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It’s easy to underestimate just how frequently we are affected by persuasion techniques. In this lesson, we discuss four of the classics: low-balling, foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, and scarcity.

We also define and discuss reactance theory in relation to scarcity.

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Persuasion Techniques

Persuasion is part of our everyday lives. How many times do you think a salesperson has convinced you to buy something that you wouldn’t have chosen to buy on your own? How often do you think your friends or family members talk you into doing something? How many commercials and advertisements do you see or hear every day? It’s easy to underestimate just how frequently we are affected by persuasion techniques.Successful companies and salespeople know many persuasion techniques to manipulate our attitudes and behavior so we will spend money on their product or service. But, one doesn’t have to be in sales to effectively influence someone. Let’s discuss some classic persuasion techniques that are frequently used: low-balling, foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, and scarcity.

Low-Balling

First, low-balling is a persuasion technique that deliberately offers a product at a lower price than one intends to charge.

Imagine you are out shopping, and a salesman has convinced you to buy a new thingamabob. You are pretty excited about the product as you follow him to the register. However, as he is checking you out, he realizes that the price sticker on the thingamabob, $25, is incorrect. He apologizes and tells you that the real price is actually $35.

You respond graciously that it’s not his fault and confirm you would still like to complete the transaction.Low-balling is pretty successful in convincing us to pay a higher price by ensuring our buy-in at a lower level. Once we have made a decision to purchase something, our need to be consistent in behavior assures us our choice was right, even if the price is later increased. The low-balling technique is very common in auto sales. The salesman always appears to be on your side, but has no choice but to enforce the correct price.

The key to successful low-balling is not only to make the initial offer attractive enough to gain compliance, but also to not make the second offer so excessive that it’s refused.

Foot-in-the-Door

The second persuasion technique is foot-in-the-door, which starts with a small request in order to gain eventual compliance with larger requests. Imagine you receive an e-mail from a friend asking you to sign a petition that favored a particular charity.

The request is small, simple, and easy enough, so you go ahead and sign. A week later, that same friend calls and thanks you for your signature, and asks if you would be willing to put a small sign in your yard. After you do that, your friend convinces you to make a small donation and also volunteer an entire Saturday to help the cause.Now, if your friend had originally asked you to give up a Saturday volunteering for a charity that you had no commitment to, it’s unlikely you would have done it.

However, because your friend started small and built up to the bigger request, she ensured your commitment. The foot-in-the-door technique works by first getting a small yes and then getting an even bigger yes. Like low-balling, this technique works because of our desire to be consistent. From the beginning, we justify our agreement, typically convincing ourselves that our original action was because of genuine interest in the subject. With subsequent requests, especially those that are extensions of the first request, we feel obligated to act consistently with that internal explanation.

Door-in-the-Face

The third persuasion technique is door-in-the-face, which starts with a large, typically unreasonable request in order to gain eventual compliance with a smaller request. Imagine your friend asks you to donate $100 to a different charity organization that she supports.

You decline, as $100 is a significant amount of money to donate to a charity you know little about. Your friend looks disappointed and says, ‘Well, could you at least donate $10?’ This time, you agree, as $10 is much more reasonable than $100, and it still gives you a chance to say yes to your friend.The door-in the-face technique works by first making a request that is excessive and likely to be refused. The real objective is to get us to agree to the second, smaller request, which may seem very reasonable because it is compared to the first, larger request. Also, when we refuse the first request, we may feel guilty. The second request gives us an opportunity to get rid of that guilt. So, we are much more likely to say yes.

Scarcity & Reactance Theory

The final persuasion technique we’ll discuss in this lesson is scarcity, which uses the perception of limited availability to induce interest or competition. Imagine you are back in a shop, and there is a sign above the thingamabobs that informs you they are available for a limited time only. Then, the salesman, who saw you notice the product, tells you there are only two left.

It’s pretty likely your interest would be piqued, and you would be much more likely to purchase the thingamabob than before.Scarcity is used frequently in advertising a wide variety of products. By limiting the number of items or the amount of time an item, or service, is available, the product in question becomes more attractive to us if we think we can’t have it. Likewise, opportunities we have had in the past also seem more valuable to us when they become out of reach. This is the basis for reactance theory, which states that when people feel their freedom to perform a certain behavior is threatened, they have more desire to perform that very behavior.Think about how people are likely to react when a ban or prohibition is put into place.

According to reactance theory, the forbiddance causes us to feel that our freedom to do whatever we want is being threatened. The reaction to this is anxiety, which we can reduce by performing the threatened behavior. I’m sure you’ve witnessed a child’s inability to resist when he or she is directed not to touch something. When scarcity is used to deprive us of something we have had in the past or may want in the future, we will react by wanting the item or opportunity more than we did before.

Lesson Summary

In summary, there are several persuasion techniques that are frequently used to try and manipulate our attitudes and behavior. In this lesson, we discussed four classic persuasion techniques: low-balling, foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, and scarcity.

Low-balling deliberately offers a product at a lower price than one intends to charge. The key to successful low-balling is not only to make the initial offer attractive enough to gain compliance, but also to not make the second offer so excessive that it is refused.The foot-in-the-door technique starts with a small request in order to gain eventual compliance with larger requests.

Like low-balling, this technique works because of our desire to be consistent with our internal justification of our behavior. The door-in-the-face technique goes in the opposite direction of foot-in-the-door. It starts with a large, typically unreasonable request in order to gain eventual compliance with a smaller request. The real objective is to get us to agree to the second, smaller request, which may seem very reasonable because it is compared to the first, larger request.Finally, scarcity uses the perception of limited availability to induce interest or competition.

When scarcity is used to deprive us of something we have had in the past or may want in the future, we will react by wanting the item or opportunity more than we did before. This is the basis for reactance theory, which states that when people feel their freedom to perform a certain behavior is threatened, they have more desire to perform that very behavior.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this video, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe how four persuasion techniques cause people to change their attitudes or behaviors: low-balling, foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face and scarcity
  • Give examples that illustrate each of the four persuasion techniques
  • Explain how the persuasion technique of scarcity relates to reactance theory

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