On the Social Psychology of Giving: Door-In-The-Face and When Even a Penny Helps

Peter H. Reingen, University of South Carolina
ABSTRACT - Four strategies of inducing people to comply with a request to donate money were investigated in a field experiment: A concession approach where a requester first asked a target person for an extreme favor and, after being refused, retreated to a smaller favor (the one that was desired from the outset); an approach that avoided the dilemma of small requests by legitimizing rather than directly requesting compliance with a small request; a combination of the previous two approaches; and an approach utilizing the standard plea for funds. The prediction that the standard approach would be the least effective was confirmed. However, contrary to predictions, the approaches involving a concession did not significantly increase compliance with a (third) request for subsequent help. Possible processes that could explain these results are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Peter H. Reingen (1978) ,"On the Social Psychology of Giving: Door-In-The-Face and When Even a Penny Helps", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 05, eds. Kent Hunt, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 1-4.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 1978      Pages 1-4

ON THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF GIVING: DOOR-IN-THE-FACE AND WHEN EVEN A PENNY HELPS

Peter H. Reingen, University of South Carolina

[The author would like to thank the Heart Association of South Carolina and especially Mary Wright for her considerable assistance. This paper reports a portion of a larger study.]

ABSTRACT -

Four strategies of inducing people to comply with a request to donate money were investigated in a field experiment: A concession approach where a requester first asked a target person for an extreme favor and, after being refused, retreated to a smaller favor (the one that was desired from the outset); an approach that avoided the dilemma of small requests by legitimizing rather than directly requesting compliance with a small request; a combination of the previous two approaches; and an approach utilizing the standard plea for funds. The prediction that the standard approach would be the least effective was confirmed. However, contrary to predictions, the approaches involving a concession did not significantly increase compliance with a (third) request for subsequent help. Possible processes that could explain these results are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

There has been a recent upsurge of interest in methods for obtaining behavioral compliance with minimal pressure. The door-in-the-face technique, first formally investigated and confirmed by Cialdini, Vincent, Lewis, Catalan, Wheeler and Darby (1975), has received particular attention. This technique is based on the simple notion that the probability of obtaining compliance with a request that has a low a priori probability of agreement can be increased substantially by first inducing noncompliance with an extreme request. Cialdini et a1.(1975) and Cialdini and Ascani (1976) argue that a requester's movement from an initial, extreme request to a second, more moderate one is viewed by the target person as a concession. Based on the societal rule of reciprocation of concessions that states "You should make concessions to those who make concessions to you," normative pressures are brought to bear that tend to compel a target person to move from his/her initial position of noncompliance with the extreme request to a position of compliance with the more moderate second request. Cialdini and his coworkers found this rejection-then-retreat approach effective in increasing compliance with the rather large request of chaperoning a group of juvenile delinquents on a day trip (Cialdini et al. 1975) and increasing compliance with a request to donate blood (Cialdini and Ascani, 1976).

One of the purposes of this study was to test the concession procedure in a request context other than the ones employed in previous research. Subjects (college students) were asked in a naturalistic setting to contribute money to the Heart Association in accordance with one of four conditions. In the first, the control condition, a standard request for funds was made. In the second, the extreme-then-donation request condition, subjects were first asked to perform an extreme favor (to give three dollars every month for at least one year) and, having refused, were asked the standard request. It was predicted that subjects exposed to the concession procedure would be significantly more likely to decide to contribute than those exposed to only the standard request. This part of the study, then, simply replicated the work by Cialdini et al. In so doing, it was hoped to (a) test the generality of the concession procedure as a compliance induction mechanism, (b) obtain further evidence concerning the hypothesized mediator of the effect, (c) apply the technique in a context that is of considerable interest to both practitioners and consumer researchers, and (d) investigate the power of the technique by employing student subjects.

The purpose of the third condition was to test the relative effectiveness of the concession procedure by including in the experimental design a procedure that did not involve a concession. In this third condition, the standard request was followed by the sentence, "Even a penny will help." While the research evidence (e.g., Wagner and Wheeler, 1969) suggests a strong relationship between a subject's compliance with a request and the cost of performing the request, the clear dilemma of small requests per se is that they produce high levels of compliance but low levels of reward for a requester (Cialdini and Schroeder, 1976). The phrase "Even a penny will help," however, implied that a small contribution was acceptable without suggesting, as small requests normally do, that it was what the requester desired. In other words, by implying that a small favor is acceptable but not necessarily desirable, a requester would make it difficult for a target to refuse and would make it unlikely that a target would offer a small donation (Cialdini and Schroeder, 1976). In the fourth condition, the phrase "Even a penny will help" was added to the extreme-then-donation request manipulation. Since this approach would appear to reap the benefits of both the concession approach and the even-a-penny-will-help strategy but not the disadvantages of small requests, it was expected to be an especially effective compliance induction mechanism. That is, it was predicted that subjects exposed to the last approach would be significantly more likely to decide to contribute than those exposed to just the request addendum, "Even a penny will help," but that each of these two approaches would be superior to the standard request. In addition, based on the above, it was hypothesized that the average donation would not differ significantly between conditions.

Finally, the fund-raising context provided an opportunity to examine another kind of compliance of considerable interest, namely compliance with a request for subsequent help. Subjects in the extreme initial request conditions and a control condition were asked to become a fund-raising volunteer for the Heart Association. It was predicted that the subjects in the extreme initial request conditions would be more likely to comply with this (third) request than the control subjects. This expectation was based on evidence produced by studies of bargaining behavior suggesting that a concession strategy in negotiation leaves the target of such a strategy with more positive feelings about the interaction outcome (e.g., Benton, 1973), and on more direct evidence provided by Cialdini and Ascani (1976) showing that subjects in an extreme-then-blood donation request condition were more likely to agree to donate blood again than control subjects.

METHOD

Subjects

Subjects were 160 (80 male and 80 female) students at the University of South Carolina. Only those students were selected who were walking alone along university walkways during the hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and no subjects known to an experimenter were selected.

Procedure

The naive experimenters, four male and four female college students, approached only same-sex subjects who met these conditions. Experimenters, thoroughly instructed in training sessions, were equipped with the identification badges, information brochures and donation envelopes in fund-raising drives by the Heart Association of South Carolina. An experimenter initiated interaction by introducing him- or herself as representing the Heart Association. After the common introductory remarks, subjects were randomly assigned to one of five conditions according to a treatment schedule that varied randomly across experimenters. An experimenter completed exactly four replications per condition.

Donation-request-only control condition. Subjects in this condition (n=32) were asked by the experimenter to comply with the request to donate money. Specifically, the experimenter said:

As part of our annual campus fund-raising drive, I'm collecting money for the Heart Association. Would you be willing to help by giving a single donation?

If a subject consented, the experimenter took the donation and put it in the donation envelope. Thus, two measures of helping were taken: (a) whether a subject gave a contribution, and (b) size of contribution.

Extreme-then-donation request condition. Subjects in this condition (n=32) were initially asked to perform a very large favor which all subjects refused. Specifically, the experimenter said:

As part of our annual campus fund-raising drive, we're currently asking students to become involved in our Long Term Donor Program. Long term donors are those students who pledge to give 3 dollars per month for a period of at least 12 months. Would you be willing to enroll in our Long Term Donor Program?

(After the subject declined, the experimenter continued.) Well, maybe you'd be interested in another activity we're asking students to participate in. I'm also collecting money .......

The remainder of the procedure was identical to that of the donation-request-only control.

Even-a-penny condition. Subjects in this condition (n=32) were delivered the standard (control) plea for funds, but the experimenter added, "Even a penny will help." The remainder of the procedure was identical to that of the donation-request-only control.

Extreme-then-donation request, even-a-penny condition. Subjects in this condition (n=32) were administered the procedure identical to that of the extreme-then-donation request condition, except that "Even a penny will help" was added to the standard plea. All subjects but one refused to comply with the extreme initial request.

Volunteer-request-only control condition. Subjects in this condition (n=32) were asked by the experimenter only to comply with the request to become a fund-raising volunteer. Specifically, the experimenter said:

As part of our annual fund-raising drive, the Heart Association is looking for volunteers to solicit funds from the public. Would you be interested in becoming a Heart Association fund-raising volunteer?

If a subject consented, the experimenter wrote down his/ her telephone number and indicated that the Heart Association would contact the subject if his/her help was needed. Thus, the dependent measure was the subject's verbal compliance. The subjects in the extreme initial request conditions were also approached with this volunteer request but after they had received the donation request.

RESULTS

Donation Request

A preliminary Chi Square analysis on frequency of donation within each condition showed no significant differences due to sex of the target subject (and thus sex of the experimenter), with levels of significance ranging from .28 to 1.00, and no significant differences between experimenters, with levels of significance between .36 and .89. [All Chi Square tests reported in this paper were corrected.] Hence, the compliance data were relatively free of sex effects and experimenter effects, and the subsequent analysis could therefore be performed on collapsed data.

Table i presents the results for frequency of donation, total amount donated, and average amount donated. The predictions concerning compliance rates seemed most appropriately tested by a set of three orthogonal contrasts.

TABLE 1

DONATION RESULTS

The first tested the donation-request-only control against the combination of the extreme-then-donation request condition, the extreme-then-donation, even-a-penny condition, and the even-a-penny condition. It was predicted that the three experimental conditions would be superior to the control in compliance to donate money, and this was confirmed (X2 = 4.52, d.f. = 1,p =.03). The second contrasted the extreme-then-donation, even-a-penny condition and the even-a-penny condition. The prediction that the extreme-then-donation, even-a-penny approach would be superior to the even-a-penny treatment was not confirmed (X2 = 0.00). The last compared the extreme-then-donation and the combination of the extreme-then-donation, even-a-penny and the even-a-penny groups and also found no significant difference (X2 = .65, d.f. = 1, p = .42).

With respect to mean donation per active contributor, no significant difference was expected. While this prediction was confirmed (F = 2.08, d.f. = 3/42, p = .12), there was a consistent tendency for the "even a penny will help" additions to produce a somewhat smaller average contribution. However, an a posteriori test based on Scheffe's procedure involving the relevant comparison resulted in a p of only .25.

Volunteer Request

Table 2 presents the proportion of subjects in the three relevant conditions who were willing to comply with the volunteer request. Contrary to expectations, it is clear that the principal orthogonal comparison (volunteer-request-only control versus the combination of the extreme-then-donation and extreme-then-donation, even-a-penny conditions) is highly insignificant.

TABLE 2

VOLUNTEER RESULTS

DISCUSSION

These results are of significant practical value for anyone wishing to elicit compliance with a request to donate money. The experimental conditions were significantly more effective in producing compliance with the donation request than the control. In addition, the average amount donated did not differ significantly among the conditions. Thus, it is not surprising that along the practical dimension of total funds obtained , the even-a-penny condition produced 1.5 times, the extreme-then-donation request, even-a-penny condition 1.8 times, and the extreme-then-donation request condition 2.2 times that of the donation-request-only control. That these results are consistent with the ones produced by Cialdini and his coworkers attests to the generality of the compliance induction mechanisms. However, the requests in this investigation as well as in the Cialdini et al. studies were altruistic ones. Thus, the effects have been shown to occur only under the somewhat limited set of conditions where the requests are prosocial in nature and are made in a no-delay situation. Evidence provided by Reingen and Kernan (1977b) suggests that the concession strategy may be ineffective in contexts where "selfish" rather than "socially desirable" requests are involved. A situation where selfish requests are involved would hardly resemble a bargaining interaction. Similarly, studies by Reingen and Kernan (1977a) and Snyder and Cunningham (1975) which employed time-delayed requests suggest that the concession approach may actually result in less compliance. These results are, of course, favorable to the concession viewpoint in that a requester's act of concession may not be as apparent when the requests are time-delayed.

Aside from these more practical aspects, the present findings have interesting conceptual implications as well. As far as the extreme initial request conditions are concerned, the findings provide support for a con-cession-based mediator of the compliance effects, but they as well as the ones obtained by Cialdini et al. in no way ultimately confirm the concession model. Other explanations may exist. For example, Cann, Sherman and Elkes (1975) suggest an alternative explanation based on dissonance theory. When a subject in an extreme initial request condition refuses to comply with an initial request for help in a social cause, he probably feels some conflict about this which he can easily resolve by complying with the immediately-following second request. Another possibility is a perceptual contrast effect. By initially asking an extreme request, the second request may be perceived as smaller than it would have been if it alone had been presented. Interestingly enough, the major surprise of this study, which was the ineffectiveness of the extreme initial request conditions to produce a greater compliance with a request for subsequent help (i.e., volunteering as a fund raiser), can be easily explained by these two alternative interpretations but not by the concession model. From a dissonance viewpoint, the second request may have given ample opportunity for dissonance reduction. As far as the perceptual contrast explanation is concerned, the (third) request for subsequent help may have been perceived as large as the extreme (first) request, as is indicated by the very low compliance rate in the volunteer-re-quest-only control group.

A second surprising aspect of the present data was the ineffectiveness of the extreme-then-donation request, even-a-penny condition to produce a greater compliance to donate money than the even-a-penny condition. Since the only difference between the two conditions was that the former involved a concession and the latter did not, no significant gain resulted from the concession approach. It appears that the addendum to the standard request, "Even a penny will help," is sufficient enough by itself to make it difficult for a target person to refuse to donate money.

REFERENCES

A. A. Benton, "Reactions to Demands to Win From an Opposite Sex Opponent," Journal of Personality, 41 (1973), 430-442.

A. Cann, S. J. Sherman, and R. Elkes, "Effects of Initial Request Size and Timing of a Second Request on Compliance: The Foot in the Door and the Door in the Face," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32 (1975), 774-782.

R. B. Cialdini, J. E. Vincent, S. K. Lewis, J. Catalan, D. Wheeler, and B. L. Darby, "Reciprocal Concessions Procedure for Inducing Compliance: The Door-in-the-Face Technique," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31 (1975), 206-215.

R. B. Cialdini and K. Ascani, "Test of a Concession Procedure for Inducing Verbal, Behavioral, and Further Compliance With a Request to Donate Blood," Journal of Applied Psychology, 61 (1976), 295-300.

R. B. Cialdini and D. A. Schroeder, "Increasing Compliance by Legitimizing Paltry Contributions: When Even a Penny Helps," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34 (1976), 599-604.

P. H. Reingen and J. B. Kernan, "Compliance With an Interview Request: A Foot-in-the-Door, Self-Perception Interpretation,'' Journal of Marketing Research, 14 (1977), in press (a).

P. H. Reingen and J. B. Kernan, "Foot-in-the-Door or Door-in-the-Face? Further Evidence Toward a Resolution of the Paradigms," Center Paper #64, Center for Marketing Studies, University of South Carolina, (1977), (b).

M. Snyder and M. R. Cunningham, "To Comply or not to Comply: Testing the Self-Perception Explanation of the Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon," Journal of Personality and and Social Psychology, 31 (1975), 64-67.

C. Wagner and L. Wheeler, "Model, Need, and Cost Effects in Helping Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 12 (1969), 111-116.

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