The Door-in-the-Face Effect

One of my Tsinghua students, a freshman, has been getting up early Saturday mornings to go to nearby Beijing University to attend a 4-hour intro psych class for graduate students. “What does the teacher talk about?” I asked. He showed me his notes. “The Door-in-the-Face Effect” was the heading of a little graph he’d drawn. “What’s that?” I asked. “If you get someone to help you in a little way, they’re more likely to help you in a big way later,” he said. I knew that result. It’s called the foot-in-the-door effect. “Your teacher made a mistake,” I said.

I was wrong. There is a door-in-the-face effect very similar to the foot-in-the-door effect. The door-in-the-face effect is after you make a big request that is turned down, you are more likely to get agreement to a small request.

3 Replies to “The Door-in-the-Face Effect”

  1. hm, that reminds me of the movie ‘choke’ i just saw, in which the main character induces choking in a restaurant in order to get someone to do the heimlich maneuver on him, and then these people tend to send him money, the idea being once someone saved your life, they’d want to help you further. to me the idea sounded implausible–it’s slightly different than the above ideas in that it’s about someone helping you in a big way wanting later to help you in smaller ways later.

  2. It is a fairly well established effect within the psychology of persuasion (nicely described in Cialdini’s book Influence – or, rather one of the many variants of it). I teach it in a course on marketing psychology. On top of working (asking for a big thing and then backing down and asking for something smaller – which is then accepted), it makes the person that this is used against feel good about accepting the second request (after all, one has met the requestor half way). My 6 year old son intuitively understands this: Beginning by asking for something he will not get (chocolate), then backing down to ask for a cookie (and getting it)…

  3. Mike, you should the book version of Choke. It’s much much much better than the movie. That’s often the case and especially so with Choke, however with Fight Club (book by the same author) I’d say the movie was slightly better than the book.

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