What is Foot in the Door Technique?

Published by Lisa Martin on

What is Foot in the Door Technique?

You’ve made it all the way through when you step through the door. This is a common persuasion strategy employed by door-to-door salespeople who try to literally put their foot in our door. Although it is no longer the most popular marketing tactic, this social psychology-based technique is still relevant and beneficial.

So, how does the technique of putting your foot in the door work? It’s all about making a tiny request first, then a larger one. It has been proven that when you make an initial request, individuals are more inclined to agree to do anything for you.

door-in-the-face technique

How was the foot in the door technique discovered?

Freedman and Fraser were the first to demonstrate its usefulness (1966). They asked the ladies of the house if they would accept to put it in their front yard. Freedman and driving were the first to demonstrate its usefulness. Unfortunately, while the content was commendable, the board itself was so huge and obnoxious that only 17 percent of those surveyed agreed.

However, when another minor request, made two weeks earlier by another person, either for the placement of a small badge or a signature on a petition with relevant substance, preceded this enormous request, the proportion jumped dramatically (which was agreed to by almost all people asked).

How does the foot in the door technique work?

Why does completing a modest request increase the likelihood of completing a larger request later? One probable explanation is that you like the person to whom you have already succumbed once – but a foot in the door can also be gained if the first and second requests are made by two distinct persons. Another explanation is a shift in perspective on the issue at hand, such as assisting strangers in need. However, this is insufficient because “foot in the door” is also effective when the first and second requests are about quite different topics. The most promising explanation is based on self-perception: people tend to regard themselves as kind or unselfish as a result of satisfying the initial request.

If the first request is accompanied by high situational pressure, the drop can explain the frequency with which the second request is fulfilled. This stops people from changing their perceptions of themselves since, according to self-perception theory, these forces justify giving in to the first request. The foot-in-the-door strategy is built on the concept of constancy as well. People are unlikely to act and believe in ways that contradict themselves. This means that as long as the request is consistent with or equivalent to the initial modest request, it will be effective. This, on the other hand, can be explained in broad terms by social influence, a pillar of social psychology.

On our blog, we have a specific article about social impact. Behavioral changes produced by the first request (i.e., an increase in the likelihood of complying with the second request) are, on the other hand, more frequently observed than changes in self-perceptions hypothesised as the cause of the former. The actual mechanism that causes the “foot in the door” phenomenon, however, has yet to be discovered.

door-in-the-face technique

Foot in the door examples

The foot in the door strategy is used all over the place, from politics to non-profits. A political candidate, for example, can ask rally attendees to wear a pin to show their support for his campaign. He might ask for funds for his campaign later on. If a group of women agrees, a brief health survey will be conducted, followed by breast cancer screening. A group of internet visitors might agree to give canned goods to a disaster relief charity, but then be asked to work at the organization’s offices. Obtaining a subject’s email address and then selling them a larger project is one of the most common online occurrences.

The provision of an email address is a minor request that must be met. The marketer might then make a sales pitch. You might invite a customer to read a blog article, leave a comment, share it on social media, attend a webinar, download a whitepaper, or request an ebook, for example. In terms of work and cost, each of these is minor. However, completing certain chores only makes a person more likely to engage in larger and more costly activities.

Is the foot in the door technique useful?

Even while door-to-door salespeople are less common today than they were in the 1960s, when the “foot-in-the-door” strategy was first examined, it is still a popular persuasive technique that is used to persuade people to consent to a range of acts they may otherwise refuse. Persuasion is the subject of a separate article. A digital foot is just as good in practise as it is in principle, according to researchers.

They emailed half of the participants for help with a file converting problem, then followed up with an unrelated survey request. The questionnaire was sent to the other group through email instead. Only 44% of the participants responded, which is a very low response rate. Nonetheless, they discovered that his electronic foot-in-the-door strategy is just as efficient in securing consent as a face-to-face or phone conversation.

How to use the foot in the door technique?

Mailing lists are used by online stores to repackage things for consumers who have previously visited their website. Visitors are asked to enter their email addresses in order to get a newsletter, with the hope that these persons may eventually agree to the more substantial action of making a purchase.

Salespeople routinely ask pedestrians a simple inquiry to spark a discussion in congested locations. They inquire about discounts after signing up for a paid product. Before requiring a lengthy discussion, utility providers typically inquire about the service provider used by residents. They try to persuade people to change their allegiances.


door-in-the-face technique


For the foot-in-the-door strategy to function, the scale of requests must be proportionate. The first demand should be large enough for the other person to believe they are supporting them, but not so large that they decline.

The foot-in-the-door technique is a sales strategy that aims to persuade sceptics. On the other hand, there is a technique known as “door-in-the-face.” Unlike the foot-in-the-door technique, it begins with a serious demand that the person is unlikely to refuse. Following that, a more realistic request is made, which may persuade the individual more than the first. In a separate essay, we discussed the door in the face technique.

Foot-in-the-Door Technique Evidence

Psychologists Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C. Fraser started with a small request in one of the first scientific tests of the foot-in-the-door: they had a researcher go door to door in the California suburb of Palo Alto and ask homeowners to put a small sign in their windows that said “Be a safe driver.” Why would someone refuse such a simple request? After all, who isn’t in favour of safe driving? These homeowners had no idea that by agreeing to this minor request, they would be considerably more responsive to a larger request two weeks later.

A different researcher approached each residence and requested permission to place a large, unsightly sign on the lawn that read “Drive Carefully.” When Freedman and Fraser asked a second group of homeowners if they wanted a large, unattractive sign on their lawns, only 17 percent replied yes. When they asked the homeowners who had agreed to display the little “Be a cautious driver” sign in their windows two weeks before, 76 percent responded yes. The initial foot in the door resulted in a 400% improvement in compliance!

How the Foot-in-the-Door Technique Works

A lot of theories regarding how the foot-in-the-door works have been proposed by psychologists. According to one of the most prevalent hypotheses, when a person complies with a minor request, the person’s self-image is altered. When a homeowner in Freedman and Fraser’s study decided to put up a little “Be a cautious driver” sign, for example, he or she may have begun to regard herself as someone who is concerned about road safety.

A person who is concerned about road safety would likely be willing to post a large “Drive Carefully” sign on his or her lawn, even if it isn’t the most appealing of signs. Dr. Robert Cialdini, one of the greatest scholars on social influence, rarely signs petitions, even for causes he supports, because the foot-in-the-door strategy is so effective. Cialdini understands that today’s petition could transform into tomorrow’s gift, and that we won’t even comprehend why we gave so generously.

A Real-World Example of the Foot-in-the-Door Technique

The Internet-based fundraising drive launched by Howard Dean during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 2004 U.S. presidential election was one recent example of a large-scale usage of the foot-in-the-door strategy. Politicians used to raise money by pursuing wealthy donors before Dean’s campaign. Dean experimented with something new. Rather of going for the relatively unusual American willing and able to pay thousands of dollars to a campaign, Dean went after the considerably larger number of Americans wanting to donate $25, $50, or $100. Dean’s strategy provided a number of advantages.

First, as Dean and his primary opponents realised, a significant campaign fund may be built from a small number of donors. Second, once they have donated $25, Dean might contact them again and ask for another $25 (or $50 or $100, depending on the situation). The hardest thing is getting the first donation. It’s a lot easier to get the second donation. Someone who donated once was not only an American, but also a financial backer of Dean’s campaign. And if someone regards himself as a financial backer of Dean’s campaign, he or she is much more likely to comply with a request for another payment..

The Door in the Face Technique

The door-in-the-face technique is a compliance strategy in which the persuader tries to persuade the responder to agree by making a significant request that the respondent will almost certainly refuse. Refusing a major request raises the likelihood of agreeing to a second, lesser request, which leads to compliance. You make a huge request at first, which a person is likely to deny.

Then you make a modest request that the person finds tough to deny since they believe they shouldn’t say no all of the time! Negotiating a raise with your supervisor, for example. First, you make a request that will not be fulfilled, and then you ask for 20%. If this is declined, you can make a more reasonable proposal and ask for 10%. Cialdini (1975) asked participants if they would accompany a group of young criminals to the zoo, and the majority of them said no (control group). In the control group, people were approached and asked to volunteer for two years as a peer counsellor to juvenile criminals for two hours per week; again, the majority declined.

Foot-in-the-Door Studied

In 1966, when pedestrian salesmen were at their peak, psychologists looked into the FITD phenomena for the first time. Stanford University’s Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser conducted a groundbreaking study that was eventually published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1966, Vol. 4, No. 2, 195-202). “Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique,” the title said.

“How can a person be persuaded to do something he would prefer not do?” they wondered. They then proceeded to explain their experiments. They first asked a group of people for a little request over the phone, and then they asked them in person for a larger request.

Subjects were asked over the phone to report on the kind of cleaning products they used in their homes. The second and more significant request was for individuals to allow a researcher enter their home to study the brands and usage of household items.

Subjects who replied yes to the first request were 135 percent more likely to respond positively to the second request when compared to the control group, who were only requested for an in-home product analysis.

The second experiment by Freedman and Fraser was much more amazing. They first requested participants to put a small sticker promoting environmental protection or safe driving in the window of their home or car. That was the only request I had. Then they requested for a bigger request: to put up a billboard sign with the same message in their yard. Surprisingly, several of the participants said yes to the second request.

This wasn’t only a fad in 1966. In the half-century since, researchers have looked at the technique again and again. They looked at the implications in various cultures, as well as cancer prevention and human-computer interaction.

FITD works in almost every experiment. Make a simple request first. Make a big request next, and people will be more likely to accept.


Self-Perception and Consistency

One argument is that the foot-in-the-door strategy establishes an initial relationship between the requester and the subject by making increasingly demanding demands, which the latter feels obligated to comply. A salesman can employ the foot-in-the-door strategy by making small chat with a potential customer and asking if they need assistance finding a product. Once a person is engrossed in a conversation, it may be more difficult for them to refuse a request for a larger commitment, such as watching a product demonstration.

The compliance gained via this strategy can also be explained in terms of social psychologist Daryl Bem’s self-perception theory, which states that our own opinions and actions are determined by how we perceive ourselves to be acting. We may agree to a minor request since it is easier than refusing and risking a fight. We believe we have done a favour for the individual who made the request by granting it, leading to the self-perception that we are well-intentioned or charitable.

When a larger request is made, we feel obligated to comply, even if the decision is not the most sensible. According to a 1979 study, individuals placed in a foot-in-the-door position were more likely to agree to a larger request if they had not been paid for the initial request, as opposed to a group that had been paid for the first request.


The scale of requests must be proportionate for the foot-in-the-door strategy to successfully persuade a person. The first request should be significant enough for the person to believe they are assisting the other person, but not so enormous that they decline it. Salespeople employ a variety of techniques to persuade sceptics, including the foot-in-the-door strategy.

The door-in-the-face technique is a persuasive tactic that takes the opposite way to making requests. It differs from the foot-in-the-door strategy in that it includes making a major request right away, one that is so demanding that the subject is likely to refuse it. When compared to the first request, a later, more realistic request is made, which the recipient may be more willing to agree to.

For example, if a shopper inquires about the price of a bunch of bananas at a market and the seller requests ten times what is reasonable, the consumer will refuse. If the seller then makes a more reasonable offer, even if it is still twice what the consumer expects to pay, they may be more willing to accept it because the second request looks to be more reasonable than the first.


The foot in the door technique is a sales strategy that aims to persuade sceptics. This method begins with a large demand, which the subject may refuse. Following that, a more reasonable request is made, which may persuade the person when compared to their initial offer.

Depending on what you’re offering or how you market your product/service, this strategy can work both online and offline. We hope this article has given you some ideas on how to employ social psychology principles in marketing to achieve success!

Lisa Martin

Love to write about love and relationship


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