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

This printed campaign by the NHS uses the persuasive tactics of empathy, guilt and to an extent, it could be argued it adopts the tact altercast technique.
The font, designed to mimic the aesthetic qualities of childrens writing, and the message it depicts immediately evokes a feeling of empathy.The content of the message ensures the audience is explicity aware of the feelings and thoughts of another person, which evokes an empathic response, especially because of the infantile nature of the font. Because there is no photo of a child, the advert leads parents who smoke to almoat imagine that it could be their child with those concerns. This empathic message, paired with the addition of the statistics at the bottom  makes for a very forceful message. 

As afrorementioned, the piece may make parents who smoke feel guilty that their child could potentially have such concerns too. Guilt is an effective persuasive technique; Carlsmith and Gross (1969) showed that students who felt guilty were more likely to agree to perform a pro social action afterwards. They made students believe that they had given a series of electric shocks to another person as part of a learning experiment (similar to Milgram's method). Afterwards, those students who believed they had administered the shocks were more likely to show compliance and perform a pro social action when asked by the person they thought they had shocked, and also by someone who knew nothing about the shocks. The explanation here is that the students wanted to restore their self image to its positive state.

Another technique used in this advert is the tact altercast. Because the advert adopts a child's viewpoint, it almost puts the audience in the role of a protector.  Pratkanis and Gliner (2005) found that children have an advantage when persuading people on messages with a protective theme. Here, the NHS are adopting a childs viewpoint in order to portray this social role to the target, and thus placing the target in a complementary role (to try and protect the child from the perceived evil- smoking).

Pratkanis, A.R., & Gliner, M.D. (2004-2005). And when shall a little child lead them? Evidence for an altercasting theory of source credibility. Current Psychology, 23, 279-304.

Carlsmith, J.M., & Gross, A.E. (1969). Some effects of guilt on compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11, 232- 239.

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