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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#1 for a reason

 This advert by Toyota uses a technique based on the principles of social proof by stating that ‘Toyota is the #1 choice among consumers’. This technique works because people determine what is correct behaviour by finding out what other people think is correct, and this works best when the proof is provided by the actions of a lot of people (Cialdini, 2009). Therefore, by advertising that it is the number one choice, this can influence the audience to buy it simply because other people are buying it and because everyone else can’t be wrong!

Bandura, Grusec and Menlove (1967) have found empirical results for this effect through an investigation on the effects of modelling. Children who displayed fearful behaviour towards dogs were assigned to one of four conditions. The first condition involved a series of modelling sessions where they observed a fearless peer model interact with a dog in a positive context. In the second condition they observed the same modelling but in a neutral rather than positive context. In the third condition they observed the dog in a positive context but with no model present and in the fourth condition they participated in positive activities without any exposure to either the dog or the modelled displays. The results showed that the 2 groups who had observed the model interact non-anxiously with the dog significantly displayed a stable reduction in avoidance behaviour compared to the other groups meaning that they were able to stroke the dog even when they were left alone in the room. This shows that by merely showing someone else interacting with or using a product, this can influence your own view of the product.

Interestingly, the effects of modelling are also long lasting (Rushton & Campbell, 2006), implying that it changes not just behaviour on face value but also underlying beliefs, hence why this is an effective technique.

Toyota has played well on this technique and the advert is eye-catching containing minimal information suggesting that it will probably be heuristically processed. However, the technique may not be so successful if someone was to systematically process this. I noticed that there is a rather large bias in their survey as it was based on Toyota retail brand sales. This may mean that Toyota is perhaps not the number one choice amongst everyone but clearly at quick glance the social proof technique is likely to come into play.


Bandura, A., Grusec, J. E., & Menlove, F. L. (1967). Vicarious extinction of avoidance behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 16-23.

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence. Science and Practice. London: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

Rushton, J. P., & Campbell, A. C. (2006). Modelling, vicarious reinforcement and extraversion on blood donating in adults: Immediate and long-term effects. European Journal of Social Psychology, 7, 297-306.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. The Bandura work is really interesting.


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