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

Cigarette, but not a cigarette..?

Q: Three guys on a boat and they have four cigarettes, but no lighters or matches or anything to light it with. What do they do?
A: They throw one cigarette over board and the whole boat becomes a cigarette lighter.

We all know the negative side effects of cigarettes. But wait! Now there’s a new competitor in town – promising “smarter”, “healthier” and ultimately cost “lesser” alternative. E-cigarettes, the 2014 trend?

Taking advantage from the stigma around tobacco smokers, this “newcomer” promises uncompromised pleasure-seeking experience. The contrast principle applied in this ad features several advantages of e-cigarettes over its more traditional rival. No smoke, no ash, and the freedom to “vape” anywhere.

Also in this ad the “leader” is seen using e-cigarette, and as a centre of attention, the “leader” acts as an indirect promoter. This is where the authority principle comes in – the “leader” uses e-cigarettes, and the rest might follow. Such effect has been reported in one of the popular psychological studies – on obedience (Milgram, 1963). The study has demonstrated how obedience towards an authority figure easily diffuses the responsibility towards something else. Seeing your “leader” or you as a “leader” using e-cigarette could indirectly imply that it is socially acceptable. Who knows one day it might be a social norm?

In addition, e-cigarette is relatively new and only limited to above 18s. ‘New’ and ‘limited’ plays a role in persuasion – the scarcity principle. Humans are born with curiosity hard-wired in their brain, seeking to try new things. Also, a study by Zellinger, Fromkin, Speller & Kohn (1974) suggests that restrictions put on items e.g. e-cigarettes would make it more desirable. This is a selling point to those who are curious to try something new.

Last but not least, conformity is another concept that is applied in this ad. The “leader” only has to influence ones that are close to him/her, and when they too start using e-cigarette, others might follow. The more people with similar views, the more likely they could influence others to conform to them.

All the principles as stated above only described their single effects. In combination, perhaps each concept could act as multiplier of one another – all this to increase the odds for more sales. These are just some of the ways to persuade, but in the end it is you who have the final say. Would you want one?

Nadhir Anuar


Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgments. (pp. 177-190) Carnegie Press, Oxford.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study Of Obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.

Zellinger, D. A., Fromkin, H. L., Speller, D. E., & Kohn, C. A. (1975). A Commodity Theory Analysis Of The Effects Of Age Restrictions Upon Pornographic Materials. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60(1), 94-99.



1 comment:

  1. Good analysis, though I would also say that people could be persuaded by associating good looking people with the product.

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