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, March 7, 2013

Aragorn's speech at the Black Gate


In this rally scene from LOTR, Return of the King, Aragorn first appeals to ethos, by emphasizing that he is just like these other men when he calls them “my brothers”. By saying “I see in your eyes, the same fear that would take the heart of me", he asserts that he is just like them, utilising similarity-altercasting. Thus, if he can do it, so can they.

He also uses landscaping techniques as a way to establish roots for his argument, by stating all the things that could happen if they do not fight. Expectations about the future can shape the influence of the landscape; expectations guide perceptions and interpretations to create a picture of reality that is congruent with expectation (Kirsch, 1999 in Pratkanis, 2007). By establishing this picture of what will ensue if they give up, Aragorn establishes roots for his argument. He also uses valence framing techniques to rally the troops and make them see that the things at stake far outweigh their fears of fighting. Critical information can be cast in a positive or negative vein, and issues framed in terms of losses will generate motivation to avoid losses. Tversky & Kahneman (1981) set the “Asian disease problem” in a study, where they asked participants to imagine a disease outbreak and decide on a course of action. In one set, programme A is framed as a gain:

If programme A is used, 200 people will be saved
If programme B is used, there is a 1/3rd probability that 600 will be saved, and a 2/3rd probability that none will.

78% choose Programme A.

In another set, Programme A is framed as a loss.

If programme A is used, 400 people will die.
If programme B is used, there is a 1/3rd probability that nobody will die, and a 2/3rd probability that 600 will.

78% now select Programme B, in line with motivation tactics to avoid a loss scenario.

Thus, Aragorn lists a number of things (losses) that may happen if the men choose not to fight "An hour of wolves, and shattered shields, when the Age of Men comes crashing down", to spur them into action.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.


Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211(4481), 453-458.


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