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.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Meth: Not Even Once
This is an advert from the ‘Montana Meth Project’, which aimed to prevent youths from using meth in the mid-2000s.
The advert exploits meth’s dire consequences to invoke fear in the audience. Here, meth is shown to lead to personal danger by making the user willing to have sex with a stranger for $15. In the scientific literature, fear is a reliable tool for generating attitude change. For instance, Janis and Feshbach (1953) demonstrated that when educated about dental health, participants that received a statement with a vivid description of tooth decay later engaged in more dental hygiene practices than participants who received a dull, control message.
Despite utilising the fear technique, the advertising campaign was largely ineffective. In actuality, it may have made meth seem less risky to youths. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘reactance’, where people rebel against an obvious attempt to control them; in this case, youths dealt with the threatening adverts by telling themselves that meth is not really so bad (Erceg-Hurn, 2008). The campaign’s failure was demonstrated statistically: Erceg-Hurn found that the percentage of teens that saw no risk from using meth once or twice rose from 3% before the campaign's introduction, to 8% six months later.
Erceg-Hurn, D. M. (2008). Drugs, money, and graphic ads: A critical review of the Montana Meth Project. Prevention Science, 9, 256-263.
Janis, I. L., & Feshbach, S. (1953). Effects of fear-arousing communications. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 48, 78.