Start with small, very reasonable requests. When they comply with these, make requests that require slightly more effort. In this way, gradually increase the requirements on them until they are doing whatever it is you really want them to do.
The requests can also gradually change from optional questions to strong demands. Start with ‘please’ and ‘if you like’, and then move to ‘you must’ and ‘do this now’. Progressive demands may also be used to get people to things which are increasingly further away from their normal values.
A person in a group is asked, in sequence to:
– Help carry leaflets to town
– Help hand out leaflets
– Say a few words about the leaflets
– Speak more about the leaflets
– Ask for a donation
– Use a megaphone to talk about the subject
– Use persuasive methods to get donations
– Pursue people aggressively to get them to ‘donate’
At each stage, there is implied promise of acceptance into the inner circle if just this action is taken.
When you are walking up a convex hill, it often looks like the top of the hill is not far away, but as you walk, the brow just stays out of reach. This is not unlike the experience of progressive demands. Most of the time, you think that you are nearly there.
The overall approach is ‘foot in the door’, where a small request is followed up with a larger request. This works by the consistency principle, whereby having agreed to do something, we believe that we wanted to do it and so start to shift our underlying belief system to align with our actions. Before long, we are effectively brainwashed as we believe that even the extreme actions we have been led to are the right things to do.
This consistency effect may also includes a belief that we must continue doing what we are told. When this leads to increasing dependency, we end up blindly following orders.