Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


The problem and why it is important?

Recent figures with regards to sexual assault and violence experienced within a university have soared, with 62% of all students and recent graduates reporting experience of sexual violence, in a sample of 4,491 across 153 institutions in the UK (Revolt, 2018). What is particularly striking is the disparity between men and women, with 70% of female participants surveyed reporting this experience, in contrast to only 26% of male participants (Revolt, 2018). The Guardian had also reported that 8% female university students have been raped, which is twice as much as the national statistic estimate (ONS, 2013; Reynolds, 2018). Not only are these figures disturbingly high, but additionally, 56% of students believed that their experience wasn’t serious enough to be reported (Reynolds, 2018). Additionally, between February 2019 and January 2020 in Warwickshire county, the type of crime with the highest case count is ‘violence and sexual offences’ which made up 27.88% of crimes overall.

Not only are there issues around the occurrence of sexual violence, there also seems to be a lack of reporting incidents by unviersity students. A shocking 6% of students that have experienced sexual violence have actually reported it to the university, with only 2% feeling that they were able to do so (Revolt, 2018). This amplifies the importance of reform on the perceptions and understanding sexual assault and violence, and how consent comes into play. University is known for the extreme use of alcohol and other drugs being an integral part of the experience, with research revealing that almost half of the students surveyed were identified as ‘hazardous drinkers’ (Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2011; Townsend, 2018). This is problematic as existing findings have also suggested that alcohol is frequently involved in sexual assault within the university setting (Cantor et al, 2015; Camp et al, 2018).

Considering how common sexual assault and violence is on a national scale, there is not enough being done to combat the issue within the university setting. An article looking into the current initiatives in place with regards to consent, found that 80% of students who had responded to a survey had never attended a consent class. Of the 20% that have attended one, only 55% of participants found it useful (Burns, 2018). This is indicative of the inadequacy of the existing initiatives put in place, which seems to be the case at the University of Warwick as well. For example, George Lawlor’s protest against the ‘I Heart Consent’ workshops at Warwick in 2015 demonstrates how this may not have been received well in the past. However, the controversy from his claim that ‘This Is Not What a Rapist Looks Like’ sparked a global debate around what exactly a perpetrator is supposed to look like. This is particularly interesting as previous research has found that around 90% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim (ONS, 2013). What can be understood from this incident is that there is still a lot to be done when attempting to change attitudes towards consent and sexual assault, and the approach that needs to be taken should be that of a gradual nature; beginning with a compulsory consent class might have been a huge jump for some individuals. It is important that we find a reasonable starting point in order to have a more effective outcome when looking for long-term, more permanent behaviour change.

Unfortunately, the Warwick rape chat scandal, which surfaced in 2018, is yet another massive indicator of the need for a more drastic intervention to combat such attitudes. The incident had left members of the student body feeling unsafe, and ashamed of the association with these individuals, with the hashtag #ShameOnYouWarwick trending globally.

Not only did this receive a backlash of a great magnitude, but it also sparks the debate of the extent to which universities are safeguarding both students and staff, especially as they have a duty of care to ensure people do not feel unsafe on campus.

Universities UK (UUK)’s report in 2019 revealed that some universities in the United Kingdom have introduced ‘pre-arrival online courses’ which are a requirement in order to register at the given institution, and failing to do so can make their applications void (UUK, 2019; Swerling, 2019). Having been an individual who has completed a compulsory consent class as a part of an exchange program at Monash University Australia, just the mere exposure to this information might make a difference in the understanding of consent in both the recipient, and the individual giving the consent. Therefore, this project’s initiative is to petition for the introduction of a better campaign against sexual violence on campus, and to reform the existing #WeGetConsent campaign currently run by Warwick SU.

Target Audience
From the research conducted on the issues surrounding sexual violence within the university setting, and the current initiatives at other institutions in the UK, our target audience will be all members of the Warwick population, including staff and students. According to Bonomi (2019), sexual violence prevention campaigns which are aimed entirely at students are not sufficient tackle the issue, as a full range of occupants of the university population is neglected - including staff, faculty, administrators and more. These individuals play a role in shaping the campus climate, and contribute to interactions and conversation at university. The main population that will be interacted with is the student population, as we have the most accessibility and responsiveness from this group. Moreover, the student body outnumbers the staff and faculty population at Warwick, and issues surrounding sexual violence and harrassment is far more frequent within the student population. The methods used to reach this target population is through the use of posters, social media, and liaison with the Student Union.

There is an existing campaign for sexual consent, which has been thoroughly assessed for the purpose of this project. There are a few initiatives in place including:
  • Bystander Intervention in the Curriculum
  • Let’s Talk - an anonymous question and answer campaign hosted on Facebook
  • #AskForAngela - a safeguarding campaign to provide a discrete method of asking for assistance if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in SU venues
  • Supporting survivors - resources available for those who have experienced incidents of sexual violence, and those who are supporting them
  • Consent Matters module - an interactive and evidence-based module available to take on Moodle at your discretion
  • Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week
  • #WeGetConsent ambassadors, and wristbands

After visiting the SUHQ to discuss the existing campaign, we concluded that a lot of these initiatives were not currently active, with a particular emphasis on the interactive module – upon clicking the link, we found it to be a dead-end. Additionally, after a number of emails to SU representatives, we did not receive a single response, so we decided to take matters further.

Here are some examples of our correspondence with SU members:

After no response and addition searching we discovered that there was a Consent Matters module which had to be searched up on Moodle to find. This was still not accessible through the #WeGetConsent webpage which is meant to provide information and access about the campaign.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the link for the ‘Consent Matters’ module advertised on the #WeGetConsent campaign page leads to a dead end, which emphasises the issue around how seriously the #WeGetConsent campaign is being taken by Warwick University.

Therefore, we identified this as the main subject of the current project, with the end-goal being to make this module active, and campaign towards making it compulsory for all incoming students and staff at Warwick University.

Our intervention was made up of two components:

1. Create a petition to rally support for our call for the university to introduce this compulsory consent module.

The starting point for our petition was to decide whether to collect signatures in-person, or via an online platform. Our decision was to use a combination of in-person and online recruitment, but host the petition on, in order to make it more easily distributed. The initial method through which we began recruiting supporters was through social media; the platforms used included Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook. To support the petition, we created a poster to put around campus, and advertise to students online. Previous evidence suggests that signing an electronic petition seems to be a gateway to future participation, as explained by the ‘foot-in-the-door’ technique (Cruickshank, Edelmann & Smith, 2010; Nall et al, 2018).

Elaboration Likelihood Model

Aspects of the Elaboration-Likelihood Model (ELM) were employed when devising this campaign, in order to gain maximum engagement from the Warwick population. Although these are not the main persuasion techniques used throughout this project, they played somewhat of a role in determining our approach. The reason why we have decided to consider the ELM is because previous research supports the use of the framework in order to alter attitudes towards rape (Gidycz et al, 2001).

Peripheral route of persuasion
Aligning with the Elaboration-Likelihood Model’s peripheral route of persuasion, we have chosen to appeal to people by incorporating vibrant colors, bold font, and minimal text. As this poster is most likely going to be read quickly, or in passing, it seems that at a low level of processing, not people don’t seem to process the message with much effort (Oh & Jasper, 2006).

Along with the vibrance of the poster, we chose to have a statistic that will appeal to all individuals, not just a particular group. By reporting the incidence rate in all students and graduates, we could demonstrate how this is an issue that seems to be widespread throughout the entire student population, reinforcing the importance of this cause.

Here are some examples of the posts we made:

We printed off a number of flyers and pinned them around the university. We focused on areas with high traffic to ensure maximum exposure: such as around the library and accomodations. We stuck the posters around Social Sciences and Science, Engineering and Medicine buildings, as these are the two highest undergraduate faculty populations at 43.01% and 44.49% respectively.

2. Create a video on what consent is, and what it is not, to be hosted on YouTube to be shared via social media.

Our initial idea was to have this short video displayed on the Big Screen at the piazza on campus, however, with delayed response times and the outbreak of COVID-19, this doesn’t seem likely to occur anymore. We will, however, still attempt to gain as much exposure as we can for the video, and include it alongside the posts we have made for the petition that will remain live for the foreseeable future. The Big Screen let us know that we could show our video as long as it got cleared for adhering to regulations. We have sent the video to the Big Screen and are currently waiting on a response.

We kept the video short, with a lot of repetition to get our message across loud and clear. The use of the phrase ‘What’s It To You?’ was emphasised.

The video featured men and women explaining what consent is and is not with statements we prepared. We then featured some of the statistics around sexual violence at university and photographs of protests on campus following the rape chat incident. We concluded by urging students to support with this important issue by signing our petition and asking the SU to place more emphasis on the #WeGetConsent campaign by making the Moodle course compulsory for all students and staff. Watch the video down below or via this link: .

Psychological and persuasion techniques used

1. Foot-in-the-door technique (FITD)

According to Freedman and Fraser (1966), who coined the FITD technique, it seems that individuals are more likely to comply with a larger request when it is preceded by a smaller request. By creating an online, easily accessible petition, we were able to engage people by emphasising how little effort was required to show support for our campaign to bring about change in the SU consent campaign. Our small request was taking 2 minutes to scan a QR code, and filling in a short form to show your support. Once they had done so, we then asked if individuals were either willing to repost the petition information, or to participate in a video on consent, with this being the larger request. There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that signing a petition associates with successive participation (Nall et al, 2018).

2. Just Asking

According to Flynn and Lake (2008), people tend to underestimate others’ willingness to help. ‘Just asking’ can be the most effective behaviour change technique and we utilised this in our campaign. We approached students with our poster and asked if they would scan the QR code to sign our petition.

As you can see in these instances, we approached individuals in the library and asked if they were willing to quickly sign a petition, which they accessed by scanning the code from one of the group member’s laptop.


We have taken two aspects of the MINDSPACE paradigm, and our chosen features are:


The way in which we evaluate information depends a lot on the messenger of the information. There is much evidence showing that when we feel the messenger has characteristics that are similar to ours, we are more likely to act on the information provided (Dolan et al., 2010). The target audience for the campaign is students therefore the more similar the messengers are to the target audience, the better.

Acting on this, we thought the best people to feature in the video, explaining exactly what consent is and is not is students. We also featured both men and women in the video. This was to emphasise the point that sexual violence does not discriminate in terms of gender, sexuality or race.


Affect, or emotion, plays an integral role in behaviour change and decision making. Many social psychologists view affect as being synonymous with the ‘evaluative’ component of changing attitudes (Petty, Cacioppo, Sedikides, & Strathman, 1988). The topic of our campaign is already emotive and we featured photographs of Warwick students in protest to emphasise this. Cognitive appraisal theories state that affect is caused by a particular form of cognition, called appraisals (Dillard & Seo, 2013). As affect and evaluation are linked we kept our explanations of what consent is and is not definitive and clear, as well as featuring the shocking statistics on sexual violence to allow for easier evaluaton. This is the act of assessing something or someone. We ensured to include enough photographs and statistics to give our viewer enough information.


The final MINDSPACE technique we utilised was commitment. We used this in a number of ways in our campaign. For example, it has been found that the act of writing a commitment increases the likelihood of it being fulfilled (Dolan et al. 2010). Therefore on the above instagram poll we asked respondents if they thought consent was important and should be taught to all. Once they had already said yes we then asked them to sign our petition, before asking them to make further commitments to the cause as described under the foot-in-the-door technique. Commitment interlinks with principles of consistency. Therefore if they commit to being someone that cares about consent, they are more likely to sign the petition. This is linked with Cialdini’s technique of commitment and consistency which will be discussed later.

4. Mere Exposure Effect

The mere exposure effect maintains that the more we are exposed to something it becomes more familiar to us resulting in a preference. We used this firstly through the repetition of our campaign name in the hashtag #What’sItToYou? This was featured at the top of our campaign poster and in the video. We also created an Instagram page with the same name as part of our campaign.

The hashtag has a double meaning. We are asking people: what does consent mean to you? This also plays out in our video where students are providing definitions of consent. It can also be read in the defensive: what’s it to you!? We do this to empower those asking it.

5. Snowball effect

We employed the snowball effect by having other individuals share and repost our message on their social media accounts. Previous research into the use of online platforms to increase user participation in environmental communities found that the ‘snowball effect’ that individuals have in terms of persuading their peers to join them plays a crucial role in attracting more people, and drawing more public attention (Zhang et al, 2019). Therefore, we believed that an effective mechanism to gather more public attention was to have people from different social networks share the post, to reach a much wider community overall; this also included non-warwick students, to gain attention on a national scale.

6. Cialdini’s Principles

We used a number of Cialdini’s principles in our campaign. The first two are from Cialdini’s book Influence and the final from his new book, Pre-Suasion.

Commitment and Consistency

People want their behaviour to be congruent with their attitudes and beliefs. This fact has been found to be true in numerous studies, particularly within social psychology. 98% of the people that answered ‘Yes’ to whether they think consent is important went on to answer ‘Yes’ to whether they think consent should be taught to all. Many of them then went on to sign the petition. A pre-commitment leads to consistent behaviour and this was seen in our campaign. Many of those that signed the petition then went on to become ‘supporters’ of the campaign on

Respondents that volunteered to take part in our video had all signed the petition and most had shared it. Taking part in the video was the highest level of commitment that we asked from people and it is the role of consistency that resulted in this.


As aforementioned, we ensured familiarity through using Warwick students for our campaign video. This ensured that viewers knew that this campaign was for all of us, and is something that we as a community can change. We filmed the video on campus, using the background of a classroom. This was all in order to remind the viewer that this is a Wawick community issue, and we should all care about it. The more familiar the messenger, the more likely the viewer is going to be persuaded.


Cialdini maintains that there are two types of unity: acting together and being together (Cialdini, 2016). It is similar to his early principle of liking, but goes further in that it is about shared identities. This is something that university students have. Warwick being a campus university means we have a more tight-knit sense of community and belonging than other, non-campus universities. We placed a lot of emphasis on this fact and drew on the fact that we all have a shared identity.

Results and Future prospects for this project

After some time we got a response from the lead staff member of the #WeGetConsent campaign.

We have put forward ideas we have for the campaign and are excited to be working alongside the SU to ensure that the campaign is correctly prioritised and updated. The SU are investigating why the Moodle course is not available and we expect this to be revised as soon as the reason is found, meaning the campaign page will be more effective: a big goal for our campaign. The campaign is not complete, and this hopefully marks the beginning of a more widespread and inclusive campaign at Warwick.

This project has touched many individuals, as our attempt to use this opportunity to campaign for the safeguarding and wellbeing of students has been received very well. We hope that we can have a lasting impact on the current Consent campaign at Warwick, and get the ball rolling for future campaigners to make a huge shift towards normalising discussions around consent, and reducing the number of sexual violence cases at Warwick as a whole.

In the future, an interesting route that can be taken to gain more support and attention from members of the university could be to host interviews with students and staff. This can be broadcasted online, and shared via viral marketing, in order to encourage more dialogue around this topic. This could be hugely beneficial to individuals who don’t feel comfortable enough to seek help, as it will show others that they are not in this alone.

This project has special relevance to us, as we as women at the University of Warwick feel empowered enough to use our voices in a fight against sexual violence. We know numerous amounts of people who have been subjected to sexual violence and harrassment, so this campaign is for them, and everyone in our community. We’re grateful for the opportunity this project has given us to raise awareness on the importance of consent, and hope to have made a lasting impact.

By Ayesha Tabbal and Zineb Leghnider


Bonomi, A. (2019). Rethinking campus sexual assault: We must be leaders in anti-bias practices, civil rights and human rights. Journal of family violence, 34(3), 185-188.

Burns, D. (2016). Only two UK universities have compulsory consent classes, The Tab's investigation reveals. (2018, August 16). Retrieved March 12, 2020, from

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Cruickshank, P., Edelmann, N., & Smith, C. (2010). Signing an e-petition as a transition from lurking to participation.

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Persuasive Techniques Applied to Dental Advertising

Behaviour Change Techniques to Help Dental Practice Acquire New Patients

Edited: This project is written by Alex Aldridge- u1703902
The Problem

Dentists work hard. We all know that. To become a dentist in the UK requires a rigorous & competitive 5 years in dental school. Dentists then spend their waking hours looking inside people’s mouth, performing risky surgical procedures, as well as having to complete continuing professional development through their career.

It’s even harder to run a private practice. Having to hire staff and keep your customers & landlord happy. Life can be stressful for your average private dentist.

With my project, I hope to alleviate some of these problems for a dentist from my local area, who is a family friend. As a member of the social media age, I was asked to help promote their practice on Facebook by running promotions on Facebook. I immediately thought of how I could utilise the behaviour change techniques I have learnt from this module, to help with this and get more patients into their practice. Hopefully, this will help to alleviate some financial stress from the business.

Although this project lacks the macroscopic aspirations of some of the other projects, I hope this will have a meaningful & positive effect on this dentist’s life. This project will be especially interesting due to the extensive ability to analyse the results & come to conclusions regarding the effectiveness of behaviour change techniques applied to this particular setting.

The other ambition of this project is to help dental practices across the UK to understand how to best market their practice, using proper persuasion techniques. Across the world, the Brits have been given the unfortunate reputation of having terrible teeth. For example, in one episode of the Simpsons, Ralph Wiggum is terrified into brushing his teeth by showing him a horrifying editorial named ‘The Big Book of British Smiles’ featuring Sherlock Holmes and Prince Charles.

Although this reputation is quite undeserved (American children were found to have on average double the number of decayed teeth as British children (OECD, 2008)) there is still work to be done. Only 44.3% of Londoners were found to have visited the dentist in the last 24 months (NHS Digital, 2018.)

These findings applied on a macro scale, could have a positive effect on the adoption of positive dental hygiene. As more people are persuaded to visit dentists & build long term relationships. They could be educated on the importance of visiting the dentist every 6 months as advised & this could have a significant effect on dental hygiene.

The Intervention
My project is set up as a controlled field experiment. It will investigate how the introduction of scarcity into a promotional advertisement for a dentist affects the take-up of the offer. The offer is a 50% off deal on teeth whitening, which is a popular treatment that dentists use to get more patients into the practice and hopefully build a relationship.

The ad will target 25-55 year olds within 5 miles of the practice. Everyone needs a dentist so there is no use of the more advanced Facebook targeting techniques e.g. behavioural interests like hobbies.

To conduct this experiment, we will utilise two advertisements. One control ad that doesn’t include any statements of scarcity, and another that uses a form of demand scarcity, where we are limiting the deal only to the next 5 takers. This statement is included in the first line, ‘above the fold’ to ensure that prospects see it. Other than this statement, the ads will be identical, as shown here:
And here below, I show the ad:

Our biggest offer yet!

Unlike our other plans, with this instant whitening treatment, you will notice the difference straight away as you brighten up the room with your new smile!

“My teeth get complimented ALL the time now. Not only am I extremely happy with the results but the staff couldn’t have been any nicer or more helpful”

With this deal, you will also get a complimentary home whitening kit to maintain your new bright smile for up to 3 years

Click the ‘Get Offer’ button below to fill out your details to get your 50% off.

Cherrytree Dental Care is located at 93 Robin Hood Way, London, SW15 3QE. A short trip from Putney or Kingston

Our professional and welcoming team of trained dentists will make sure you have an amazing experience.

Psychological and persuasion techniques Used in the Project

The Elaboration-Likelihood model put forward by Petty & Cacioppo (1979) suggests that we process information differently, depending on the importance of the issue. They propose two pathways, a central path where systematic processing is used, this is logical & effortful processing of information. This is used for decisions that are large in scale or risky. On the other hand, the peripheral path uses heuristic processing, with the use of shortcuts & simple cues to make decisions. This is used for smaller and less important decision.

It is unclear which pathway prospects would use when deciding whether to respond to this advertisement. Although teeth whitening could be considered an emotional & luxury purchase, they are also quite expensive (over £100.) Taking up the deal is also a show of confidence in the dentist and could result in a long-term relationship with them. Therefore, I assume that prospects are more likely to use systematic processing. Therefore, I made sure to include extensive detail in the ad, stating that ‘Cherrytree Dental Care is located at 93 Robin Hood Way, London, SW15 3QE. A short trip from Putney or Kingston’ & ‘Our professional and welcoming team of trained dentists will make sure you have an amazing experience.’ This elaboration would be more persuasive to the central decision-making pathway. This style of copy is uncommon, where shorter copy is often used to maintain interest & curiosity.

The Yale Attitude Change Approach (Hovland, 1953) states that persuasion is influenced by 3 factors: The source, the message & the audience. I will now identify & analyse the other factors that could make this advertisement persuasive.

Firstly, the source of this ad is clearly credible, as a long-standing dental practice in the target audience’s area. It is possible that the audience wouldn’t have heard of them before, however curious prospects could easily go to their Facebook page & website and prove that this is a credible source.

The role of a dentist comes with much authority as trust is put into expert medical practitioners. People rely on their opinions, without much justification necessary.  Authority is one of Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion.  It was found in Hovland & Weiss(1951) that students who read an article arguing the safety of nuclear submarines, were more likely to agree if the author was well known nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer compared to when the same article was attributed to PRAVDA, a Soviet news agency.

The picture used of the smartly dressed and young women was used to evoke a feeling of similarity within the prospect. This person shown is supposed to represent our target prospect. The happiness of the women might appeal to people who want to be feel similarly and therefore engage with our ad.

It has also been shown that the concreteness of the words we use has been increasing over time (Hills & Adelman, 2015.) I made sure to make my statements as concrete as possible, talking about the prospect’s ‘smile’ and ‘home teeth whitening kit.’ Concrete words are more easily recalled (Miller & Roodenrys, 2009) and was found to be more powerful & easier to understand (Sadoski, 2001.)

Social proof was also utilised to evoke further credibility. This was done by using the real quote from a patient at the clinic, describing her experience with the teeth whitening. I also use the phrase ‘our most popular treatment’ to show that there is high demand for the treatment. According to social monitoring theory, we feel uncomfortable when we think differently from the group in fear of rejection. In fact, in Asch 1955, it was found that many people will publicly reject their held beliefs if confronted by a group that have a different opinion. Therefore, the social proof gives the prospect reassurance that this is a valuable treatment and make the prospect feel more comfortable in taking up the offer.

Another important principle of persuasion, as stated by Cialdini, is consistency. It has been found that the more a prospect sees an ad, the more familiar they become with the business & therefore are more inclined to liking it (Fang, 2007.) This is supported by Peskin & Newell (2002) who found that we favour faces that we are exposed to more frequently. The ad was shown to prospects multiple times by Facebook, as measured by the frequency of the ad (how many times the ad was seen by the average prospect.) There is a balance here to be maintained, between wasting money showing ads to prospects who have not shown interest in the offer previously & building consistency and familiarity. Common advertising practice is to keep the frequency below 2, so that the average prospect may not see the same ad twice.

And finally, we will discuss the subject of this investigation. Scarcity serves a heuristic, where we place value on an item based on how easily we might lose it, especially to competitors. There are two main types of scarcity, quantity & time. I decided to use the quantity variation, where there is a limited amount of the offer. This is to add an extra element of social proof, as prospects could infer that there is high demand for the product. This scarcity was real as we decided to take down the ad if we reached the threshold, to maintain credibility & trust with the practice & their patients.

A meta-analysis by Lynn (1991) showed that the enhancement of value through scarcity was robust, in most studies, even if the effect was small. This effect was particularly pronounced in high price & motivation conditions. This heuristic is supported by Simonson (1992) which found that in a time limited position, prospects will be more likely to prefer higher-priced but well-known brands, over a lesser known, but higher quality brand. This suggests that when given less time for processing, prospects will resort to heuristics and less accurate processing. In his seminal paper, Cialdini (1993) showed anecdotal evidence that car & real estate salesman were successful in using scarcity to motivate potential buyers into accepting a higher price, by suggesting that other prospects were willing to purchase in the upcoming days.

There were several ethical issues to be accounted for with this project. Firstly, it was important to not knowingly waste the dentist’s money by running a control ad that I hypothesised to be less successful. To combat this, I limited the budget for these advertisements to £35 each across seven days. This issue is also diminished by the utilisation of various other persuasive techniques in both ads, as I will discuss. Advertising often utilises tests like this to determine the importance of various factors of an ad. Therefore, this experiment also served to the benefit of the dentist in understanding better the importance of scarcity in their advertisements.

Secondly, it is important to handle personal data correctly. The advertisement prompts prospects to fill out their details in order to be contacted back by the reception team at the practice. This data includes names, email addresses & phone numbers. To handle this issue, this personal data was not seen by me and sent straight to the reception team using automation software, there will also be no use of this data in this report. The relevant metric I will be using to operationalize the effectiveness of each ad is the cost per lead (the average money spent for getting a lead from each ad.) As no third parties (including me) will observe this personal data, we maintain the ethical standards set up by the University Research Ethics Committee, as well as following GDPR standards, especially applied to medical information.

The use of cost per lead could be considered a sub-par metric for an ad, considering that this does not necessarily relate to who goes on to buy treatments. However, with the conversion tracking available to me, this is the best possible solution. Cost per lead is recognised as a worthwhile metric in advertising that heavily relates to spending.

In the table below, I show the results of this field experiment

As we can see, there was a clear difference in cost per lead between the two ads. This suggest that the inclusion of scarcity was highly influential in increasing urgency & the value of the product in the prospect's eyes.

Conclusions & Limitations:

In conclusion, this experiment suggests that scarcity was highly influential in helping the dentist to attract patients into their practice. The use of scarcity seemed to increase the value of the offer in the mind of the prospect, as well as increasing the urgency of the prospect in responding.
These findings have wide-ranging applications, suggesting an effective method for dentists to attract patients.  In further research, it would be interesting to see if this result will hold with a larger sample size as the differences could be due to statistical variance.

This experiment has several reliability  issues. Firstly, the Facebook algorithm is trained to show ads to people who are most likely to respond. Therefore, it is likely that these ads were shown to different prospects with differing levels of motivation. Also, there was a minor difference in frequency, suggesting that more prospects were shown the ad with scarcity, potentially affecting results.

With the resources available, I am satisfied with the reliability & replicability of these results, considering they conform to previous behaviour change theory. Further research into different persuasion techniques and their application in this setting would be interesting and something I would like to see in the future.


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Swipe twice

Warwick Sport: Water Consumption

The Problem

The motion sensor taps in the University of Warwick Sport and Wellness Hub changing rooms run for 
a length of 30 seconds, which ultimately results in wasted water when people leave the taps running 
unattended. Our pre-intervention observations revealed that 90% of people left the water flowing after 
they have finished using the taps. We believe that this wastage is unnecessary and could easily be 
reduced by informing people about the possibility to turn the taps off. 

Why the problem is important

The environmental cost of water wastage

We may not think it but water is a finite resource. Despite the vast seas and oceans, less than 1% of 
that water is fresh and usable for us humans ("Groundwater | Information on Earth's water", 2020). 

The effects of climate change are that more and more ground/surface water is evaporated in the 
atmosphere so less is available for use. Therefore, water scarcity is becoming more and more of an 
important issue as climate change worsens. According to Schewe et al., (2014) Water scarcity 
seriously impacts food and economic security. 

Furthermore, the true scarcity of water is often unknown since global hydrological models often have 
large uncertainties that make prediction highly unreliable (Schewe et al., 2014). Therefore, adopting 
the ‘precautionary principle’ of sustainable development is likely the best course of action 
(Sunstein, 2003). 

We may not think that water is a scarce resource in the UK, but actually, the UK receives less rainfall 
than most assume.  

SES water suggests that “London receives less rainfall than cities such as Rome, Miami, Sydney and 
Barcelona.  If you divide the rainfall per person, we have less than Morocco and Turkey. 
South-east England receives 50% less rainfall than the rest of the UK” 
("Saving water | SES Water", 2020)

Public Health

National Health Service (2019) recommends that people wash their hands for 20 seconds. This length 
of time is relatively consistent with the length of time of water flow from the taps in the changing rooms.
However, people do not necessarily wash their hands for this long and may have alternative uses for 
the water from the taps. Recently, information about coronavirus was installed closeby to the taps. 
Therefore, this was an optimum time to implement our behaviour change project because of the 
heightened attention to hand-washing.

The Target Audience
We chose to target Warwick Sports members, as this population shares gym equipment and are in 
close proximity to others whilst exercising. In particular, we chose the changing rooms on the top floor 
to implement our intervention because the people who use these changing rooms were likely to return 
multiple times.


To analyse our target audience’s current (mis)behaviour we decided to use Susan Mitchie’s COM-B 
model of behavioural analysis.  

C- Capability: This is broken down primarily into physical and psychological. Physically, the act of 
swiping the sensor again is possible for most people. Even those with partial disabilities would likely 
be able to swipe the sensor again using some part of their body. 

However, psychologically there is a deficit in knowledge about how the taps work. This issue arises 
due to what cognitive scientist Don Norman calls a lack of ‘consistency’ in the design of the taps.
Automatic taps have become commonplace for us in modern society and we have an expectation 
about how they work. Typically a tap runs for only a few seconds (8 in the automatic taps in the library).
The typical experience of shorter tap running times is not consistent with the longer running time at 
Warwick Sport. Further inconsistency occurs because the Warwick sport automatic taps have a 
switch-off function that most automatic taps do not. This disparity in expectation of usage vs reality 
violates one of Don Norman's 6 design principles so leads to misguided behaviour (Norman, 2013). 

O-Opportunity: This is broken down into social and physical opportunity. Again physically there 
should be no barriers to performing this simple behaviour. 

Furthermore, socially there is no cultural non-acceptance of those who switch off taps to save water.

M- Motivation: This is broken down into reflective (conscious) and automatic (innate drivers). 
Reflectively, there is a very little emotional barrier to turning off a tap. However, stress may play a 
possible role. For some, the locker rooms can be a stressful place due to social pressure. Additionally, 
people are often keen to get into the gym to workout and therefore rush out of the changing room in 
order to do so. Therefore, these factors may be in slight conflict with taking the extra bit of mental and
physical effort to swipe the sensor again. 

Conversely, people are primed due to the coronavirus to pay more attention to hand washing, therefore 
they could be more likely to be engaging their system 2 thinking during the time they are washing their 
hands. Hopefully, as a result, people were taking more time at the sinks and are therefore more
susceptible to a prompt-based intervention to change their established behaviour.

The automatic driver in conflict is, of course, the learned behaviour from before. As mentioned in 
Capability, the way you expect these taps to work is not actually how they work. Therefore, peoples 
established habit patterns now have to be effortfully overridden. 

Our intervention was designed to work with this analysis of the target audience.

The Intervention

Prior to watching other gym members turn off the motion sensor taps in the Warwick Sport changing 
rooms, we were unaware that this was possible and did not execute this behaviour ourselves. We 
have since adapted our own behaviour and turned the taps off, in particular after washing our faces 
after a workout which does not require much water. Generally, most taps around the 
University of Warwick campus operate by dispensing a fixed quantity of water as opposed to the 
individual being able to control the quantity dispensed. However, we noticed that in Warwick Sport 
changing rooms, the taps seemed to run for particularly longer than most other taps on campus. 
We used a stopwatch to measure the length of time the taps dispense water for, which returned a 
result of 30 seconds. In contrast, the taps on the ground floor of the library run for 8 seconds. 

To determine whether it was worthwhile to try to change this particular behaviour, we asked 16 people 
whether they were aware of swiping their hand across the motion sensor to turn the taps off. 
13 people said they did not know this was possible. The 3 people who were aware of this revealed 
that they had watched other people execute this behaviour and adapted their own behaviour 
accordingly. As a result, we thought that undertaking this particular behaviour was essential to 
increase awareness of the desired behaviour and reduce water wastage.

On the 12th of February 2020, at 5:30 pm we conducted observations of people using the sinks in the 
male and female changing rooms on the top floor of Warwick Sport as we identified this location as 
important to target as it had a large footfall because these changing rooms are adjacent to the gym
and studios. Our initial observation lasted 20 minutes. A total of 36 out of 40 people left the taps 
running after they had finished using them. The remaining 4 people either used the taps for the full 30 
seconds or turned them off. The initial observation was problematic because this suggested that 
people were either not washing their hands for a sufficient length of time, or did not care about wasting 
water. Our observation was consistent with people’s lack of knowledge of the particular behaviour. 

Poster Image preview
We made a poster and placed 4 in male changing rooms and 4 in the female changing rooms next to 
the sinks upstairs. We did this in order to attract the attention of Warwick Sport gym users and inform 
them that the motion sensor taps can be turned off when they are no longer in use, using the same 
method as turning them on. 

Second Observations
After installing the posters, we returned one week later and conducted the second observation at the 
same time as previously. We saw people swipe their hands over the motion sensor to turn the taps 
off after using them. During the 20 minutes, we observed 17 out of 23 people exhibit the desired 
behaviour. Afterwards, we stood outside the changing rooms and approached people and asked them 
whether they had seen our posters and for their feedback. One woman said that she thought it was a 
great idea and since she saw our posters she had been implementing the desired behaviour 
whenever she used the taps.

The Pledge
We informed people about our project and asked people whether they would be interested in signing 
the pledge to turn the taps off when they have finished using them during their future visits to 
Warwick Sport. In total 25 people signed the pledge. It was also very interesting to hear about people’s 

Psychological and Persuasion Techniques

Our intervention was designed using the EAST framework of behaviour change as created by 
David Halpern and the Behavioural Insights Team (The Behavioural Insights Team, 2015). 

The mnemonic stands for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. The themes in EAST provided a useful 
framework for us to design our intervention around. We have broken down our list of psychological 
and persuasion techniques below according to which part of the EAST framework we were targeting. 




The first and perhaps what could have been the most powerful of our interventions was an attempt to 
get WarwickSport to change the default run time on the taps. 

Default changes are one of the most powerful of all ‘Easy’ based interventions because they harness 
the power of ‘decision inertia.’ Decision inertia is when there is ultimately a nondecision by the 
individual. To explain simply, if the target does nothing, what is the outcome? 

This power of this effect was perhaps most famously brought to light in Johnson and Goldstein (2003) 
 in their paper on organ donation rates in different European countries. 
The ‘opt-in’ vs ‘opt-out’ checkbox on the organ donation form was shown to have differences in organ 
donation rates as high as 90+% of the population. 

In the case of water usage, the run time of the taps can also be thought of as a kind of default. 
Since the second swiping of the sensor requires an extra action, the effect of the target 
person ‘doing nothing’ is the water running for the full run time. 

Since our pre-intervention observations revealed that most people seemed to only use the taps for 
about 10 seconds (some less than 2 seconds!), we suggested a reduction in the run time from the 
extraordinarily long 30 seconds to 15. In theory, this would automatically dramatically reduce 
water wastage by a lot without having to induce any active behaviour change.


Image previewSalience - poster

The concept of salience is somewhat poorly defined in the psychological literature but generally, it is 
accepted that salient information is that which is prominent, striking and novel (Senter et al., 2010). 

Designing for salience was at the core of our poster design. The bright yellow colour, bold text and 
simple gesture-based instructions all make for a clear and obvious message about how the taps 

It should be noted that in the design process of the poster, the temptation to crowd the intervention 
with a whole myriad of psychological techniques arose. We considered including some kind of 
social-comparison based information, as well as providing some information about why water 
wastage is an important issue, all on the poster itself.  

However, since a non-salient message is highly unlikely to garner sufficient attention to actually 
elicit behaviour change, the decision to not include them was deliberate. Something as trivial as the 
decision to turn the already automatic tap off is by nature of low personal relevance. Therefore, we 
kept our message saliently simple and appealing to the peripheral (system 1)  methods of persuasion 
as is in line with the central vs peripheral model of persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 2012).

Salience - email
To make our proposal even more salient as an intervention, we attached a digitally created 
visualisation of what the final intervention would look like in the bathrooms in the email. We hoped 
this would subdue any apprehension over possible aesthetic problems.


The power of because

A Cialdini’s classic from Influence, but simply justifying an intention using the word because can elicit 
a ‘click, whirr’ automatic compliance response to the request (Cialdini citation). The idea stems from 
Langers classic Xerox study about making copies (Langer et al., 1978). 

Messenger effects

In our world of too many things trying to overwhelm us with information and not enough attention to 
go around to all of them, how do we decide what to pay our attention to?

One well-documented heuristic we have is that of messenger effects. Specifically, we tried to 
exploit one of Cialdini’s principles, that of authority. In Influence Cialdini writes, 
‘Titles are simultaneously the most difficult and the easiest symbols of authority to acquire’ 
(Cialdini, 1993, p222).

In our email, we tried to raise the authority of our proposal by pointing to Peter’s title within the 
Warwick Behavioural Insights team in order to try and trigger this heuristic compliance response. 

Commitment Contract

Another from Cialdini, Commitment and consistency. This method of behaviour change is 
manifested by manipulating someone’s self-image by asking them to commit to cause in a seemingly 
trivial way. However, this initial commitment manipulates their self-image to be in line with your cause. 
Therefore, future requests are far more likely to be complied with, even ones that require far more 
effort from the target (Cialdini, 1993).

In our attempt to save water in the sports and wellness hub, we wanted to harness this same 
effect through a simple pledge form. 

We obtained 25 signatures from individuals leaving the locker rooms in the sports hub asking 
them to pledge to turn the taps off in the sports hub next time they come. 

We hope the act of signing the pledge will promote water-saving behaviour in the future. 



Finally, we recognised that in order to successfully induce behaviour change, an intervention should 
be timely. ‘Awareness’ campaigns which rely on priming to cause behaviour change often only have 
weak effects on actual real-life behaviour (Rogers et al., 2015). 

Therefore, since our intervention is a prompt that the target individual sees right as they use the taps, 
this is a well-timed intervention. Timing an intervention right as the behaviour is being performed 
should have led to greater behaviour change than a poster placed elsewhere on campus.

The future of the project 

The ultimate goal would be to establish a social norm, with close to 100% of Warwick Sport users
 carrying out the desired behaviour. If possible, we would like to see the unnecessary water wastage 
decrease in the future. Primarily this could be achieved by endeavouring to get Warwick Sport to
 change the default water flow time from 30 seconds to 20 seconds as this is the recommended 
length of time to wash your hands for. If Warwick Sport agrees to this, then obtaining a signature 
would be beneficial to ensure that they are committed to carrying it out. Alternatively, we would like to 
monitor the water consumption before and after the intervention over a longer timescale, such as after
 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year. To ensure Warwick Sport users do not become habituated 
to the poster, we could adapt the posters after a certain length of time and implement data from the 
pilot study to improve behaviour compliance. For example, the poster could use a provincial norm 
such as that used by Goldstein, Cialdini, & Griskevicius (2008) and could read, 
The majority of people who use this bathroom swipe again to turn the taps off when they have 
finished using them”. Alternatively, the poster could use statistics on the percentage of people that 
turn the motion sensor taps off and provide regular weekly feedback using traffic lights colours. 

Overall, we enjoyed completing this project and speaking to people about reducing water usage. 
We think that it was a success because of the positive feedback and observing people change 
their behaviour first hand. We hope that it has the ability to reach lots more people in the future and 
we would endeavour to implement the posters in all of the changing rooms that have motion sensor 
taps in the Sport and Wellness Hub.


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