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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

#5 Achilles and the Myrmidons

This is a scene from the 2004 film Troy in which Achilles motivates and persuades his soldiers to defend the honour of Greece.

Firstly, he uses the pronoun 'we' to include himself amongst his soldiers even though he is their leader. Using 'we' has been found to bring the speaker closer to the audience and therefore increase the speaker's credibility and how engaging they are to the audience (Fuertes-Olivera et al., 2001).

Secondly, he uses a metaphor to describe himself and his warriors as 'lions'. Bowers & Osborn (1966) conducted a study to explore whether metaphors are more effective in persuasive messages at changing attitudes than literal speech. They used persuasive speeches as stimulus materials and participants heard two speeches, one containg metaphors and one completely literal. They were then tested on their attitude change towards each of the speeches as well as describing which one they favored more. The researchers found that participants the metaphorical speech brought about more attitude change (in the direction suggested by the speech) than the literal speech. Participants also favored the metaphorical speech more.

Finally, he calls his warriors 'brothers of sword'. This speaker technique of liking the audience to yourself is the similarity altercast. This allows the audience to positively identify with the speaker thus increasing the speaker's credibility in the eyes of the audience (Hecht, 1984).

Bowers, J., & Osborn, M. (1966). Attitudinal effects of selected types of concluding metaphors in persuasive speeches. Speech Monographs, 33, 147-155.

Fuertes-Olivera, P., Velasco-Sacristán, M., Arribas-Baño, A., & Samaniego-Fernández, E. (2001). Persuasion and advertising in English: Metadiscourse in slogans and headlines. Journal of Pragmatics, 33, 1291-1307.

Hecht, M. (1984). Persuasive efficacy: A study of the relationships among type and degree of change,

Mermidons , My brothers of sword , I would rather fight beside u than the army of thousands Let no Men forget How menacing we are , WE are Lions , U know whats their Waiting Beyond that beach , Immortality take it , ITS YOURS :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another interesting example of Pictorial analogy template :)

Do not sleep when you drive.

Friday, March 22, 2013

North Korea- brainwashing and torture

This is the story of a woman escaping North Korea from brainwashing and torture. Found it informative for Lecture 5, the one on brainwashing. Really short as well, which is a bonus :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Here the shop is offering the customer not only an xbox 360 but also a game, all for one price, this is an example of product bundling. Product bundling is a marketing strategy that involves offering several products for sale as one combined product. Bundling offers benefits to the customer and the business.

Business benefits:

When effective, a product bundling strategy can significantly increase profits on individual sales and over time. Selling multiple products or components in one package means a greater initial return on the costs of acquiring a customer. Some companies use bundling as a way to package less popular products with hot selling items. You can also create longer-term opportunities for add-on sales when you get multiple products in a customer's hands.
Customer benefits:
Customers often prefer to achieve a cluster of satisfactions through one purchase. People buy products to solve problems or address needs. If a customer has multiple needs and your product bundle addresses most or all of them, this is convenient for the customer. They can make one stop instead of multiple stops. Additionally, customers often experience economies of scale when buying a bundle of products. If they have a need for the individual components in the bundle, they typically understand that the total price is lower when the products are purchased as a bundle.

In an study done by Burger (1986) using 426 participants, one of the seven experiments looked at whether by offering the participant one deal, then later offering them a better deal, in this case by adding an extra product, increased sales. He found that by offering an extra product he was effective at convincing the participants to agree to the offer.

BURGER, J.M., 1986. Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 51(2), pp. 277-283.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Now we can all look like a Victoria’s Secret Model.
It’s getting to that time of year again, after Easter, when everyone starts their summer ‘diet plan’. Like a New Year’s resolution, there’s a surge of exercise DVDs to help us get that summer body we’ve always dreamed of and best of all, we can achieve it in just a few weeks by following said DVD exercise plan. But how do these DVDs sell so well, when we could just take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the shops rather than drive and eat our 5 a day?
Many celebrities have started producing exercise DVDs such as The Pussycat Dolls, Martine McCutcheon, and even now the Victoria’s Secret DVD. Many persuasive techniques can be seen in these DVDs to encourage us to buy them, and let’s be honest, probably never use them.
Firstly, the high status- admirer altercast, and the physically attractive-admirer altercast are both used. These work with particular reference to exercise DVDs as people who buy them are conscious of their appearance. The high status-admirer altercast works because people tend to admire celebrities and have a desire to be like them. Weick, Gilfillan and Keith (1793) found that orchestras made fewer mistakes when the music was attributed to a high status composer.
Flattery is also a major part of exercise DVDs. Throughout the ‘workout’ the instructor tells you how well you’re doing, and pushes you to do just ‘one more set of crunches’. Hendrick et al (1972) found that flattery increased compliance with a request to complete a 7 page questionnaire, compared to control condition. Throughout the DVD you’re constantly encouraged by the idea that at the end of this you’ll end up looking like a Victoria’s Secret model, unfortunately, most of us probably won’t stick it out long enough to see it if works.

posted by Charlotte Hoyland 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sneaky WBS

Warwick Business School applies techniques to artificially improve the feedback on one of its core modules. The mandatory module ‘Critical Issues in Management’ requires students to write a ‘Learning Diary’ about the course, describing what they have learned and how the course has contributed to their personal development. Even though it is not illegal to state criticism (as a matter of fact the module outline left specific leeway to do so), a strong incentive was created to give positive notes since the assignment is graded and counts towards our final grade for the course.

The findings of Festinger & Carlsmith (1959) suggest that students on average would rate the course better due to the required assignment. In their famous experiment the researchers designed a rather dull and boring task for participants to undertake. In the control condition, participants were not told to report about the task to someone, i.e. participants filled out the questions on the interview without interference. In the One Dollar condition, participants were given one dollar to report to a waiting subject that the tasks were interesting, enjoyable, and lots of fun. In the Twenty Dollar condition, subjects were asked to do the same thing at the higher compensation. The table below outlines the result of the three conditions:

Given that students of the aforementioned module in WBS were implicitly asked to report positively upon their experience (i.e. weak condition), the effect may be similar as in the Festinger & Carlsmith (1959) study. Students face the challenge to reduce internal dissonance. The implicit pressure to report positively may be describe as weak, since negatives are allowed but may be rewarded lower. Students may thus reduce dissonance through perceiving their liking of the module to be higher. Consistently with the seminal experimental investigation, if coercion was strong (negative evaluation is strictly punished), reported liking of the module may have been lower.

Conclusion: WBS manipulates its students (deliberately or not).

Festinger, L., Carlsmith, J.M., 1959. Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, Vol. 58, pg. 203-210.

Argo: Negotiation example

 Watch from minute: 0.30

When watching Argo this week, I encountered this moment of the movie, which it is a clear example of a negotiation.
In this scene, Less (a producer) is interested on buying the copyrights of the script of Argo from the writer, Max.
 Dobrijevic, Stanisic and Masic (2011) investigated the different sources of power use in negotiations and the most useful for each context. In this case, the context is centered on Less’s needs to buy the script. He is the interested on getting the copyrights. Dobrijevic, Stanisic and Masic (2011) found out that in negotiations where you are the interested on something the other party posses, the most useful sources of power would be: need, credibility and knowledge/information.
At the beginning of the scene it is mentioned that Less wants to run all the production and marketing in 1 month (which tells Max how much they want it and how fast they want to carry it out). Less offers 15 thousand dollars for the script at first, but Max makes clear his position and highlights how the big producer MGM is “screaming for Sci-Fi” and so they are offering him 4 times more.
Less could have increased the amount of money offered as He is in a hurry to have the script copyrights but instead of that He uses knowledge/information power he personally has about the real interests of MGM, making clear to Max that his script is not as worthy as he thinks and makes a last offer of buying it by 10 thousand pounds.
In this situation, the three factors highlighted by Dobrijevic, Stanisic and Masic(2011) are present.
Need: it is commented by the authors of the research that this category of power is related to which side needs the negotiation more. At the beginning of the scene, it looks like Less really cares about the script but he persuades Max to sell it as no one is interesting on it and pointing out the small value of it in the market at the moment.
Credibility: This power is associated to the Materials that proof your former successful work. Max mentions, against his own interests, the success of the previous work Less was involved in.
Knowledge/Information: Less uses this power as final determinant. He makes clear how he knows from first hand that the other producer company that Max mentioned was not interested at all on his script.
All this factors contributed in this conversation to the negotiation. This way, Less got the script for less amount of money than his first offer.


Dobrijevic, G., Stanisic, M., Masic, B. (2011). Sources of negotiation power: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Management. Vol 42 (2). 35-41

Online outlet shops

There are various internet shopping platforms out there nowadays targeting at different groups of customers (high end luxurious goods, cheap affordable fashion wear). Outlet sites like 'BrandAlley' aims to manipulate consumers' smart shopper feeling of finding a good deal (Shimp & Kavas, 1984). For example, when browsing through the list of items, consumers not only can choose to browse items by increasing price, they can also choose to view items by discount rate. Findings by Schindler (1989) supported that shoppers satisfaction increase according to the discount they can get.

Besides, 'BrandAlley' operates under a membership system, which is free. However, as internet users can only see its content after they registered membership, it inevidently creates a special feeling of exclusive discounts for its users. In particular, they also offer private pre-sale for members who liked their Facebook page. Baron & Roy (2010) found that exclusive deals are favoured over inclusive offers.

Another tactic to lure customers to spend more especially on online purchases is the free delivery offer when purchase was up to a certain limit. This tactic is useful under the explanation of loss aversion (Kahneman & Tversky,1979), especially when individuals tend to avoid losses of 'delivery cost' and decide to buy an extra item to meet the free delivery threshold. 


Barone, M.J. & Roy, T. (2010). Does exclusivity always pay off? Exclusive price promotions and consumer response. Journal of Marketing, 75, 2, 121-132.

Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

Schindler, R.M. (1988). The role of ego-expressive factors in the consumer's satisfaction with price. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining behavior, 1, 34-39.

Shimp, T.A. & Kavas, A. (1984). The theory of reasoned action applied to coupon usage. Journal of Consumer research, 11, 795-809.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Take It As a Free Gift From Us

The following conversation is one I had a few weeks ago when I was on the market to buy a new cellphone. I visited a Vodaphone store because I knew I was interested in that carrier but I wasn't sure what plan I wanted or what features I would need. I walked into the phone store and was immediately greeted by someone. I was asked if I had needed help or assistance today. I let the man know I would approach him if I had any questions. I spent a few minutes looking a the phones in my price range then let a customer service representative know that I was interested in purchasing a phone but I knew not too much about the phone plans in the UK. This is the closest estimate I can get to our conversation;

Customer Service: How can I help you today?
Me: I’m interested in opening a new account. I know I can't get a monthly plan since I’m only here for 6 months, but I’d like a pay as you go plan.
Customer Service: Okay, we have these phones available for our pay as you go plans. You just pick a phone, I’ll help you choose a plan, and you can activate it today. And here at Vodaphone, we offer a free SIM card when you buy a phone with us.
Me: Uumm okay. Does it matter which phone I get for the free SIM?
Customer Service: No, any phone you buy today will get you a free SIM. Let me tell you about our pay as you go plans. We have plans that focus on the amount of minutes you have, text messages or data. You can also get a combination plan, that gives you a little bit of each. What are you most concerned with having in your plan?
Me: Well I mostly text and I can't imagine making too many calls...
Customer Service: Okay, I recommend for you this plan that gives you 300 texts per top up. Also when you top up for your texting plan, Vodaphone will give you 100 free minutes to use in the UK. And if you top up 10 pounds you will get 50 MB of data to use.  
Me: Oh, okay. Well I don’t really need the data or minutes actually.
Customer Service: That’s fine, it’ a free gift from us. Also today, if you buy this phone, you can get a free 30 pound top up.
Me: Well, I don't think I need a phone that nice.
Customer Service: Yes, but with this phone you can browse the internet, have access to all the apps in Google play, and Vodaphone is known for free Top Ups that offer extra data, minutes and texts.
Me: Well, I think I just want a simple phone, I don’t really use it that often. I’ll just take this one, and top up 10 pounds to start.
Customer Service: Okay, would you like me to set this up for you now for free?
Me: Sure, thank you.
Customer Service: Okay, let me just get this all ready for you to use.
Customer Service: Okay, it’s all set up. With your 10 pound top up today, you will receive a text with a free offer for two days of unlimited data. Also, next time you top up 15 pounds, you will get a free top up offer via text message.

This salesmen used the that’s not all technique when offering me a cell phone plans. While the offers I realized later were available to me the entire time, he took advantage of the fact that I did not know about them to make them sound like they were somehow free special extras. Even though I showed interest in buying a phone that day, he made sure keep me interested by slowly revealing all the free extras.

An experiment done by Burger incorporated the that’s not all technique. The study used 426 participants that ranged from teens, undergraduates, and adults. A total of 7 experiments were run, where a product was offered for a high price, the salesman did not allow the participant to speak for a few seconds after the offer, then the salesman offers a better deal by doing one of two things; adding an extra product or lowering the price.

Experiment 1 and 2 found that offering an extra product or lowering the price was effective in having participants agree to the offer rather than giving the better deal initially. Experiment 3 and 4 showed that the results from experiment 1 and 2 may have happened because of the norm of reciprocity. Subjects felt as if they needed to respond positively to the deal that was being presented to them from someone who owed them nothing. Experiment 5 resulted in the researchers discovering that subjects may show more compliance because of the comparison they are making in their mind between the former price and the new better offer. Experiment 6 illustrated that the deal being effective cannot be fully credited to the the subjects receiving a lower price. This could be true because we as a society know that products prices are marked up high amounts to make a profit. Experiment 7 look at the differences of the effectiveness of the that’s not all technique and door in the face technique. What the researchers found was that the that’s not all technique is overall more effective.

BURGER, J.M., 1986. Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 51(2), pp. 277-283.

Success Kid

Success kid is one of many well known meme , along with 'over-attached girlfriend', 'philosoraptor', 'good-guy greg' and 'tard the cat' these represent a set of memes that are based on the replication of an image of a person with super imposed writing. In Success kids case the memes are based on the idea of doing something and getting a surprisingly good outcomes. The internet sensation of success kid was quite notable within the context of memes which have their image reused and its recognisability to people who enjoy memes is profound.
The Bait-and-Switch technique is utilised here by the drawing the attention of meme likers with the promise of potential hilarity and entertainement come to be expected by those who brose image sharing websites that include these well known memes but after their attention is engaged it switched the attention of these unsuspecting meme thrill seeking individuals to the matter of HD channel services. all of you i am sure will agree this is a cheap and cruel trick, and potentially more infuriatingly the meme is misused, giving success kid a name 'tim' and saying his parents have just paid no money for extra HD services. It does not comform to the use of this meme which is always in the first person and usually looks like this :

A study by Joule, Gouilloux, and Weber in 1989 showcased a tactic that they called "the lure" which resembles very closely what is often called within sales terminology the bait-and-switch. In their study participants volunteered to partake in an enticing and exciting task (involving a study on film clips). The desirable task was then switched with an undesirable and boring task where they were asked to memorize a set of words from a list. people who had been engaged to this task through the bait-and-switch where three times more likely to proceed with the boring experiment than a control group. 
within this scenario I believe the bait to be the expectation of fun and entertainment when one perceives stimuli associated to memes. the switch is made when one realises that it is just in fact an advertisement for virgin media. And it is not funny. 

In this manner one could also say that this advert utilises message fit: Link the content of a message to the pre-existing Beliefs, Experiences and knowledge of the recipient. Virgin are using a well known meme . The term meme in itself was coined by Richard Dawkins as the term for a social gene or better put "an idea, behaviour or style that runs from person to person within a culture" (Dawkins, 1989). on the internet memes are concepts that run from person to person via the web and the reason that these images share in the term meme is due to the way in which each meme represents a common human experience. Internet memes are usually entertaining and by and large usually witty. I think they represent something quite beautiful in that they allow people from around the world to laugh at and rejoice in shared experience. They also allow creative expression and communication in small contributions to be more far reaching. 

Using memes for corporate advertising is not a technique exclusively used by virgin, many companies are starting to comprehend the idea that memes can be utilised to their advantage as they are already well established within the cultural conscious. 

Dawkins, R., (1989). The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press: Oxford.  

Joule, R. V., Gouilloux, F., & Weber, F. (1989). The lure: A new compliance procedure. Journal of social Psychology, 128, 741-749.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Persuasively communicating about a disaster: It's a trap.

On the 20th of April 2010, BP committed the largest accidental oil spill in history, killing 11 workers and the Gulf of Mexico wildlife by spilling more than 4.9 millon barrels in 87 days. 

How can a company ever communicate about such a disaster?

Something feels wrong
This extract consists of a very strict selection of information and favourable changes of meanings. There is a strong sense of artificiality in this interview: information seems to be kept secret and that embarrassment/incompetence seems to be the only justification of censorship. This may lead to a desire for more information to see 'the full image'. 

It is arguable that BP is not in position to provide a two-sided message because of the extent of the disaster. But would that have actually improved the communication with the audience?

Two-sided messages v.s. One-sided messages in the media
De Vreese and Boomgaarden (2006) conducted a study on the effect of one or two sided media coverage of a Summit about EU enlargement. Survey data was collected 3 weeks before and immediately after the Summit. Participants' behaviour differed according to their political sophistication, defined by the authors as "a combined measure of factual political knowledge and political interest". The results show that a two-sided media coverage is ineffective, no matter how politically sophisticated are the subjects. However, a one-sided media coverage mattered for less politically sophisticated subjects (Table 1).

Table 1: Impact of Message Flow and Interpersonal Communication on Change in Public Opinion (Source: de Vreese and Boomgaarden, 2006)

The authors explain this phenomenon with the hypothesis that "mixed cues are likely to cancel each other out, whereas a consistent and pervasive directional news bias may shift public opinion".

BP's communication makes the best out of the worst. 

De Vreese, C. H., & Boomgaarden, H. G. (2006). Media Message Flows and Interpersonal Communication The Conditional Nature of Effects on Public Opinion. Communication Research, 33(1), 19-37.

#4: All men love to feel gifted.

Now, I'm not an expert on model ships inside bottles, but i think this is a very clever use of the imagination. Now, as I'm sure most people know, model ships are a pain in the backside, as they are generally assembled using long implements inside the bottle itself. Here, the obviously implication is that it has been squeezed inside without any damage whatsoever. It tells the looker "hey, look how easy we got this Large thing through a small gap!" I need say no more.

This is a good use of at least two of the Fundamental principles of high quality ads, as outlined by  Goldenberg and Mazursky (1999): these being the extreme consequences (fitting the ship into the bottle) and the Uncommon use (using lubrication from Durex for squeezing the bottle into the ship to begin with)

A pioneering study by cook and colleagues (2011) looked at electroencephalography (EEG) evidence for activation within the brain for these types of non-rational imagery (NR) as opposed to advertisements with more logical based (LB) approach (such as including actual facts or figures on the use or qualities of the product in question). 11 women and 13 men viewed 24 real life advertisements (12 of each type)  for 20 seconds each, and brain activity was recorded using  EEG. Significantly higher stimulation was found in regions of the brain for LB adverts, such as the orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate, amygdala, and hippocampus. Although this was not investigated in terms of the effectiveness of the persuasive message, it is a solid step into discerning what the differences between the two advertising methods do to our brains, and shows potential to be built upon to compare overall effectiveness in different situations.


COOK, I.A., WARREN, C., PAJOT, S.K., SCHAIRER, D. and LEUCHTER, A.F., (2011). Regional brain activation with advertising images. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 4(3), pp. 147-160.
Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D. et al. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 333-351.

I'll just pop that behind the till

I find one of the most persuasive sales pitches are the people who work behind makeup counters in department stores. I will present the techniques used and how it fits into  Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence.

 Firstly they are usually very attractive, which fits into the principle of liking. In an experiment by Puckett et al participants rated younger, more attractive people’s essays as more persuasive. (1983). Attractiveness is particularly resonant as the products they are attempting to sell are made to enhance your appearance. One thinks, “If I use the same products as she does, maybe I will look as good as her.” In this sense, they act as social role models.

 Secondly, they will ask you what it is you are looking for and offer to apply it for you. This involves making a physical commitment by sitting down as well as committing your time. You don’t want to feel you have wasted your own time, or the promoter’s time, making you more likely to buy the product. You want to feel like you have achieved something for the time you have spent, making you evaluate the product more positively. Kruglanski, Friedman and Zeevi found that participants who not given an incentive for a task reported the task as more enjoyable compared to those who did receive an incentive (1971). This suggests that people want to feel the time they have spent has been worthwhile, rating a task (or product) as enjoyable in itself when they didn’t receive an alternative incentive. This fits into Cialdini’s principle of commitment.

 The promotions workers appear to be very well informed with the products, persuading you that this is the best product out there for you. This fits into Cialdini’s principle of authority, using
source credibility as a persuasive device. In addition, they will not only use the product you have shown interest in, but others as well, claiming that these additional items make the effect of the initial product even better. You may think, “I don’t want to spend money on all these things, so I will just buy the first one”. This feels like a compromise, as if you are saving yourself money. In addition, it is easier to say that you will buy one item rather than not buying any of them.

Makeup promoters provide a service much like hairdressers, where they pamper and compliment you. This makes you feel good about yourself, and consequently good about the product. This can be said to fit into Cialdini’s principle of liking. They develop a kind of rapport with you, in which you feel saying no would disappoint them in some way. This is enhanced the more they appear to do to help you, fitting into the principle of reciprocity.

Finally, they use phrases such as “let me just get that for you”, “I’ll get you one in a box” or “I’ll pop that behind the till for you.” These phrases commit you to the product, also fitting into the principle of commitment.


Kruglanski, A. W., Friedman, I. and Zeevi, G. (1971), The effects of extrinsic incentive on some qualitative aspects of task performance. Journal of Personality, 39: 606–617.

Puckett, J., Petty, R.E., Cacioppo, J.T., & Fischer, D.L. (1983). The Relative Impact of Age and Attractiveness Stereotypes on Persuasion.  Journal of Gerontology 38: 340-343.

Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Collins.

# 3: Bowater didn't float like a Butterfly Mr Ali.

This was something that particularly infuriated me during the Warwick SU elections. Here, Presidential Candidate "Muhammad Ali" is clearly trying to use the momentum of The "joke" candidate Aaron Bowater to further his electoral campaign, by making a video response to one of Bowaters Videos, where he jests about Coventry University having a uranium enrichment program.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, although he has the right idea of using the popularity of someone who is arguably a celebrity (Relatively speaking, as Bowater had previously come second in the presidential elections the year before, and ended up finishing second in the 2013 elections). However, I feel that this would have negatively affected his campaign, as although he may gain some publicity through the association, He has neglected the "match up Hypothesis", whereby there needs to be a fit between the endorsement (or association) and the brand name (in this case the presidential campaign).

Instead of using Bowater as an endorsement, he should have played heavier upon what seemed to be his initial campaign plan: The legendary boxer Mohammad Ali. I had seen his a few times around the students union wearing boxing gloves, but this was a rare occasion. This would have ensured that the transferred attributes would have been that of a very successful, charismatic athlete rather than a presidential joke.

Till and Busler (2000) looked into the effects of the expertise of the  celebrity endorsement, as much of the previous research had focused solely on physical attractiveness. In the second part to their study, experimenters. Here, they used both actors and athletes to market candy bars and energy bars (giving a 2x2 study). As expected, they found a positive effect of expertise (actor/athlete) on the product being marketed, in that the athelete was more effective at marketing the energy bar, and was more likely to be believed when commenting on the properties of the energy bar, such as its ability to provide more energy.

In short, although Mr. Ali may have received a signal boost from latching onto the campaign of a fellow competitor, I feel that he would have been much better off sticking with his own image endorsement.

Till, B. D. & Busler, M. (2000). The Match-up Hypothesis: Physical Attractiveness, Expertise, and the Role of Fit on Brand Attitude, Purchase Intent and Brand Beliefs Journal of Advertising. 29(3), pp. 1-13

#5: Barack Obama’s pledge to vote technique

President Barack Obama of the United States is well known for his powerful and effective speeches and campaigns and in fact used his personal Consortium of Behavioural Scientists (CORBS) to help create scripts for his 2012 campaign. This CORBS included Dr Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. Cialdini’s six key principles of influence are of course reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity (Cialdini, 2001). Since Obama tends to draw on such a multitude of persuasive techniques, I will attempt to home in a single one of Cialdini’s principles; commitment.

During Obama’s 2012 campaign, volunteers asked potential voters if they would sign a commitment to vote card with the president’s picture on it. Obama also has a section on his website called ‘Commit To Vote’ ( These are informal and voluntary agreements, but the fact that the would-be voter has already made a commitment to vote increases the likelihood that they will follow through. There was even an email sent out featuring film star Jessica Alba asking voters to put their hands over their hearts and pledge their vote to Obama. These techniques work so well because people prefer to follow pre-existing attitudes, values and actions and to remain consistent with their past selves.

Greenwald et al (1987) contacted students by telephone and asked them to predict whether they would vote or register to vote in the next few days. Participants who were asked if they would vote all predicted that they would and subsequently voted with substantially greater probability than participants who were not asked for a prediction (86.7% of those asked voted compared to 61.5% of those who were not asked). The researchers concluded that asking people if they will perform a socially desirable action appears to actually increase their probability of carrying it out.

References Cialdini, R. B. (2001). The science of persuasion. Scientific American, 284, 76-81.

Greenwald, A. G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., & Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 315-318.

The Sword from Game of Thrones: A Hamilton Real State’s Case

“Value is whatever people find useful or desirable” (Malhotra & Bazerman, 2007). This statement gives us the first issue to take into account when referring to negotiation. In any persuasive conversation, you can find common elements that create the deal: Al least two parties, an object of negotiation, a price and conditions of the contract (Kennedy, 2007).

In a typical contract “the basic goal is getting the best possible deal for yourself”. This is what Malhotra and Bazerman show us in their “Negotiation Genius” through the example of Hamilton real State. In this situation, you lead a holding company, Pear Investments, specialized in real-estate investments, which posses a territory in the town of Hamilton. The main circumstances are the following: There are more companies interested in buying the property for residential use for law reasons, you can get almost twice the price if the final use is commercial and the best offer you have so far is the one made by Quincy Developments for $38 millions. Later on, another premier-state company, State One, shows interest in the property for building luxury condominiums. You this offer could increase the price of the property even in a 20%, and that you could increase the other one in a 10-15% at most. This is when you have to take your options and think carefully about the deal: what words to use for each company, choose the correct moment to make your move and so on.

In this example from the TV series “The Big Bang Theory”, a similar situation can be seen. There’s a potential buyer (Leonard and Sheldon) and the seller man, Stuart. The combination of knowledge Leonard has about selling rates of Stuart, the product to be sold and the relation between them makes Leonard being in advantage, even with Sheldon’s complete ignorance about negotiation world. When Stuart first asks about their interest on the sword, Leonard lets him see less than half of the opinion they have about it, keeping from him to know they could pay anything for it, despite that’s the real truth. Then he asks for the price, and makes Stuart know that the price he poses is still too high, and then he starts haggling. When he sees that that is working he tries to take advantage on the fact that they are most potential buyers of that sword and that Stuart is desperate for selling it and tries to “add the helmet to the basket”. Stuart does not accept that proposition, but that makes him see the preceding offer as a better one (the best alternative to negotiated agreement for Leonard and Sheldon, this is, their BATNA), finally selling the sword for 210$, 40$ less than the first established price, even with the “friends and family discount”. Even when the object was not a very special one, Leonard and Sheldon got it for the cheapest price they could have done.


Kennedy, G. (2007) Strategic Negotiation (pp. 31-40) Great Britain, UK: Gower
Malhotra, D & Bazerman, M. H. (2007) Negotiation Genius (pp. 15-24) New York, USA: Bantam

Friday, March 15, 2013

#5: Say it as it is (as long as you look nice!)

<For those short of time or patience, the important bits are in italics and bold: Excessive narration included.>

As a young'un, I thought I was truly safeguarded against those horrible, horrible charity people that jump at you along the high street to donate to this or that charity. By sticking in my headphones, it was easy to pretend you just hadn't seen them. After all,it's easy to miss those high vis jackets right in front of you when there's an interesting penny on the ground, and the Wob Wob Wob of dubstep drowning out their less than subtle motions for me to remove my headphones, accompanied by HI HAVE YOU GOT A MINUTE? Not only that, but I prided myself on being immune to the charisma of he pretty ladies of my generation. This is, unfortunately, a true story that happened during my single days about 2 years ago. (Some dramatization may occur, and narrative may not be fully accurate)

Strolling down along the local highstreet during the sumer after my first year of university, my iphone warning me of the dangers of my loud music, I see a flash of blonde hair in my peripheral Vision. With sparkling blue eyes, she looked at me, and smiled. It was here I made my first mistake: I stopped walking, and took off my headphones.

"Hey there! How are you?"

"Oh my god, she's talking to me". I thought. "Ok, Ok, don't panic. What would Thomas Hills do?"
At this point we had a little conversation about University, our days and what we did for a living. However, this rapport building did not last long. It was at this point she produced The Clipboard.

"Im here working with concern worldwide, a charity that does lots of work in third world countries, and I'm here to ask for a donation from you"

I didn't even get a chance to believe I had succeeded in being an alpha male. She went right in there and said what she was there for. Well, long story short, I got her name and a number, she took down mine and an agreement was made. Unfortunately the number as for the concern helpline, the number she wrote down was my bank details and the agreement was to hand over £4 per month to concern. Furthermore, I only got her first name, which as any proficient Facebook stalker will know, is useless.

It's ok, She was collecting for charity. She has nothing to gain from this? At least, that's what I tell myself. Walking down the same high street the next day, however, I thought to myself "Just how did she catch me out?". That's when I saw it: several more concern collectors along the high street: all very attractive.

Here, I'm not just trying to display that pretty ladies can get their way; simply saying exactly what she was there for was the persuasive technique. However, only because I found her attractive!

In a study by Messner, Reinhard & Sporer (2008) 144 Students participated in a 2 (attractive/unattractive) by 2 (obvious intent to persuade/ hidden intent) between participant study under the rouse of a mathematics problem solving task. After the "mathematics quiz", participants were given a choice of two prizes: two euros in cash, or a ball point pen worth just over one euro. At this point, the experimenter (either attractive or unattractive) would use a standardized script to try and persuade participants to take the pen, but depending on the condition, would eithrer make the intent clear (By saying things like "I want you to take the pen" or "I am trying to sway you to take the pen"). Not only were attractive persuaders more likely to be successful than their unattractive counterparts, but there was a significant interaction between attractiveness and persuasive intent, whereby attractive experimenters who stated their intent not only succeeded even more, but had the persuasion attributed to the experimenter's selfish interests much less!

So there you have it. The evidence says that if you're pretty, you can pretty much just ask for what you want!


Messner, M., Reinhard, M. & Sporer S.L. (2008) Compliance through direct persuasive appeals: The moderating role of communicator's attractiveness in interpersonal persuasion. Social Influence. 3(2), 67-83

The tempting food shop.

Supermarkets use a number of persuasive strategies to encourage the shopper to purchase more items. I definitely find supermarket offers very tempting, and often buy much more than I intend to, for example, when I go to the supermarket just to buy milk and end up spending around £10. A tactic that supermarkets use to encourage shoppers to spend more is to locate essential items in the middle of the store or along the back wall, so shoppers have to walk past other tempting offers in order to get to the milk. Also, items on special offer tend to be placed at the end of every aisle, which makes it hard to reach the milk isle without noticing, and being tempted by, the special offers.

This can be explained by the ‘smart shopper feeling’ phenomena (Shimp and Kavas 1984). The excitement about ‘getting a good deal’ creates an ego-expressive emotional response and the shopper may feel proud that they have managed to purchase the product at a cheap price. Research by Schindler (1988) supports this. 111 female participants were asked to describe a recent purchase where they spent over £20. They had to report the price that they paid for the item, the reference price (the price most stores charge for the item) and how satisfied they felt with the price they paid. Finally, they had to complete a questionnaire to see how responsible they felt for the price they paid for the item. Results showed that price satisfaction was correlated with perceived responsibility, therefore, shoppers felt more satisfied if they believed they had got a good discount and were responsible for finding the discount.

Therefore, ‘smart shopper’ feelings will be increased if the shopper feels they have found a good deal, and they will be likely to purchase even more items on special offer to enhance this smart shopper feeling. Interestingly, Kelly’s (1967) co-variation theory suggests that if shoppers feel like they are receiving a discount that not everyone else is receiving, their smart shopper feeling will increase further, making them more likely to spend more money in the shop. Thus, supermarket reward schemes that send customer’s money off coupons by post will enhance smart-shopper feelings, as the customer will feel like they have been sent a special discount. So, they will be more likely to buy the product and use the voucher, even if they do not actually want the product.

Another sneaky yet effective technique used is price establishing. This is when supermarkets claim that products are being sold at bargain prices, when they are actually being sold at the standard rate. For example, Tesco claims to have a ‘big price drop’ on certain items. However, to enforce this, they put the price of the product up for about a month and then lower it back to the original price, claiming that it is a big price drop. As long as the higher price is enforced for at least 28 days, then it is legal for supermarkets to do this. Other offers also exist that do not actually save the shopper any money or, in some case, loose them money. An example of this is shown in the picture below. Robinsons squash is being sold for £1 and is on offer: ‘any 2 for £2’. Special offers advertising acts as a subconscious trigger that attracts attention and causes people to only look at the special offer price rather than the price per unit. Therefore, they do not notice that purchasing more than one item will not save them any money. The yellow background label that accompanies special offers also catches the shopper’s attention, causing them to look at how many products they need to buy in order to get the special offer, rather than looking at individual unit price.  

This special offer saves the customer no money at all, but surprisingly most people will not notice this and buy 2 bottles because they assume it will be better value. 

This shows all the special offers located at the ends of aisles, which makes it more likely that customers will see them.


Kelly, H. H. (1967). Attribution Theory in Social Psychology, in Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 192-238.

Schindler, R. M. (1988). The Role of Ego-Expressive Factors in the Consumer's Satisfaction With Price. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior, 1, 34-39.

Shimp, T. A. & Kavas, A. (1984). The Theory of Reasoned Action Applied to Coupon Usage. Journal of Consumer Research, 11, 795-809.