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.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?

This is a well-known World War 1 conscription poster with the slogan “Daddy, what did YOU do in the great war?” The advert depicts a normal family setting in which the daughter, who you presume to be the source of the question, looks straight at her Dad. The Dad then stares into the distance, right into the eyes of the viewer.  In order to avoid this question being asked the advert offers relief; sign up and join the war effort. The poster plays on guilt, anxiety and also appeals to patriotism. It is simple yet effective, with one of the key features relating to the concept of self. The audience is able to identify with the father as a negative future self.

One particular persuasive technique used in this advert is associative casting and avoidant miscasting; the viewer does not want to be associated with undesirables. In this case the undesirable is the father. People want to associate themselves with successful, likeable people and detach themselves from unsuccessful, unpopular people. This was demonstrated in a study by Boen et al. (2002) in which observers surveyed three urban regions in Belgium two days before elections. These observers took note of houses that displayed at least 1 poster or 1 removable lawn sign supporting a political party. The day after the elections, the observers checked whether the registered houses still displayed their poster or lawn sign. The houses that showed support for the winning candidate displayed their poster and lawn sign for a longer period after the elections than those who supported the loser. Therefore there was a tendency for individuals to display their association with a successful source and to conceal one’s association with a defeated party. 


Boen, F., Vanbeselaere, N., Pandelaere, M., Dewitte, S., Duriez, B., Snauwaert, B., Feys, J., Dierckx, V., & Van Avermaet, E. (2002). Politics and Basking-in-Reflected-Glory: A Field Study in Flanders. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 24, 205-214.

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