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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fish Head Mutants – WWF’s Stop Climate Change (Before You Turn into a Fish)

This advert has a clear message - stop endangering the planet or you will grow a fish head.

Okay, whilst we know this wont actually happen, it makes a strong point.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is saying that we, as human beings need to do something to stop the rapidly changing climate before starts affecting us directly. They have cleverly used Goldenberg, Mazursky and Solomon’s (1999) inverted consequences version of the consequences template to emphasise their message. This version of the template aims to warn the reader of the consequences of failing to heed the message promoted by the ad, which in the case of this advert is that we will apparently turn into fish-headed mutants if we don’t do our bit to conserve the environment.

As WWF is one of the leading organizations in wildlife conservation, it has a certain credibility that we, as the reader, feel we can rely on. When a message comes from a credible source, we are more likely to have a favourable attitude towards their messages than a source with low credibility (Tormala, Briñol & Petty, 2006). Therefore, we are more likely to believe a climate change message from WWF than from, lets say… an unknown homeless man preaching from a speaker on your local high street.

As for the actual image of a man with a fish for a head, it’s something that you could see making an appearance in horror film. If all our heads turned into fish heads tomorrow, I doubt many of us would be happy about it. What WWF is trying to do here, with this impressionable picture, is make a fear appeal. A fear appeal involves associating a desired action with the avoidance of a negative outcome (Pratkanis, 2007). Pratkanis (2007) explains that fear creates a state of arousal that we as humans want to avoid and so in order for a fear appeal to be effective, it must offer a solution to remove this state of fear. In the case of this advert, the fearful message is that our actions upon the environment will have detrimental effects on our lives; so WWF provide the solution to remove this fear – do something to help the environment.

So if you don’t want a fish for a head, take WWF’s advice - do the recycling.

By Daniela Mackie


Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis, The science of social influence: Advances and future progress (pp. 17-82). Psychology Press, New York, NY.

Tormala, Z. L., Briñol, P., & Petty, R. E. (2006). When credibility attacks: The reverse impact of source credibility on persuasion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 684-691.

1 comment:

  1. Really good, and i love the title! Made me laugh out loud.


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