At some point, if not many points in our lives, we’ve all wanted something from someone else. This “something” may be a favor quite small, such as switching your laundry for you, or it might be a heftier task, like getting your teacher to let you hand in your term paper a week late. No matter what the end game is, one has to strategize on how they are going to get what they want. Unless you are lucky enough to have a teacher who will immediately say yes to a request like that, then chances are they are going to deny your wish. But, what if you were able to get them to say yes? This would not be from the result of your luck, but rather strategy. This strategy that might work on your teacher (but not 100% guaranteed) would be the double-foot-in-the-door technique. In the article, “Double Foot-In-The-Door, Social Representations, and Environment: Application for Energy Savings” by Lionel Souchet and Fabien Girandola, the effectiveness of strategies like the foot-in-the-door and double foot-in-the-door are tested for their effectiveness.
Souchet and Girandola found that the most effective strategy for getting someone’s compliance to do a desired task is the double-foot-in-the-door technique. This particular experiment focused on the environment and energy savings. The target task that they wanted participants to willingly agree to do was implement maximum energy savings tactics in their homes for at least two weeks.
In this experiment, the control group was a group of 78 men and 62 women who were asked immediately to execute the target task. These people were given no prior requests and were not exposed to any of the “preparatory” acts. The first independent variable was a single preparatory task. The first preparatory act was simply to fill out a six question survey about energy savings. This was a simple task and was seen with a very low cost. A group of the same number of participants as the control group was asked to do this preparatory task, followed by being asked to carry out the target task. The second independent variable tested was the addition of a second preparatory task. This second task that was seen as more costly than the first task, but less costly than the target task. In this task, the people participating had to write out arguments that were in favor of energy savings. A different group of the same number of people as the first two groups was asked to fulfill these two preparatory tasks, and then asked to implement the target task.
Souchet and Girandola’s experiment found that people who completed the first two preparatory acts were more likely to also complete the target task (75%) than people who only completed the first preparatory act (60%) as well as people who did not complete any of the preparatory acts, the control group (30%).
What made the people who went through with the two preparatory tasks so much more likely to go through with the target task as well? The answer to this lies in the idea of consistency. With the control group, they had not agreed to do anything previously, which made them not feel obligated to keep on saying yes to something, because they had not said yes before. However, with the group that had performed the first two preparatory tasks, they were much more compelled to continue with the tasks asked of them, because they wanted to keep on being consistent with their compliance. The first task that was asked of the participants was at a low cost and little did the people saying yes know, this simple compliance made them more apt to say yes to future things asked of them. When they were asked to do the moderately costly task, the people who already did the first preparatory task were inclined to say yes because they wanted to continue being consistent. Leading into the target task, which was desired from the beginning, the people who had already fulfilled the first two preparatory tasks were the ones that were most likely to go through with the final task asked of them.
The experiment that Souchet and Girandola performed showed that the double-foot-in-the-door technique is the most effective way to have a participant follow through with a desired task. As opposed to the simple and more well-known foot-in-the-door technique, the double–foot technique uses the fact that the participant is accepting to gradually more costly tasks, rather than just having agreed to just one. This makes the leap from the beginning task to the end task not as great as with simple foot-in-the-door, in which there is only one preparatory task asked before asking for the larger favor. So before you go asking your teacher right off the bat for that week-long extension, you might consider asking first for a one day extension, and then for a three day extension.
Souchet, L., & Girandola, F. (2013). Double foot-in-the-door, social representations, and environment: Application for energy savings. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(2), 306-315.