Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C., Compliance Without Pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique, JPSP, 1966, 4, 196-202

Two experiments tested the proposition that once someone has agreed to a small request he is more likely to comply with a larger request.

Previous studies had shown that external pressure can be used to increase compliance. The more pressure, the more compliance. Yet in advertising the "foot-in-the-door" technique seems successful, and had been used in activities from Korean brainwashing to Nazi propaganda.

In the first experiment, they tested four conditions:
1. Performance - They asked a small request which was done, and later a bigger request.
2. Agree-Only They asked a small request but didn't have them do it, and later a bigger request
3. Familarization They familiarized the subject to the requester (no small request) and later a bigger request.
4. One-contact They were only asked the big request.

The subjects got a telephone call with a request for some household product info answers. If agreed, they answered 8 questions about soap use. The big request was for 5-6 men to come and inventory all the products in your house.

Results were 1=52.8%, 2=33.3%, 3=27.8%, 4=22.2% . The use of a small request did induce people to comply the second time. Note that merely increased familiarity was not enough to improve subsequent compliance.

The second experiment tested whether people complied the second time due to familiarity or to maintain consistency in their responses. In the second test a different person without knowledge of the first result made the second request. They were first asked to sign a petition for either safe driving or keep california beautiful. The second request was to install a large ugly sign which said "Drive Carefully". The different petition was to test for unrelated requests.

In this study the requesters went to the homes.

The results were that all conditions had higher compliance than making a big request without the small one, even if it was a different person making the request. Furthermore, higher compliance still was found if there was issue similarity between the first and second requests.

"It seems that once someone has agreed to any action, no matter how small, he tends to feel more involved than he did before". It could also be a change in attitude about saying "yes" to requests.

Remember, these were innocuous requests from a non-profit group with relatively non-controversial goals. This technique may not produce the same results for more political or more controversial requests.