Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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, January 31, 2013

Apparently paying £20 for a pen is a good thing...



This is a classic British ad produced by Parker. The fundamental persuasive mechanism in operation here is demonstrated in the adverts opening line “Our pens have a reputation for being expensive. They are.” Far from attempting to distract consumers from the price of their product, Parker instead acknowledges it as the major inhibitory factor preventing people from buying their pens, and as such makes effective use of the Defusing Objections technique. By recognising a potential objection before making any overt attempts to actually promote the product, it serves to refute the objection before the consumer has a chance to raise it.
Werner, Stoll, Birch, & White (2002) found that recognising the fact that recycling is inconvenient (a common excuse used by many) but then asking students to do it anyway because it is important, led to a long-term increase in recycling behaviour compared to students who were simply asked to try and recycle more. Acknowledging an individuals criticisms serves to validate them, and as demonstrated by this study this validation facilitated increased message scrutiny (this is therefore the central route of Petty and Cacioppo’s Elaboration-Likelihood model) and as such led to a long-term behavioural change. However, it is important to recognise that this technique will only work effectively if the argument presented after the objection has been defused is perceived as reliable and convincing. In this case, given that the message ‘recycling is important’ is socially well-established and therefore credible, it follows that students showed clear changes in attitude which were then reflected in their behaviour.
Parker utilises this technique well; by justifying their high prices through the promise that they will continue to “look after” the product even after they have sold it, they lead the reader to consider that maybe paying £19.80 for a pen is not stupid or extortionate, but actually just makes good sense.

Werner, C. M., Stoll, R., Birch, P., & White, P. H. (2002). Clinical validation and cognitive elaboration: Signs that encourage sustained recycling. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 24, 185-203.

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