or the FITD work. Some explanations have received partial
support. But at present much more theoretical work needs to be done.
Here is the best current thinking.
DITF Explanation . The strongest explanation of DITF is called,
"reciprocal concessions." It simply means this: I give a little, you
give a little. As the requester, I make an "offer." As the receiver,
you counter and say, "No!" I come back with another offer, this time
a smaller one. I have made a concession, right? I am no longer
asking for that big thing, but rather this little thing. In the
rules of polite society, you should respond with a concession of
your own. In this case you should accept my lower offer. I give a
little, you give a little.
A second explanation of the DITF that has been given is called,
"perceptual contrast." Unfortunately, tests of this theory have
failed. Perceptual contrast holds that the first request defines a
standard of comparison. When the second request comes along, it
seems much smaller compared to the first one. For example, imagine
if you had to judge the "heaviness" of a 20 pound weight. If you
first lifted a 50 pound weight, then the 20 pound weight, those 20
pounds wouldn't feel so heavy, right? There is an intuitive appeal
to the perceptual contrast explanation, but the data strongly
Clearly more theoretical work needs to be done with DITF. We know
that it works, but we are not sure why. The reciprocal concessions
explanation has good appeal. It demonstrates that the receiver is
not a helpless pawn, but rather is part of a communication
interaction commonly called negotiation. The DITF, however, is a
negotiation that strongly favors the requester.
FITD Explanation . The preferred explanation of FITD is self
perception theory. Since this theory is covered in detail in another
chapter, we will just review it here. This theory says that we learn
about our internal states (attitudes, beliefs, preferences, etc.) by
observing our own behavior. If we observe ourselves doing some thing
(signing a petition in support of the local blood bank), then we
reason that we must like the thing. Do you see the application of
this to FITD? Think about it.
With FITD the first step is to get a "Yes!" response to a small
request. According to self perception theory, what happens here?
Right, the person observes his behavior. "Ahhh, here I am signing
this petition. If I'm doing this, it must mean that I have a
favorable opinion about it."
Now, the second step comes along, right in line with the first one,
and what happens? The person knows he should accept the second
request because he is "that" kind of person. He has already seen
himself do other behaviors in support of it. He obviously supports
that kind of thing, he is that kind of person. And he complies with
the second request.
Another interesting explanation comes out of consistency theory.
Again, this theory is covered in another chapter, so we only need a
review. The basic principle of this theory is that people need to
maintain psychological consistency in their thoughts, actions, and
feelings. Inconsistency is painful and causes us to restore a sense
FITD fits in nicely with consistency theory. Step one gets the
receivers to take a stand. "Yes! I'll sign that petition." Step two
comes along and literally forces them to maintain consistency.
"Well, sir, since you've signed this petition in support of the
local blood bank, I'm sure you the kind of person who also wants to
give blood and since we have station set up just down the
hallway . . ." The receiver is in a difficult psychological
position. To say, "No!" to the second request would demonstrate an
obvious inconsistency. The pressure to maintain consistency,
therefore, leads to compliance.
At present there is no reason to prefer self perception theory over
consistency theory or vice versa. It is an interesting area of
research and one that will occupy the time and effort of persuasion
DOING THE INSTRUCTIONAL TWO STEP
Application of the Two Step is simple and straightforward, but it
does require careful advance planning. You must clearly define your
target request, then figure out how to get either the desired "No!"
or "Yes!" response to the first request. If you do not plan
correctly, you will be doing the Two Step by yourself.
Using DITF. A classic example of the DITF concerns assignments and
deadlines. A teacher announces several weeks in advance that a major
test will be given on October 5. The teacher, however, deliberately
schedules more work during the time before the test than can be
reasonably completed. Thus, just a few days before the major test,
it is obvious to every student that they are going to have a killer
work load in the next few days to be ready for the test. So what
The kids complain. It's too much work. We can't do all this. There's
not enough time. IT'S NOT FAIR!!!
In essence they are saying, "No!" to the first request. So what
The teacher makes a concession. "Okay, if I give you an extra week
will you study and work hard and do well on the test?"
According to the reciprocal concessions explanation, we know what
should happen. You made a concession, now the students should make a
Here's another example: "I need volunteers to come to class every
Saturday morning for a month to help me set up bulletin boards.
Who'll volunteer to help?"
Stunned silence greets the teacher. Faces look down on the floor,
avoiding eye contact with the teacher.
"Okay, then, if you can't help me every Saturday for a month, how
many of you will volunteer to stay after school for thirty minutes
once this semester to help out?"
Using FITD . Parental involvement in student learning is critical.
The more support and effort parents give to their child's education,
the higher the achievement for the child. Some parents, however,
need to show a little more support than they do. It may not be
reasonable to hit parents with a long list of activities they should
be doing for their kid and expect them to follow all the items on
the list. You need to bring them along slowly, one step at a time.
Get your foot in the door with a phone call. "Hi, Mrs. Jones? This
is Mrs. Watson, your son's teacher. Oh, no, he's not in trouble. I
just need a little help from you. We send some work home with all
the students every Tuesday and Thursday and I'm asking my parents if
they would just put a little check mark on the homework to show that
the children are doing these projects at home. On Tuesday and
Thursday, your Jimmy will bring home an assignment and all you or
Mr. Jones need to do is just put your initials on the front or some
other little mark. It would really help us a lot. Will you do this?"
Assuming you get the, "Yes!" response (and if you don't you have
definitely learned a lot about the Joneses), you have your foot in
the door. What do you do next?
That's right. The next time you see or speak with the Joneses, you
remind them about their helpfulness, then bump them up to the next
". . . and thank-you for doing those little check marks. I know it
seems minor, but it does help. Tell me, when you look over the
homework before you initial it, have you noticed if Jimmy seems to
do better on some projects than others? I mean does he seem to need
some help with spelling or sounding things out? He does? Well, of
course, you could help him a little bit if you think he needs
it . . ."
The FITD can be a continuing chain that links a series of desired
behaviors together. You start with actions that almost anyone will
do, then build on them. Make sure they appear consistent with each
other. Make sure the receivers "see" themselves performing the
A HEALTH TWO-STEP
One of my former master's students did a very interesting
application of FITD in a health setting. Danielle wanted to
influence more women to schedule breast cancer screening tests
(mammograms). And she wanted to do this in an applied setting. So
she got the cooperation of the Mon County Public Health Department
and did her experiment during a health fair held at the Morgantown
The Public Health Department had a booth at the fair where they gave
free vision tests to anyone who wanted one. While women were
standing in line, some were randomly selected and then approached by
Danielle who did a FITD tactic. She would asked selected women,
"Would you be interested in learning more about the breast self-exam
procedure?" As she said this, she held out a "shower head" card that
displayed series of pen and ink drawings showing how a woman should
do a self-exam. Every woman took the card, stuck it in her purse,
then continued in line. Women in the control group were not
approached. After the vision test all women (FITD and control) were
told about the services offered by the Public Health clinic and were
asked the key question: "Would you like to schedule a mammogram
In the control group approximately 25% of the women agreed to the
request and scheduled an exam. Among the FITD women 41% agreed.
Interestingly enough, this effect size difference is just about what
meta-analytic research predicts it should be.
So to significantly increase this important health action, all
Danielle had to do was ask one little question and get women to take
a free brochure. A very small price to pay for the extra benefits
the two step provides.
Doing the Two Step requires advance planning. You must know where
you are headed (the second request, the real target). You must know
how you will get there (start high or start low?) It is also clear
that you consider the limiting factors. Your target request must
have some pro-social connection; selfish appeals will not benefit
from the Two Step. If you are using DITF, there can be no delay
between requests. If you are using FITD, there can be no incentives
for performance. If you implement the Two Step properly, however,
you know you can improve your effectiveness by 20%.
REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READINGS
Cantril, J., & Seibold, D. (1986). The perceptual contrast
explanation of sequential request strategy effectiveness. Human
Communication Research, 13, 253-267.
Cialdini, R., Vincent, J., Lewis, S., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., &
Darby, B. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing
compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 31, 206-215.
Dillard, J. (1990). Self-inference and the foot-in-the-door
technique: Quantity of behavior and attitudinal mediation. Human
Communication Research, 16, 422-447.
Dillard, J. (1991). The current status of research on
sequential-request compliance techniques. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 17, 282-288.
Dillard, J., Hunter, J., & Burgoon, M. (1984). Sequential request
persuasive strategies: Meta-analysis of foot-in-the-door and
door-in-the-face. Human Communication Research, 10, 461-488.
Dolin, D., & Booth-Butterfield, S. (1994). Foot-in-the-door and
cancer prevention. Health Communication, 7, 55-66.
Freedman, J., & Fraser, S. (1966). Compliance without pressure:
foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 4, 195-202.