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Escalation of Commitment

Escalation of commitment (also known in persuasion as the “foot in the door” technique, or a “consistency trap”, or a “compliance ladder”) consists of asking something small so that you can start asking more and bigger things afterwards.

There are two main persuasion techniques, and this is one of them:

  • The “door in the face” technique, which is the opposite of this. You ask for something big, to get rejected and then ask for something small, which will work (you get the “door slammed in your face” so you can then ask for something smaller);
  • The “foot in the door” technique, which is this one. You start with something small, whatever it is, and then ramp it up (you get your “foot in the door” to crack it open, no matter how small, and then you slowly open it more and more);

The Persuasion Psychology Behind the Technique

Escalation of commitment is the canonical example of a consistency trap. You get someone to do one small thing, and then you can progressively ramp it up to ask more and more of them. As with other consistency traps, it works due to the principle of consistency. As humans, we don’t want to contradict our image. So when we say or do something, we tend to act in accordance with it.

  • If you can just get someone to do a small favor, or buy a small thing, they will keep taking more actions in support of it, buying more or doing more;
    • It’s how people start doing a friend a favor and end up becoming stuck in it;

You can escalate multiple types of elements:

  • Favors (small favor to medium favor to big favor);
  • Mandatory actions (small mandatory action, to medium one, to big one);
  • Agreeing (small agreements, to medium ones, to bigger ones);
  • Seeding (making a small mention to something, to mentioning it more, to finally speaking about it);
  • Learning (which is Indoctrination) (learning a bit about you, more about you, a lot about you);
  • Money (asking the person to buy a small thing, then a more expensive, then a much more expensive one);

Usage

Sub-Techniques
(3 in Total)

Examples

Favors to friends

If a friend asks a favor from you and you do it, chances are they will start to ask more and more, and you will deliver. You’ve been escalated

Charities

NGOs are great at escalating commitment. Just sign this petition. Just subscribe here. Just make a small payment. And so on

Gambling and addictions

A darker type of escalation of commitment. You gamble a little, then it doesn’t satisfy you anymore, so you gamble more, and on and on

Use Cases For the Four Quadrants

Key Takeaways
(3 Total)

How to Stack This Technique