Strategies of the request….

Foot-In-The-Door (FITD) and Door In-The-Face (DITF) are sequential request strategies used to increase behavioral compliance.

The Foot-In-The-Door (FITD) theory is based on the Consistency Principle, which states once a person agrees to something they will usually stick with it.   When using the FITD technique first you ask for something small and when the person gives it to you then ask for something bigger.  The principle involved is that the initial small request creates a bond between the person requesting something and the person receiving the request.  In a study done by Freedman and Fraser in 1966 subjects were contacted and asked to answer a few questions about soaps they used in the home.  Three days later the subjects were contacted again and asked if a team of six men doing consumer research could come into the subjects home and go through their closets and cupboards.  Twenty-two percent of the subjects said yes.  An example that often comes up at Petrus Psychology is a child asks his/her parents if he/she can go over to a friend’s house.  After this initial request the child will later ask – “can I spend the night?”

The most powerful effect occurs when

  • the person’s self-image is aligned with the request
  • requests are close to issues that the person is likely to support,
  • requests are pro-social.
  • requests are an extension of the first request (as opposed to being something completely different).

A review of the research done by Burger in 1999 reveals that FITD increases compliance by 13 percent.  Reasons the technique does not work include:

  • if the initial request is too small to register
  • if the second request is to big
  • if the second request comes to quickly after the first request.

Door In-The-Face (DITF) theory is based on the Reciprocity Principle, which exploits the tendency for people to think they should pay back in kind what they receive from others. When using the DITF technique first you make a request of a person that is tremendous to which the person will most likely say no and then (looking disappointed) make a request that is more reasonable to get a yes. The DITF technique works by getting a person to naturally disagree to something excessive and then asking for something smaller.  The example that we often hear from parents of teens at Petrus Psychology is – “our son/daughter asked if curfew (which is normally 11:00 PM) could be changed to 3:00 AM.”  Parent says “no,” teen then says “okay, how about until 12:30.” Parent agrees.

The reason this technique works is because when the person refuses the first request they may feel guilty about refusing the request and fear some sort of rejection as a result.  The second request gives the person the opportunity to relieve their guilt and fears of rejection. Studies find that this sequence increases compliance to the smaller request beyond that obtained when only the small request is presented

This method works the best when the request:

  • Has a socially valid element
  • Is made soon after the first request

However studies also showed that when the initial request was outrageously high, participants agreed to the smaller request at a rate below that of the single-request control group.

About Steven Petrus

Dr. Steven Petrus is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in psycho-educational assessment, child, adolescent and family therapy.
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