A month ago I was tabling at an event for United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) in order to encourage students to sign up for our phone bank. The phone bank would be dedicated to contacting minority groups, calling their attention to immigration issues at hand, and encouraging them to vote during midterm elections. At first no one signed up, so we talked about what we could do to encourage students to come to our event. Our club president suggested that we approach people, ask them if they care about human rights, and then reel them in with our event. His strategy was successful! I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say that they didn’t care about human rights, and that was where we were able to catch them.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, our president had come up with a strategy that employed the foot-in-the-door phenomenon. By asking a small question he got people to pay attention to him, then he was able to encourage them to sign up for our event because the question was manipulated in a way that suggested that if they didn’t help, they didn’t care about human rights.

My awareness of this psychological concept helps me understand why our president’s strategy was so successful. Nobody wants to look like a bad person, so a lot of them followed through after their first response. Also, by answering our question participants became invested in the issue, so it seemed like they had more intention to join our cause. I think that if the participants we approached recognized the strategy we were using, they would be less inclined to help because they’d see that we were manipulating our approach and that we didn’t necessarily think they were bad people if they said no. Our question put the people we asked at war with themselves, so it was in their good faith that they agreed. By saying yes, I think they were hoping to clear their conscious. In the end, turn out for the phone bank was great, and that’s all that matters!

 

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