Compliance is where a person carries out a request to do something under direct pressure. For example, when people comply to buy certain products, even though the direct pressure may not be necessarily be perceived by them. This contrasts with conformity, which does not use direct pressure, but pressure is often perceived by individuals as influencing their behaviour. Compliance is the cornerstone of advertising and marketing, where sale tactics are examined on the basis of what would persuade the customers to buy their products.
Cialdini outlines a few compliance techniques that influence the likelihood that people will comply with a request. There are door-in-the-face technique, foot-in-the-door technique, low-balling and hazing.
Reciprocity is when people comply out of feeling that they need to return a favour. If some one does something for you, you feel more obligated to return the favour. For example, Lynn and McCall (1998) found that restaurant diners leave a bigger tip when a mint or a sweet was offered with the bill.
Regan (1971) did an experiment to test reciprocity. One participant and a confederate of the experimenter were asked to rate paintings. In the experimental condition, the participant received a bottle of Coca-Cola. The participant in the control condition did not receive anything. Participants were asked if they would buy tickets. Regan (1971) found that the participants in the experimental condition bought more tickets compared to the ones in the control condition. This experiment had a high-degree of control. There might be some issues of ecological validity as well as sample bias. But, the findings have been supported by observations in real life.
One compliance technique is the door-in-the-face technique. It is the situation when one makes a request which is turned down, because it is obviously too big. A smaller request is then made, which have a higher chance of being accepted, since the person whom the request is made to will feel that the request has been reduced. Cialdini (1975) and his team tried to persuade one group of university students to chaperone a group of juvenile delinquents on a trip to the zoo. 83% of them refused. Then, the same people stopped another group of students and asked if they would be part of a counselling programme for two hours weekly for two years. All of them refused. Afterwards, the experimenter asked them to chaperone a same day trip to the zoo. 50% said yes. Even though the findings support the principle of reciprocity, there are issues with how there might be demand characteristics from the participants and also issues with deception.
Foot-in-the-door technique is when the real and large request is preceded by a smaller one. The foot-in-the-door technique has been used in fund raising and to promote environmental awareness. Dickerson et al. (1922) did a field experiment where they asked university students to conserve water in the dormitory showers. The students were asked to sign a poster supporting shorter showers to save water. They were also given a survey to make them think about their own water usage. Their shower times were monitored. Dickerson et al. (1922) found that the students who had signed the poster and had done the survey spent less time in the shower compared to the rest who didn’t. Although the results seem to be conclusive, the people who actually signed up for the petition were already very water conscious, which is why they signed up for it in the first place. This might render the results’ validity.
Another compliance technique is low-balling. Low-balling technique involves making what you want the other person to agree to easy to accept by making it quick and cheap. The other person has to be committed to it. It also has to be clear that they are agreeing to this of their own free will. Even when the agreement is changed, the other person should agree to the change because they are already committed to it. Cialdini (1974) did a demonstration of low-balling. The participants were a group of enthusiastic first-year university psychology students. The first group of enthusiasts was asked to take part in a study on cognition and asked to be there on 7 am. Only 24% agreed. In the second group, they were asked the same thing but were not told a time. More than 50% agreed to take part. When the 7 am time was revealed, 95% turned up. One of the issues with this experiment is that the participants are psychology students. They might have already known about what the experiment is about and demand characteristics might occur.
The best technique for compliance is the foot-in-the-door technique.
Compliance with a small request increases the likelihood of compliance with a second, much larger request. This can be called commitment, which is once people have said yes; they will feel obliged to continue doing what they have agreed to. It is more likely to be successful if the second request is an extension of the first one instead of being something completely different.
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