Door-In-The-Face, That's-Not-All, and Legitimizing a Paltry Contribution: Peciprocity, Contrast Effect and Social Judgment Theory Explanations

Ian Brennan, University of Texas at Arlington
Kenneth D. Bahn, University of Texas at Arlington
ABSTRACT - Research has shown how a small family of techniques (Door-in-the-face, That's-not-all and Legitimizing a paltry contribution) have proven successful in increasing the proportion of compliant responses without reducing average response magnitudes. The concept of reciprocity has been proposed to explain the success of the Door-in-the-face and the That's-not-all techniques. The present study attempts to build a theoretical framework to explain the success of the That's-nol-all technique via the contrast effect and the Legitimizing a paltry contribution technique via social judgment theory.
[ to cite ]:
Ian Brennan and Kenneth D. Bahn (1991) ,"Door-In-The-Face, That's-Not-All, and Legitimizing a Paltry Contribution: Peciprocity, Contrast Effect and Social Judgment Theory Explanations", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 586-590.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 586-590

DOOR-IN-THE-FACE, THAT'S-NOT-ALL, AND LEGITIMIZING A PALTRY CONTRIBUTION: PECIPROCITY, CONTRAST EFFECT AND SOCIAL JUDGMENT THEORY EXPLANATIONS

Ian Brennan, University of Texas at Arlington

Kenneth D. Bahn, University of Texas at Arlington

ABSTRACT -

Research has shown how a small family of techniques (Door-in-the-face, That's-not-all and Legitimizing a paltry contribution) have proven successful in increasing the proportion of compliant responses without reducing average response magnitudes. The concept of reciprocity has been proposed to explain the success of the Door-in-the-face and the That's-not-all techniques. The present study attempts to build a theoretical framework to explain the success of the That's-nol-all technique via the contrast effect and the Legitimizing a paltry contribution technique via social judgment theory.

INTRODUCTION

A number of studies have focused on the question of which factors influence a person's compliance with a request. In particular, a small family of techniques ("Door-in-the-face," "Legitimizing a paltry contribution," and "That's-not-all") have proven successful in increasing the proportion of compliant responses without reducing the average response size (Cann, Sherman and Elkes 1975; Cialdini and Schroeder 1976; Berger 1986).

Door-in-the-face (DTF), Legitimizing a paltry contribution (LPC) and That's-not-all (TNA) may be thought of as a related group of techniques in the sense that each relics on the requestor retreating from a larger request to a smaller one in an attempt to gain compliance. [The authors wish to consider techniques that involve the requestor retreating from a large (explicit or implicit) request to a smaller one. Thus, the Foot-in-the-Door technique was not considered since it reverses the order of request magnitudes.] In the DTF approach, an extreme first request is made. If it is rejected, a second more moderate request is made (Cialdini, Vincent, Lewis, Catalan, Wheeler and Darby 1975). In the case of the LPC technique, a standard request for an unspecified donation is followed by the phrase "even a penny would help" (Cialdini and Schroeder 1976). Finally, the TNA technique consists of offering a product at a high price and then offering to sell the product at a lower price before the customer has a chance to respond (Burger 1986).

The concept of reciprocation has been proposed to explain both the TNA technique (Burger 1986) and the DTF technique (Cialdini ct al. 1975; Mowen and Cialdini 1980; Tybout 1978). Gouldner (1960) explains the norm of reciprocity as: "You should give benefits to those who give you benefits.'' In a similar manner, Cialdini et al. (1975) postulate a reciprocal concessions corollary to the general norm of reciprocity: "You should make concessions to those who make concessions to you." The fact that the requestor makes a concession by dropping from a large to a small request is the foundation of the reciprocity explanation of both the-DTF and TNA techniques.

An alternative explanation for the success of both the TNA and DTF techniques may be found in assimilation and contrast theory, as introduced by Sherif, Taub and Hovland (1958). A contrast refers to a shift in judgment away from an anchor or reference point. Assimilation, on the other hand, refers to a shift in judgment toward the anchor. A contrast effect-has been. demonstrated to occur with both physical and social stimuli. Kenrick and Gutierres (1980) found that when college men were asked to judge the physical attractiveness of a potential date, the date was rated as significantly less attractive if the men had just finished watching a television program starring three very attractive women ("Charlie's Angels") than if they had watched a control program.

In the case of social stimuli, Pepitone and DiNubile (1976) showed support for the existence of a contrast effect in the area of judicial sentencing. The order in which cases were heard affected the prison sentences handed out. Thus, a homicide ease judged after another homicide case drew an average of twenty-two years of punishment, but a homicide case judged after an assault drew thirty-three. Similarly, an assault case judged after another assault case drew eight years, whereas an assault case judged after a homicide drew only five. Clearly, in the ease of both the DTF and TNA techniques, the initial request may serve as a large anchor point which makes the second (smaller) request appear less of a burden than it would in the absence of the anchorpoint. As Burger (1986) notes, "If the salesperson first introduces an anchorpoint of $1 and allows for this to operate as a basis of the customer's deliberations, then a price of 75 cents for the same product would appear more reasonable than if an anchorpoint of 75 cents was introduced initially."

Both Burger (1986) and Cialdini et al. (1975) designed experiments to test the aforementioned alternative explanations for the success of the TNA and DTF techniques. The empirical results of both researchers support the reciprocity explanation and reject the contrast explanation.

In an attempt to build a theoretical framework to explain the DTF, TNA, and LPC techniques, the current paper questions Burger's rejection of the contrast explanation for the success of the TNA technique and also purports to explain the success of the LPC technique through social judgment theory. The hypothesized social judgment explanation for the success of the LPC technique and the hypothesized contrast effect explanation for the success of the TNA technique opens the door to innovative comminatory techniques that employ more than one theory. Such innovations are addressed in the final section of this paper.

FIGURE 1

CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF DTF, TNA AND LPC TECHNIQUES

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

A conceptual model of the DTF, TNA and LPC techniques appears in Figure 1. The theoretical explanations for all techniques are discussed individually in the sections below.

The Door-ln-the-Face Technique

In the ease of the DTF technique, Cialdini et al. (1975) argue that success depends upon invoking the norm of reciprocity. The norm of reciprocity depends upon two condition . First, the same individual must deliver both requests. Second, the initial request must be rejected by the respondent before the second request is delivered.

If different people make the requests, then Cialdini et al. (1975) maintain that the first (large) request serves only as a large anchorpoint (which is the only requirement of the contrast effect explanation); thus, the second request can no longer be seen as representing a concession violating one of the conditions of reciprocity. Both Cialdini et al. (1975) and Fern, Monroe and Avila (1986) found higher compliance rates when the same person delivered both requests than when the two requests were delivered by different individuals.

Cialdini el al. (1975) also argue that if a requestor delivers two requests (one large and one small) and asks the subject to perform either of them, then the contrast effect of a large and a small anchorpoint is present (contrast effect) but reciprocity is absent, since the reciprocal concessions explanation requires the subject's refusal of the large request rather than mere exposure to it. Again, the rate of compliance with the second request was higher when the subject rejected the first request (reciprocity explanation) than when he was merely exposed to it (contrast effect). Thus, empirical tests support the reciprocity explanation of the DTF technique.

The That's-Not-All Technique

The evidence supporting a particular theoretical explanation for the TNA technique is less conclusive. Burger (1986) argues that reciprocity accounts for the success of the TNA technique. ln an experiment in which two experimenters sell cupcakes at a bake sale, three experimental conditions are manipulated:

"In the reciprocity condition, subjects were told that the price of a cupcake was $1.25. At this point the second experimenter interrupted. The customer's response was delayed, with a raised hand and a wait a second by the first experimenter. After two to three seconds, the first experimenter turned to the customer and said that because they were planning to close down pretty soon, he or she would be willing to sell the cupcake for only $1.00." Subjects in the contrast effect condition were told, "These are only a dollar now. We were selling them for $1.25 earlier." Subjects in the control condition were told that the price of a cupcake was $1.00 (Burger 1986).

The purchase rate in the reciprocity condition was higher than in the contrast effect condition. Burger's conclusion is that the success of the TNA technique is based on reciprocity. This conclusion, however, may be questioned in view of the absence of the first condition for reciprocity, namely the rejection of the large request. Moreover, it may be argued that the reduction in price is motivated by the self interest of the experimenters (i.e., the desire to close the stall) rather than as a concession towards the customer. Thus it may be argued that the contrast effect provides an alternative explanation for Burger's results, since in the reciprocity condition, the $1.25 acts as an anchorpoint against which the $1.00 price appears reasonable. In the contrast effect conditio I, however, the $1.25 is a weaker/nonexistent anchorpoint, since it is introduced after the current price of $1.00.

Legitimizing a Paltry Contribution Technique

In the ease of the LPC technique, researchers have, for the most part, focused on demonstrating the success of the technique (Frazer, Hite and Sauer 1988; Brockner, Guzzi, Kane, Levine and Shaplan 1984; Cialdini and Schroeder 1976; Reeves, Macolini and Marlin 1987; Reingen 1978) rather than providing a theoretical framework to explain success.

The LPC technique has been tested most frequently in a charitable gift-giving context. It would appear that the decision to give to charity is based on social norms and/or to bolster self image. Brockner et al. (1984) observe that individuals may make charitable contributions to "look good in their own and/or other eyes." Clearly, one obstacle that may inhibit an individual from making a charitable contribution is that the individual may feel that the amount of the donation he can afford would be socially unacceptable. On the other hand, as Mowen and Cialdini (1980) observe, "the individual may perceive that they will be disliked if they break an operative norm," which in the gift-giving situation would be to act pernuriously. It is contended in this paper that the LPC technique, which relies on the above mentioned concepts for its conceptual development, may be explained by cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957), which is acted upon and resolved through the concepts forwarded in Social Judgment Theory (see Figure 1).

Festinger (1957) notes that two objects are dissonant when knowledge of one suggests the opposite of the other. Moreover, dissonance will give rise to activity designed to reduce the unpleasant feeling of dissonance. One method of reducing dissonance is to change one of the elements. Thus, under the cognitive dissonance conceptualization of the LPC technique, a subject experiences dissonance when he would like to comply with a charitable request but feels the financial magnitude of his donation would be smaller than that which he perceives to be socially acceptable. It should be evident that the tension felt by the subject is reduced if such a donation is legitimized as socially acceptable.

The process of changing the social acceptability of a donation while holding the donation size constant may be explained by Judgment Theory (Sherif and Sherif 1967). Social Judgment Theory maintains that attitudinal judgments such as agreeing or not agreeing with a statement, need to be considered within the particular frame of reference of an individual making the judgment. According to Social Judgment Theory, an attitudinal dimension is comprised of three categories or latitudes (Petty and Cacioppo 1981). The latitude of acceptance includes a person's most preferred position, but also includes the range of other opinions on an issue that the person finds acceptable. The latitude of rejection comprises the range of opinions that the person finds objectionable. Finally, the latitude of noncommitment comprises those positions that the person finds neither acceptable nor objectionable. In the charitable gift-giving situation, the attitudinal dimension appears dichotomous (i.e., an individual may consider donation size either socially acceptable or socially unacceptable). Clearly, for those individuals who feel that their economically affordable donation is socially unacceptable (i.e., in the latitude of rejection), the phrase "even a penny would help" is a discrepant communication which is designed to extend the latitude of acceptance (i.e., the range Of donation sizes that are considered socially acceptable), and reduce the latitude of rejection (the range of donations that are considered socially unacceptable).

Although Cialdini ct al. (1975) in the case of the DTF technique, and Burger (1986) more questionably in the case of the TNA technique, have built support for reciprocity, that explanation seems inappropriate in the case of the LPC technique. This notion is predicated on the positions forwarded by Cialdini et al. (1975) and Mowen and Cialdini (1980). They observed that for reciprocity to be invoked, the requestor must be perceived as making a legitimate request and a concession must be perceived in the movement from the large to the small request. Previous field tests of the LPC (e.g.. Cialdini and Schroeder 1976; Brockner et al. 1984) have not specified the size of the donation in the initial request. [The one exception: Frazer, Hite and Sauer (1988) combined a large anchorpoint ($20) with the LPC but found the distant anchorpoints canceled each other's effectiveness. As Frazer et al. (1988) observe, "He says a penny would help, but he wants $30. I can't afford $30 and he can't be serious about accepting a penny.] Therefore, since the addition of the phrase "even a penny will help" has not been preceded by a large request, it cannot be viewed as a concession by the requestor If we accept the conditions of reciprocity to be true, then reciprocity as an explanation for the LPC technique appears to be invalid.

Finally, a contrast effect explanation of the LPC technique must be considered. It would appear that for the contrast effect to be effective, the subject must first anchor on the relatively unfavorable (high price) request for the second (lower price) to be perceived more favorably. Reversing the order of request presentation appears to weaken the power of the technique (see the results of Burger's (1986) operationalization of a contrast effect quoted above). A contrast effect explanation of the LPC technique implies that the respondent's firs perception Of a socially acceptable donation is financially unacceptable so that the legitimizing of a paltry contribution allows the respondent to perceive a smaller donation size as socially acceptable. The contrast effect explanation Or the LPC technique is, however, inconsistent with empirical tests Of the LPC which have demonstrated that when compliance rates increase, average donation sizes are not significantly affected (Brockner et al. 1984; Reeves et al. 1987; Reingen 1978).

Directions for Future Research

Clearly, the conceptualization that the contrast effect and Social Judgment Theory explain the TNA technique and the LPC technique, respectively, requires empirical testing. it is possible that results of both techniques might be improved if an attempt is made to augment them with reciprocity.

Tybout (1978) has observed that the trustworthiness of the requestor appears to be an important factor in the success Of techniques that attempt to invoke the norm of reciprocity in the subject. Thus, future research might combine the LPC or TNA with methods to build trust and reciprocity in the requestor For example, in the ease of the LPC technique, the requestor could explain to the subject that he (the requestor) was giving up his leisure time without compensation on behalf of the charity in question. Such a statement might reassure the subject as to the ultimate destination of the donation (build trust in the requestor) as well as invoking the norm of reciprocity through the concession of free time by the requestor to the cause of the charity.

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