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An Explanation of the Door-in-the-face Technique With Examples

An Explanation of the Door-in-the-face Technique With Examples
PsycholoGenie will go into the depths of a very interesting phenomenon in social psychology called the door-in-the-face technique and provide examples of the same.
Rujuta Borkar
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2018
Did You Know?
This technique is also known as the 'rejection-then-retreat' technique and it was discovered by Robert Cialdini and others in 1975.
The world of psychology is truly fascinating. It lets us in on how the human mind works; and while one can never really pin human behavior into a definitive (because it is not an equation and it is not math), there are certain behavior patterns that can be observed. Of the many, many interesting facets of human behavior, compliance―or getting someone to do what you want(ish) is definitely something that people are truly fascinated by. And a very interesting technique that forms a part of compliance is the door-in-the-face technique. Which is exactly how it sounds―a metaphorical slamming of the door in someone's face.

What does this phenomenon involve and how does it work? The nuances of the same will be studied in the following sections of this PsycholoGenie article.
The door-in-the-face technique (henceforth referred to as DITF) is a technique that involves a set pattern―first you get a no and then you get a yes. This is how it works:

The persuader first makes a rather excessive and extravagant request to the subject (which is most likely to be turned down) and after he is turned down, he immediately follows it up with a more reasonable request, one that is more likely to be accepted. But why does the door-in-the-face technique work and why does the subject so readily agree to the second request? This is where the basic human need of pleasing people, being liked by everyone, and not being socially rejected kicks in―the subject feels guilty for having denied the first request and causing disappointment to the persuader, so when he is given a second choice (or a second chance), and a much more reasonable one at that, he finds it easier to accept it and redeem himself of his negative feelings, if you may.

For example, say Rose wants to go for a film in the eve and she'll be home by 9 pm. She knows that her parents won't like her staying out so late. So she asks her parents whether she can be home by 12 am and is immediately refused. She then follows that up by requesting for a 9 pm slot and is granted permission.

The genius of this phenomenon is seen in the fact that the persuader's intention is to get the second request fulfilled all along, but because the subject will refuse it on the spot if presented as is, he/she adds a ridiculously improbable request. As anticipated, the request is refused and when the second request is made, it is granted much more easily, thus the persuader gets what he/she had wanted all along.

The technique is referred to as DITF because it actually does involve a proverbial slamming of the door on someone's face (request). This technique is used very commonly, not only by salesmen and marketing professionals, but examples are rife of such instances being used in everyday life as well (like the example provided above).
In 1975, an experiment was conducted by Cialdini and his colleagues to study this phenomenon. People were divided into 3 groups. The first group was asked to volunteer as counselors for a group of juvenile delinquents for 2 hours per week, for a period of 2 years. After they refused, a second request was made and they were asked to take them to the zoo for one day. The second group was asked only to take them to the zoo. The third group was told about the 2 year counseling plan but was only asked to take them to the zoo. It was found that 50% people from the 1st group agreed to the second request that was made (taking them to the zoo) as opposed to the 17% and 25% in the second and third group respectively. This went on to show that the DITF technique was successful and brought about better results than a request made in isolation (like for the second group). So also, it was only successful if the first (unreasonable) request was followed by the second (reasonable) request (as the results of the 3rd group in comparison to the 1st group showed).
This phenomenon works best in social settings―if it has something to do with helping people or learn something. The success of this method is also determined by two other factors―one, the second request has to be made by the same person, and two, the second request should be made immediately after the first, so that the feelings of guilt and other moderations in the mind are not lost.
The following are some examples of the door-in-the-face phenomenon that are given in the form of dialogs for you to better understand this theory.
Example- Friend to Friend
Request 1 - Can you watch my dog for the whole day?
Request 2 - Can you watch him for an hour while I go to the market?
Example- Employee to Employer
Request 1 - Boss, can I have a 30% hike in my salary?
Request 2 - Can I have a 10% hike?
Example - Employee to Store Manager
Request 1 - Can I take the week off?
Request 2 - Can I take one day off?
Example -5-Year Old to Mother
Request 1 - Will you buy me the whole Barbie set?
Request 2 - Will you buy me a new Barbie doll?
Example - Mother to Son
Request 1 - Can you clean your room by tonight?
Request 2 - Can you make your bed by tonight?
The door-in-the-face technique really does work because even though the human mind is unpredictable, it is predictable in many ways. So the next time you need someone to comply, why don't you try this technique?
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