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, January 23, 2014

A little Guilt can go a long way



This advert was created for Amnesty to highlight one of the most troubling issues of current times, Child Poverty. It uses various effective persuasion techniques to get people to do something about this problem.

Guilt is the first and most clear persuasive tactic used within this billboard poster. When people observe this image of a child from a background of being brought up in poverty, they naturally feel guilty. How can someone viewing this whilst leading a life of luxuries and comforts not feel some sense of guilt? Through many experiments, such as that carried out by Carlsmith and Gross (1969), it has been shown that individuals experiencing guilt are more likely to then comply with a request. This shows the importance of the second statement in the advert “Help stop Child Poverty in America”. This request is more likely to be accepted as a result of the guilt felt by the onlooker because it induces a desire to make restitution and repair their own self-image (Pratkanis, 2007).

In addition to this, a second, equally effective influence technique is used. Due to the adverts use of Child Poverty in particular as opposed to poverty as a whole, it places the onlooker into the role of a Responsibility Agent due to the child being in a position of dependency clearly expressed through the advert. A study run by Berkowitz and Daniels (1963) showed that when an individual is placed in a position of responsibility toward a dependent they were more protective of that person, helping wherever they can. In terms of this advert, it would lead the Responsible Agent to look further into being able to help with this issue through Amnesty.

The combination of these persuasive techniques would surely produce an additive and stronger effect. This would lead to a hopefully successful campaign for Amnesty in trying to tackle the issue at hand. 

George Coe


Berkowitz, L., & Daniels, L. R. (1963). Responsibility and Dependency. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66, 429-436.

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


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

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