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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Challenge for Earth

Whether you’re a keen environmental activist or not, this advert is sure to give you chills.

The “Défi pour la Terre”, or “Earth Challenge” organisation, created this advert to demonstrate how man is inadvertently destroying the planet and its inhabitants through its reckless abundance of energy usage. It uses a range of persuasive methods to encourage individuals to use less energy, and help save the Earth as a result.

The advert cleverly evokes an emotional response from those who view it - that of guiltHow many times have we flitted from room to room, needlessly leaving lights on in our wake? How terrible do we feel now, after viewing this advert, knowing that this act of laziness could have contributed to the planets, and, in particular, this dolphins suffering? I for one feel pretty bad, and will make sure to turn my lights off in future. The feelings associated with guilt make it well suited to exploitation for purposes of social influence (Dillard & Pfau, 2002). Guilt makes us feel responsible; it makes us feel as though we have violated moral standards. Guilt makes us wish we had acted differently; it makes us want to make amends (Tangney, Miller, Flicker & Barlow, 1996). The advert certainly makes me, and hopefully a few others feel this way. These feelings are unpleasant, and in an attempt to resolve such feelings, individuals who view this advertisement are likely to adapt their behaviour in a way that helps the advertisers cause.


By turning off their lights when they aren't needed, reducing energy usage, and subsequently protecting the environment and its wildlife population. The advertisers therefore are exploiting the human tendency to experience feelings of guilt to achieve their prime goal: to save planet earth. Scientific research has consistently found evidence that when people feel guilty, they are more likely to support a cause. Hayes, Thornton and Jones (2004), for example, found that people were more likely to agree to support a charity’s cause when they were given a leaflet filled with guilt provoking images, as opposed to a leaflet filled with positive images. So, for all of you budding advertisers out there, if you want to make a difference to, or gather support for a cause, evoking feelings of guilt is a fabulous (if not a little cruel) way to do it.

Of course, you could also use the inverted consequences template as a means of persuasion. This technique is certainly utilised in this advert. The technique involves showing the negative consequences that can occur as a result of not following the recommendation of the advertisement (Goldenger, Mazursky & Solomon, 1999). In this case, the advert forces the viewer to consider the disturbing consequence “leaving a light on for no reason” can have on the planet; with the consequence here being the suffering and untimely death of a dolphin. This template encourages the viewer to think about how best to avoid this consequence. The advertisement itself screams the solution: do not leave your lights on (and subsequently waste energy) needlessly. This template has been evaluated as a highly persuasive technique, possessing a powerful ability to get individuals to adhere to recommendations and change their behaviours in favour of the advertisers cause (Goldenger Mazurky & Solomon, 1999). If this is the case, we can only hope that the advertisers use of this technique is powerful enough to help the world see the ruined and desolate planet that shall be left in our wake if we do not curb our excessive and wasteful energy usage.


  • Dillard, J. P., Pfau, M. (2002). The Persuasion Handbook. Developments in Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications: London.
  • Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.
  • Haynes, M., Thornton, J., & Jones, S. C. (2004). An exploratory study on the effect of positive (warmth appeal) and negative (guilt appeal) print imagery on donation behaviour in animal welfare. Wiley and Sons: New Zealand.
  • Tangney, J. P., Miller, R. S., Flicker, L., & Barlow, D. H. (1996). Are shame, guilt, and embarrassment distinct emotions? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1256-1269.
Jordan Green

1 comment:

  1. Very good Jordan, you write very well. I totally agree with the guilt angle but feel you could also have mentioned shock tactics.


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