Foot-in-the-door as a pickup technique
French 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.