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.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Sopranos: HBO 2011

This is a 2011 advert for HBO’s show The Sopranos.

Known to be focussed around the life of violence and crime led by mobster Tony Soprano, the ad effectively uses a familiar concept from the show in an unexpected setting. By introducing a human arm hanging out of the boot of a yellow taxi cab, it draws the one’s attention as a result of its use of the shock-factor. The image uses the ‘vivid appeals’ tactic, as it is an image which is “(a) emotionally interesting, (b) concrete and image-provoking, and (c) immediate.” (Pg.46, Pratkanis.)

The ad’s sinister innuendoes add to its appeal; members of the public would not expect to see such a graphic sight in the middle of the street and hence the advert’s unique nature invites a second glance.  Such an alarming sight- a supposed dead body clumsily stored in the back of a cab- would subconsciously elicit the evolutionarily-hardwired ‘fight-or-flight’ response resulting in an increased state of arousal.

Sherer and Rogers predicted that vivid information would be more persuasive than pallid information, and found that the impact of information of high emotional interest was enhanced with the passage of time, and would thus be remembered more in the long run.
They conducted a test with 80 students- all of whom drank alcohol on a regular basis. Participants were told that the purpose of the study was to refine materials on alcohol use before being published in pamphlet form. When all subjects had completed their communications and questionnaires, they were instructed to return in 48 h for a second part of the study.
In the high emotions participant condition, participants were told that (a) drinkers surveyed were individuals very much like them and (b) that these problem drinkers were very upset by the consequences of their alcohol use. In the low emotional interest condition, subjects were told (a) that the problem drinkers were very different from them and (b) that they were not at all upset by the consequences of their alcohol use. It should be noted that, except for the manipulations, the informational content was held constant across all conditions (e.g., same factual information about alcohol, same problems described).

 They found that the high-emotional interest manipulation displayed higher ratings than lower- emotional interest manipulation, thus reaffirming that vivid information is more persuasive.


-          Rogers, Mark Sherer and Ronald W. "The Role of Vivid Information in Fear Appeals and Attitude Change." Journal of Research in Personality (1984): 321-334.


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