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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Everyone is doing it

This is an advert for the new Call of Duty videogame.  In addition to using sexual innuendo – “doing it” is of course a reference to sex - it uses the social consensus (or, bandwagon) technique, highlighting that “everyone is doing it.” People are more likely to accept something if it appears commonplace within society. 

Illustrating this technique, Milgram, Bickman and Berkowitz (1969), having placed confederates who were looking up, found that passersby would follow suit.  Incidentally, with each additional confederate looking up, conformity rates increased (at a lower rate with each additional confederate, but increased nonetheless). Their findings suggest that we are quick to act in similar ways to those around us, and that social cues can shape our behaviour.

Therefore, claiming that many people are doing something can be an effective persuasive tool. But, the use of hyperbole, highlighting that “everybody” is doing something (as this advertisement does) suggests an enormous body (essentially every single person) is engaged in an activity. Thus, it is a device that ultimately provides social guidance on what one should do.  Pratkanis (p.38, 2002) exemplifies this notion in his phrase “If other people are doing it, it must be correct.”

Finally, having mentioned a global statistic and the varying ways in which people are doing it, this advertisement also states an explicit conclusion: “so it’s safe to say that everyone is doing it.” Hovland and Mandell (1952) found that in a persuasive message about currency devaluation, stating an explicit conclusion at the end led to more agreement with the message.


Hovland, C. I., & Mandell, W. (1952). An experimental comparison of conclusion drawing by the communicator and by the audience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 4, 581-588.

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of difference size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82. 

Pratkanis, A. R. (2012).  The Science of Social influence: Advances and Future ProgressNew York, NY: Psychology Press.

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