Discuss the use of compliance techniques.


  • State what you are doing in the essay 
    • This essay will attempt to offer a balanced review of the use of compliance techniques. 

  • Define compliance 
    • Compliance is another important aspect of behaviour within a group.
    • Compliance can be defined as, according to Aronson et al. "a form of social influence, which is the result of direct pressure to respond to a request.
      • For example, when people comply to buy certain products, even though the direct pressure may not always be apparent to the individual
    • Conformity occurs when the situation does not exert direct pressure to follow the majority, but the pressure is often perceived by individuals as influencing their behaviour.
    • It also involves publicly conforming to the behaviour or views of others but still privately maintaining one's own views.

  • Introduce key researcher, Cialdini & define compliance techniques 
    • Cialdini, a key researcher into compliance and persuasion has outlined compliance techniques, ways in which individuals are influenced or persuaded to comply with the demands or desires of others.(The result of direct pressure to respond to a request) 
      1. Authority – people comply more often with those in positions of authority, e.g. famous people 
      2. Commitment – once people have agreed to something, either by their behaviour or tfqfatement of belief, they are likely to comply with similar requests
      3. Liking – people comply with requests from people they like 
      4. Reciprocity – people often feel they need to “return a favour” 
      5. Scarcity – opportunities seem more valuable to people when they are less readily available 
      6. Social Proof – people view a behaviour as correct if they see others performing it 
  • State when compliance techniques are used 
    • Marketing
    • Advertising
    • Sales tactics (persuading customers to buy products) 

  • Outline/Signpost factors to be discussed 
    • Two of these compliance techniques will be discussed in the following essay. 


Compliance Technique 1: FOOT-IN-THE-DOOR (FITD)
  • Explain & define FITD 
    • Getting people to make a commitment and therefore increase compliance by first asking for a small request, with the hope of persuading them to agree to a larger request (actual target). 
    • Assumes that agreement with a small request increases the likelihood of agreement with a subsequent larger request. 
      • Example: you may be asked to donate a small amount of money (gold coin) which is followed by a request to sign up for a program that gets you to pay $10 a week

  • Explain why FITD is effective 
    • People perceive themselves as helpful for complying with the small request and want to continue to be seen as helpful so they continue complying with requests.
    • People want to be consistent and therefore tend to comply with the request 

Supporting Study 1: Dickerson et al (1992) 

  • To support the foot-in-the-door compliance technique 
  • The team wanted to see if they could get university students to conserve water in the dormitory showers 
  • To so this, researchers asked them to sign a poster that said "take a shorter shower. If I can do it, so can you!" 
  • Then they asked them to take a survey designed to make them think about their own water usage and water wastage 
  • Shower times were then monitored 
  • It was found that those students who had signed the poster and done the water survey (forcing them to think about their own water wastage) had showed times of an average of 3.5 minutes 
  • This was significantly shorter than the average shower times across the whole dormitory 
  • When participants signed up to the petition that they felt like they had already committed to the cause
Connection of study to question 
  • This study demonstrated the use of FITD as participants were asked to sign a poster (small request) and then take a survey (larger request) 
    • The FITD compliance technique was shown to be effective in making participants save water and take shorter showers 

Supporting Study 2: Freedman and Fraser (1966)

  • Researchers asked households in California whether they would allow them to place a big ugly public-service sign reading “drive carefully,” in their front yard. 
  • Another set of homeowners were asked whether they would display a small “be a safe driver” sign.
    • Nearly everyone agreed to this request.
    • Two weeks later, these homeowners were asked by a "volunteer worker" whether they would display the bigger and ugly “drive carefully” sign. 
  • In the first set of homeowners, only 17% of householders agreed with putting the large sign in their front yard 
  • In the second set, 76% of them complied with this request 
Connection of study to question 
  • This study relates to the FITD because when participants were asked a small request (small sign), there was a higher compliance rate. 
    • FITD was shown to be an effective compliance technique. 
Compliance Technique 2: LOW-BALLING (LB) 
  • Explain LB 
    • Involves changing an offer to make it less attractive to the target person after they have agreed to it.
    • For example, a car salesman offers a customer a good deal which they accept. The salesman then finds an excuse to change the deal and make it less attractive to the customer. Often customers agree to the new, less desirable offer. 

  • Explain why LB is effective 
    • People want to act consistently with their initial decisions/commitments 
    • People have become invested in and/or committed to the decision Supporting Study 3: Cialdini et al. (1974) 
  • A study demonstrating the LB technique in a university setting is by Cialdini et al. (1974). 
  • Researchers asked a class of first-year psychology students to volunteer to be part of a study on cognition that would meet at 7am. 
  • A second group was asked the same, except they were not specified with the time. 
  • For the first group, 24% of students were willing to participate 
  • For the second group, 56% agreed to participate and all took part after later having told that it was at 7am, despite being allowed to withdraw 
  • On the day of the meeting, 95% of students that agreed to participate showed up for the 7am meeting.
Connection of study to question 
  • Cialdini"s study shows the effectiveness of LB compliance technique in that 56% of students complied with participating in the study when LB was used, as opposed to 24% when LB was not used. 

Supporting Study 4: Burger and Cornelius (2003)

  • Students were contacted by a female caller who asked if they would donate five dollars to a scholarship fund for unprivileged students. 
  • There were three experimental conditions: 
    • LB condition: students were told that those who contributed would receive a free smoothie coupon. 
      • Students who agreed were then informed that the caller had realized she ran out of coupons and the students were then asked if they would still contribute.
    • The caller made the same request as the LB condition, but before they answered, the caller interrupted to let them know that there were no more coupons.
    • Participants were asked to donate money without mentioning coupons (control).
  • Conditions: 
    1. 77.6% agreed to make a donation. 
    2. 16% of participants made a donation. 
    3. 42% made the donation. 
  • LB is based on commitment. 
    • It is only effective when people make an initial public commitment.
    • After which, they feel obliged to act in accordance with it, even if the conditions that they committed to had changed. 
Connection of study to question 
  • This study indicates that the LB technique is effective as the most students complied with making a donation in the LB condition where they were told that they would not receive a coupon after they agreed to make the donation 
Optional Theory & Study: Is lowballing more or less effective than FITD? 
  • A: Hornik et al. (1990) compared the effectiveness of FITD and lowballing in increasing the response rate of randomly selected Israelis to telephone interviews on public health issues. 
  • Their results showed that whereas both techniques were effective, lowballing was significantly more effective in inducing compliance among the participants. 
  • Interestingly, a technique combining both the FITD and the lowballing techniques emerged as an even more effective technique compared to the other two techniques applied on their own. 


  • Compliance techniques are 
    • Ways in which individuals are influenced to comply with the demands or desires of others, therefore a change in behaviour is observed, however the individual"s inner and private intentions may be kept hidden, as the comply and therefore confirm to the request of an individual. 
    • Used in marketing, advertising, as sales tactics to persuade customers to buy products 
  • Although the research has its strengths and limitations, compliance techniques have a significant impact on human behaviour, as seen by its observation in and application to real life situations. 
  • FITD compliance technique aims to increase compliance by first asking for a small request followed by a large request 
  • Dickerson et al. (1992) and Freedman and Fraser (1966) showed that FITD was effective. 
  • LB technique involves changing an offer to make it less attractive to the target person after they have agreed to it. 
  • Cialdini et al. (1974) and Burger and Cornelius (2003) showed LB to be effective.