Types of Persuasion Techniques: How to Influence People

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  • 0:06 Persuasion Techniques
  • 1:01 Low-Balling
  • 2:27 Foot-in-the-Door
  • 4:03 Door-in-the-Face
  • 5:17 Scarcity and Reactance Theory
  • 7:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell

Erin has an M.Ed in adult education and a BS in psychology and a BS in management systems.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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