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.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why you should read The Economist



This ad is a perfect example of use of the inverted consequences template (Goldenberg, Mazursky, & Solomon, 1999). Here, The Economist, an international current affairs magazine which prides itself on its ability to “expand readers’ minds” implies that not reading their publication could potentially have dire consequences for an individual. The advert rather humorously makes the suggestion that the fact that the speaker does not read The Economist has left them with dismal prospects and it is for this reason that he is still a trainee at age 42. While the outlandish nature of this claim is clear, it nevertheless makes the reader stop and question whether they actually could be missing out on something by not reading the magazine.

The effectiveness of this technique is reinforced by the fact that people are more motivated to avoid losses than they are to make gains. Meyerowitz and Chaiken (1987) successfully demonstrated this phenomenon by showing that women who read leaflets emphasising the negative consequences of not performing a breast self-examination were more likely to later follow the advice compared to those reading messages about the positive consequences of examinations. As such, it is clear that issues framed in terms of losses as opposed to gains generate motivation to avoid potential losses.


Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

Meyerowitz, B. A., & Chaiken, S. (1987). The effect of message framing on breast self-examination attitudes, intentions and behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 500-510.

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