They knock on the door of the house to ask for a donation for a charity that is fighting against a rare disease. We may say that at that moment we do not have money. Now imagine that you call the same association again to give us a pin. They ask us to wear that pin for a week to raise awareness of the importance of raising funds to fight against the disease. Two weeks later they return and ask for a donation. There is a great chance that we will give it. We just applied the technique of the foot in the door.
There are many psychosocial techniques to manipulate us without us being aware of it. In fact, the work of some people is to design tactics to obtain a concrete benefit without us noticing. The technique of the foot in the door is one of the best known and most studied in social psychology.
The technique of the foot in the door
The team of Beaman (1983) defines the foot in the door as a technique that consists in asking a small favor to the person from whom we intend to obtain something. According to Beaman, “it starts with inexpensive behavior and in a context of free choice (thus ensuring your affirmative response) and then request a related favor, of greater magnitude, which is what we really want to achieve.”
The underlying factors that cause the subsequent behavior of greater magnitude are commitment and coherence. People who have agreed to conduct a behavior voluntarily, accept more easily a subsequent request that goes to the same address but is more expensive (provided they have accepted the previous).
For example, if we have positioned ourselves in favor of some kind of thinking, it will be easier for us to commit ourselves to behaviors related to that thought. In this way, we maintain internal and external coherence, that is, in the face of others. In addition, the effectiveness of this technique is greater when: the commitment is public, the person has chosen publicly or the first commitment has been costly.
“It is easier to deceive people, than to convince them that they have been deceived.”
Feedman and Fraser experiment
Feedman and Fraser (1966) asked a certain number of people to put in their yard a rather ugly and large poster in which you could read: “Drive carefully.” He only agreed to put it on 17%. Another group of people were asked to sign a document in favor of road safety first. Being a petition that implied little commitment, the majority signed. Soon after, they asked these people to put the big and ugly poster in their garden. What happened? That 55% agreed.
The technique of the foot in the door and the sects
What relationship can there be between this technique and the sects? Let’s not forget that it is a persuasion technique. The first contact with the sixth is usually the attendance at small meetings. Afterwards, a small donation is requested. Once the first steps are taken, we are more likely to commit to later behaviors.
Behaviors that may include: dedicating weekly hours to the sect, increasing donations of money or other goods. In more extreme cases, adepts have also been documented who have been forced to perform sexual services and even participate in collective suicides under an apparent illusion of voluntariness.
“Are people crazy? No, people are manipulated.”
-José Luis Sampedro-
Despite going unnoticed, these techniques are used to get something from all of us. When they call us by phone and ask us if we have internet, our answer is usually affirmative. In this way we are predisposed to continue listening. The next question is usually if we would like to pay less. Our answer is affirmative again. They have us already caught!
Another important aspect in some cases, is the lack of time to think. If you look, the offers that are offered are limited time: “tomorrow this price will no longer be available”. In this way the pressure they exert on us is such that we often answer yes without having processed the information.
Undoubtedly, learning to say no and detect all these manipulation techniques is important to prevent them from obtaining something from us or we were willing to offer. A small “yes” can become a bad drink when we have to reject a later request. So, the next time we say “yes”, we’ll probably think better.
“When we think we are directing they are directing us”.