Foot-In-The-Door (FITD) in Different Environments

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Today, the-Foot-In-The-Door (FITD) technique is considered as one of the most popular psychological strategies, which are used in many branches of our life starting with surveys and ending with persuasion for charity and altruistic actions in order to improve the psychological environment in the society. Since many youths nowadays start communicating via Internet more and more every day, the virtual communication, especially through PC online games, which are super popular today, became one of the main ways of communication. As the environment as well as the abilities in reality differ a lot from those in the virtual world, one can predict that different psychological mechanisms as well as widespread and effective FITD technique will not work in the communication process in the virtual world. It is especially true taking into account the fact that the Internet offers a 100 per cent anonymity and safety, which can serve as even stronger factor in changing the behavior of people in cyberspace. To check whether it is true or false, three articles from the academic sources which investigate this topic were reviewed.

FITD is defined in different ways by many scientists, but in general, its sense is the same. Fabien Girandola (2002) defines FITD as a compliance technique, which helps persuade the respondent to comply with some large request after complying with smaller one. It dramatically increases the probability of compliance with more significant ask for assistance of different sort. In addition, Girandola states that FITD technique was first introduced in 1966 by Freedman and Fraser. He notes that despite the fact that it is a quite effective strategy to persuade people to positively respond to some request, which would be rather rejected than accepted, some factors may cause failure of the Foot-In-The-Door technique. It means that there are some factors, which may lead to “backfire” of the technique. They are breaking the rule of social reciprocity by making one request immediately after another one without any pauses and the experimenters themselves (either if one experimenter makes both requests or each request is made by a different one). It is clearly shown by the experiment conducted by Chartrand et al in 1999 described in Girandola’s article. The three groups of people were given requests in three different conditions. First group received the second bigger ask for assistance with a two day delay, second group received the second request right after the first one, and the third one, which was a control group, received the second request immediately without asking for a smaller favor (the FITD technique was not applied to them) (Girandola, 2002). The results were rather interesting: the participants of the second group were less likely to comply with the second request than the individuals from the third control group. Concluding their research, the scientists found out that making the requests one by one generates the feeling of pressure and negative attitude towards the experimenter among the participants. Most probably, people had a feeling of being manipulated by someone when they agreed to positively respond to several requests at once.

Furthermore, another scientist Malgorzata Gaiman-Wilk (2007) confirms this mechanism in her article showing that the feeling of being manipulated by someone is, actually, the main and the most widespread reason why people, especially those living in the big cities, are not eager to help someone asking for the assistance of some sort in the street. As it was already mentioned, M. Gaiman-Wilk (2007) shows that the feeling of manipulation is the main factor that makes people reject the request of different sort from people in the street who need some help. Moreover, she mentions that the bigger the city is, the less the willingness of its residents to help someone in need is. It is explained by the fact that in the big cities, there are countless offers to buy some products and services, and there are also many beggars and homeless children asking for coins to buy some food, which does not surprise anyone today. As a result, each individual gets enormous amount of requests of different sort, while the mental resources are not limitless as it was stated by Kahneman in 1973 (Gaiman-Wilk, 2007). Thus, the high probability of the refusal to help is caused by a high pressure, which people feel due to numerous requests of commercial and personal character, which are similar to endless avalanche “attacks.” In addition, Gaiman-Wilk (2007) emphasizes that FITD is the most common technique used by the commercial companies and social services. It is due to the fact that it is one of the most effective and comparatively easy tactics in asking people’s opinion about some products, social issues, and the life of the communities in which they live. Furthermore, she states that FITD is considered to be the most interesting technique among all existing social influence tactics for the researchers of different fields of study. Moreover, citing another renowned scientist and researcher Patch, Gaiman-Wilk shows that FITD is a useful technique not only for some prosocial purposes (donations, volunteer work etc.) but also commercial usage. In fact, it is rather good at persuading people to consume certain products and using a certain type of service without feeling pressure and manipulation, which usually generate negative attitude and feeling of overall discomfort. Except for FITD technique, Malgorzata Gaiman-Wilk observes two other techniques: Door-In-The-Face (DITF) and so-called Low-Ball techniques. DITF is opposite to the FITD as it suggests that the respondent is more likely to comply with a smaller request if the bigger one, which will be rejected with the highest probability, is made earlier. Gaiman-Wilk mentions that according to Caldini et al, Low-Ball technique, in its turn, makes the respondent agree to perform the target request immediately without knowing the real cost of such behavior. Such technique is used mainly by car sellers.

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Summarizing her article, Malgorzata Gaiman-Wilk (2007) states that all three techniques mentioned above are extremely fruitful, but FITD technique appears to be the most optimal for persuading people to join some altruistic acts by helping one another since its mechanism is underlying the effectiveness of this strategy.

On the other hand, the scholars Paul W. Eastwick and Wendi L. Gardner (2009) describe the work of the FITD and DITF techniques in a quite unusual environment: the virtual world of the online games. The authors conducted the research in so-called massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs), which became especially popular today. Unlike the single- or two players console games of the past, where the abilities of the virtual hero controlled by an individual through the joystick were considerably limited, in modern PC MMOGs, there are entire worlds with huge territories. They enable the players to personalize the virtual hero in different ways to create a unique character, which will not look like any other in the entire virtual world. The main point of the experiment conducted by Paul W. Eastwick and Wendi L. Gardner was the fact that in virtual worlds the normal laws of gravity, time, and space as well as many laws of physics do not work. In addition, there are fantastic and unrealistic landscapes as well as total anonymity typical for massively multiplayer online games. Therefore, the authors decided to find out whether all these conditions influence the behavior in the virtual world. In other words, they suggested that the social biases such as racial prejudice, mistrust, and other interpersonal psychological phenomena would not work in the virtual world due to the factors mentioned before (Eastwick & Gardner, 2009). For their research, experimenters decided to choose a popular website There.com as a training ground in order to find out whether this statement is true or false. There.com is a kind of the online virtual world, where the users can interact with one another and do whatever they want. It is something they cannot do in the real world due to the laws of physics and limited abilities of the human’s body. In the virtual world, the searchers created two main heroes, who were absolutely identical (body shape, clothing, etc.) except one detail: one of them had the white skin, while they made another one look like an African-American as much as possible having the darkest color of the skin available in the game customizing menu. Both of them used FITD and DITF techniques to make a contact with the avatars of other users standing alone. First, they asked for permission to make the screenshot of them. After that, they asked for making the series of screenshots in different locations, which required take some time and efforts. The results were quite interesting: in spite of all surrealistic factors in the game, the avatars of the users totally copied the behavior of real people in the real world. Moreover, all biases worked in much the same way, and the result of the requests from different virtual heroes quite clearly shows that the dark skinned character had less positive responses to his request than the white skinned character. The next incredible factor is that two male avatars during their interaction tried to avoid the direct eye contact and held much bigger interpersonal distances unlike the two female characters. Moreover, all the virtual inhabitants of that surrealistic world were motivated to accept the request for some help due to the fear of offending someone’s avatar. It clearly shows that the virtual character is not only a kind of portrait of its creator in the real world but it also proves that the virtual world does not change the behavior and its basic psychological mechanisms.

One can conclude that FITD is a great technique, which works in all possible environments including even virtual one. In order to test and compare the impact of FITD technique in real and in the virtual worlds and to see if different conditions in the virtual world change the impact of the FITD comparing to reality, several articles dedicated to this topic written by professional psychologists and the scientists specializing in virtual environment were reviewed. It was hypothesized that the change of the conditions and the abilities in the virtual world comparing to reality as well as the ability to limitlessly customize the look and fantastic abilities of virtual hero created by the user together with total anonymity may change the work of the FITD technique. They may even make it useless in the virtual world. This hypothesis was made due to rather actual trend of modern people, especially the youths, to shift from communication in the real world to communication in the virtual environment. It is evident that the hypothesis was not confirmed and appeared to be false. The research showed that even the dramatic difference between the environment and the abilities in the real world and virtual one do not make any difference in the work of FITD technique as well as overall behavior during the communication.

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