To begin with, the researchers compiled a list of 156 California housewives who were selected randomly from a reference book. All subjects were divided into 4 groups. For the purity of the experiment, it was necessary to conduct a survey taking into account various variables.
The participants of the first group were first asked for a petty favor - to answer by phone a few questions about what detergent the woman uses, after which (in the case of consent) these questions were actually asked. It was assumed that three days after that the housewife received a second call, but this time the request was more significant - to bring into her house a group of 5-6 men (allegedly employees of the California Consumer Society) who were supposed to "scan" the dwelling and find out what kind of products the family uses. This meant that researchers would be given full access to the contents of cabinets, drawers and storerooms.
The second group was also asked to first answer the question of what kind of products the housewife uses, but in fact no further interview followed, and after three days the woman received a call similar to the first group asking to let unfamiliar men into the house who would conduct an “inspection”.
At first, the third group simply received a call, where the researchers introduced themselves, explained that they were conducting some kind of monitoring, but did not ask to answer any questions, and after a while made the very “big request”.
The last, fourth group was immediately asked to give experimenters a big favor and to let a group of unfamiliar researchers go to their homes. This category received the conditional name “single contact”, that is, a preliminary acquaintance with the caller did not take place, and no “small requests” were announced.
According to one of the hypotheses, researchers among the participants of the first group should have been more willing to fulfill a significant request than among those who were in the ranks of housewives of the “single contact”.
During the first call, the scientist introduced himself as a member of the California Consumer Society and asked the woman to answer a few questions about household products that she uses in everyday life. The experimenter also noted that the findings would later be published in the publication of their community. If a positive response was received to this request, then, depending on whether the first group or the second one, either followed or did not follow 8 simple questions like “What means do you use in the kitchen?”. After that, the caller thanked the lady and ended the conversation.
With the third group, the experimenter established an initial contact, where he presented himself, told about the organization, the survey being conducted, voiced a list of questions, but did not ask to take part in the study, but simply informed.
Despite the fact that in some cases women did not even agree to answer questions from the list or simply hung up before the experimenter voiced the “small request”, they subsequently tried to establish repeated contact after three days for the “large request”.
The “big request” meant by itself that five or six men from the organization would come in the morning and ask to let them into the house for two hours, during which they would “classify household items”. The experimenter also pointed out that researchers should have “complete freedom of action” in the home. Then all the data should have been included in the corresponding report. In the event that it was possible to get a positive response, the woman was thanked and told that at this stage, for the time being, the data about those who are ready to take part in the process is going on and that she will be called back later. If the housewife refused, they expressed gratitude for the time spent.
According to the results of the experiment, the hypothesis of scientists was confirmed: among those who were in the first group, there was the greatest number of people willing to fulfill the “big request”. The results of the experience: almost 53% of the participants in the first group (those who first fulfilled a small request) agreed to conduct a study in their home; among those who were in the second group (agreed to answer the questions, but were not actually interviewed), such turned out to be 33%; the participants of the third group (only preliminary acquaintance by phone) agreed to the “big request” almost with the same hunt - about 28%; the smallest number of those who expressed willingness to put a group of unfamiliar men into the house was observed among the latter group (single contact) - 22%. Those who refused to answer questions from the questionnaire, or hung up during the first telephone call, in all cases did not agree to fulfill the second request.
Thus, the chance that someone completely stranger agrees to fulfill the “big request” is enhanced if you first perform a less significant task. One small concession increases loyalty in general. It is likely that this also contributes to a certain sense of obligation towards the caller: if the housewife already agrees to participate in the survey, she automatically believes that the experimenter is now waiting for her to fulfill the second request.
Psychologists also suggested that the fact that, since the time of the first call and the interview, the subject begins to reflect on the subject of the survey, that is one way or another, delves into the problem. This probably also affects the willingness to continue to dive into the subject, participating in the course of the study.
The third factor, why in some cases it was difficult for housewives to answer “no”, is the need to find a worthy excuse for their refusal. According to social norms, a reasonable request, if it does not require extraordinary expenses and does not serve as a source of profit for the applicant, is expected to be more likely to be satisfied.
The reception “foot in the door” is actively used in marketing of various kinds: from product promotion and direct sales to charity and even involving people in sects.