Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

Foot-in-the-door as a pickup technique

Posted in news by jenapincott on September 27, 2009

kick_open_doorFrench psychologist Nicolas Gueguen is fun. He’s the guy who asks the pressing questions we’d all like answered, whether we admit it or not: Does makeup really make a woman more attractive to men?; Are dog owners more likely to get dates?; How much does cup size really matter?; and How does priming men to think about love change their behavior?

And now Gueguen strikes again, this time with a study on courtship and “foot-in-the-door-technique.” The latter is an actual term in psychology. “Foot in the door” is a compliance tactic in which an initial, small difficult-to-turn-down request is made (as in a solicitor asking passers-by on the street for their signature). Once people acquiesce to an easy request, they are likelier to agree to a larger request (to donate money, time, etc.). Kids seem to implicitly know the foot-in-the-door effect, as when they ask for a small treat, followed immediately by a request for a larger one.

But what about men looking for love (or sex)?

Gueguen wanted to know if the foot-in-the-door technique would work in a pick-up context, so he recruited a nice-looking guy in his twenties to solicit young, hot women in the street. Over a series of days the man approached 360 different ladies, and asked them if they’d like to have a drink with him. Some of the time he approached them, greeted them, and made the drink offer right away. In the foot-in-the-door condition, however, he asked them for directions or requested a light for his cigarette before inviting them to have a drink with him.

Turns out, the technique works. Women were significantly more likely to say yes to a drink with the guy if he made a minor request immediately beforehand. That’s how foot-in-the-door works, by fostering compliance. It’s easier to say no when the no hasn’t been preceded by a yes. (Incidentally, it’s also more difficult to say no after nodding your head.)

Of course, for most men the aim is to get much more than a foot in the door. For that, I suspect the actual nature of the second, larger request counts a lot. Ask too much, guys, and you’ll get a door-in-the-face.


23 Responses

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  1. michael07093 said, on September 28, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Try online dating. The odds are good, but the goods are sometimes odd.


    • Estela said, on September 28, 2009 at 5:18 pm

      Yes, I was about to suggest the same thing but have been having pretty weird experiences on my online dates recently.

  2. Steven Harris said, on September 28, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Those soldiers appear to be interrupting someone on the lavatory.

  3. forthespectators said, on September 28, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I am still really surprised that most women still dont see through mens antics, or have any idea that there are online forums, websites, and groups dedicated to “pick up artist” tactics.

  4. Steven Harris said, on September 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Thing is, pick up techniques don’t really work for some people. Some folk get away with saying the most awful and obvious chat up lines. Others are far better off relying on the fact that they’re genuine personality will be the thing that attracts other people to them. The worst line I’ve ever had used on me wasn’t a pick-up line as such. It was when a woman I didn’t fancy had tried kissing me and I told her (politely) I wasn’t into her. ‘You know you want to,’ she declared. More than anything such an assumption made me all the more certain that I knew I did NOT want to.

  5. Tester said, on September 28, 2009 at 1:29 pm


  6. Terry said, on September 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Wouldn’t work with me. I kind of jump out of my skin when a guy I don’t know asks me out for a drink. I have had men ask me right out front and I just laughed or said no abruptly. The foot in the door doesn’t work with me either. Hep.

  7. Michael said, on September 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    foot in the what?

  8. Jessica said, on September 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Yes…I went the online route.

    Worked for me….but maybe I’m weird.

  9. Andy said, on September 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Hmm, online dating is a weird thing after my opinion. Sure it must be easier to contact a person through electronic communication, and sure you avoid being shy, nervous and whatever else you might feel on a date, but come on, let’s just face the facts – It just isn’t real. It’s always best to see a person in real life and THEN proceed to dating or where ever it leads. With online dating, all you get is a picture or two of the person, but let’s face the facts – with everyone using programs such as Photoshop nowadays, how much do you really get to see of your online date – it’s virtually the same as a blind date.

    This is just my opinion and isn’t directed to the writings of anyone here 🙂 – (working on a new blog, just started it today)

  10. Nathan said, on September 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    online seems weird? huh, alright. It worked out in my case. Me and the wife have been married for 9 years and have two great kids. Not the norm, but it worked out alright for us. Thing is, you have the ability to lie your ass off online, or present yourself without pretense. Of course if you lie and photoshop, it ain’t going to work out. But if your interested in cutting out all the posturing, it can pan out pretty nice.

  11. Jay said, on September 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    “Ask too much, guys, and you’ll get a door-in-the-face”

    And you wonder why American Women are considered the worst women in the world?

    The Chip on the Shoulder. They’re coiled and ready to strike.

    No thanks.

    Are they even women? They’re like half-man-woman creatures.

  12. J said, on September 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Hmm… I think this techniques applies well in some areas. I did however, seem to recall an inverse of what was discussed here (or maybe my memory is failing me due to too much booze). In the experiment, the man actually asked for a date first, then retreat back to just the number… apparently it works too. >.>

  13. Dex said, on September 28, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Tried and tested PUA tactic.


  14. givenchance said, on September 29, 2009 at 5:08 am

    i have only one word about all this situation: STRANGE.

  15. Flower Boy said, on September 29, 2009 at 6:09 am

    sounds reasonable technique to me. firstly the chap will know if there is any interest straight away, before plunging in with a big awkward one 🙂

  16. Peter - Adult Dating said, on September 29, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Thank you for this article.

  17. theprettyproject said, on September 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Ha! That’s really amazing…and somewhat frightening how “trickable” people are. 🙂

  18. G said, on September 30, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Works for me, if I’m approached by a guy who asks me for a drink, I know that the advance is a romantic one. I’ll probably just say no. I think most women would say no to a stranger.
    If he asks me for directions or a light, I know that he just needs help or he’s being friendly. Once I’m interacting with him, I know a little bit more about him and I’m more likely to say yes.

  19. Tonka said, on October 1, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Yeah that sounds like a sales technique. Get a person to say yes to some simple requests and then move on to something bigger. It is a possitive reinforcement, nothing new. The researcher should read some more sales books and he’ll realise he is not breaking ground. Just catching up.

  20. Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. said, on October 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Hi, Jena, I’ve always referred to it as the hand-in-the-bra effect. Nice to see there’s finally some science that examines this well-known phenomenon in regards to dating. Thanks for a great post.

  21. Heusinte Dating Labs said, on October 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    There are ways to introduce yourself to gorgeous women without coming across as a cheesy avoidable? Even innocent statements such as “”Is this seat taken?” or ” I could do with some coffee, could I get you some?” are brimming with promise of more to come.
    You have only one chance to make an impression, and it better be good.

  22. Fiyola Hoosen said, on October 4, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Some guys mistake a slight nod or a small smile as a “foot in the door” when often, all you are being is helpful or polite!

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