The Preemptive Presentation Technique: Getting your Foot in the Door without Making a Request

Andrew H Hales, Purdue University


I propose that people are more likely to comply with a request if the person issuing the request preemptively presents the target with the materials for satisfying that request. By presenting the materials before compliance has been expressed, the requester communicates that they expect compliance, making it more difficult for the target to not comply. I consider this social influence technique in relation to the foot-in-the-door-technique, which is conceptualized as increasing compliance by first gaining compliance with a small request and then asking for the intended favor. I suggest that this conceptualization be expanded to include any compliance attempt that operates by achieving incremental progression towards the target request – including the proposed preemptive-presentation technique. This phenomenon was examined in five experiments (total N = 1,407). In Study 1, participants observed a compliance attempt in which a person requested that someone complete a short survey, and either preemptively handed it to them before they responded, or waited for a response before handing them the survey. Compared to the control condition, participants perceived the requester as having gotten her foot in the door by handing the survey preemptively. Additionally, participants viewed the requester as expecting compliance when the technique was used, and expressed reluctance to use the technique themselves. Studies 2 – 5 investigated the effectiveness of this technique. In Study 2, passersby on a college campus were more likely to stop and complete a survey when the requester handed it to them directly while issuing the request. In Study 3 participants were asked to vandalize a library book as part of a joke. These participants were not more likely to comply when preemptively handed the book, however, a large percentage (82) accepted the book when it was handed to them. In Study 4, participants were asked to volunteer to take part in an uncompensated psychology study on the weekend, and were more likely to agree when the requester preemptively provided them with the signup sheet. In Study 5, I replicated the procedures of Study 4, and included a condition in which the preemptive presentation technique was used, but participants were led to believe that the requester did not expect them to comply. The preemptive presentation technique without expectation did not increase compliance. A meta-analytic synthesis of these four studies indicates a modest, and non-statistically significant effect, r = .11, 95% Confidence Interval [-.02, .23]. Together these results suggest that (1) people do not perceive preemptive presentation as a favor, but they do perceive it as a way to get one’s foot in the door (2) and that the preemptive presentation technique can be effective in gaining compliance with a favor that someone would otherwise be reluctant to perform.




Williams, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology

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