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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Game, set and match for Canon advertisers

This advertisement’s persuasiveness hinges on its use of celebrity endorsement. By using a celebrity- in this case tennis player Maria Sharapova- the advertisers are employing two notable persuasive techniques.

The first is known as the high status- admirer altercast. An altercast is a technique used by advertisers in which the target audience is forced into a particular social role. The high status individual (Maria) is placed at the top of a social hierarchy. The target (us) then perceives themselves as lower down in the social hierarchy. We are then forced into the role of admirer: seeing the high-status individual as someone to look up to and gain approval from. (“Why can’t I scream that loudly!? Of course I’ll buy the camera!”) Research has shown that we are more likely to be influenced, or persuaded by someone of a high status. Bickman, for example, found that subjects were much more likely to return a coin found in a phone booth to a person of high status compared with someone of a lower status. This effect was still apparent even when controlling for sex, race and age (Bickman, 1971).

Related to this idea but playing on a slightly different angle, is the tendency to be more easily persuaded by those who are physically attractive. As before the attractive person is seen as someone to envy and someone whose world we desire to be a part of. If this is the case then an easy entry into this person’s world would be to buy the product they are endorsing! In this case a camera to practice selfies on. A wealth of evidence has shown how the physical attractiveness of a person can influence others. Chaiken conducted a study in which either attractive or unattractive subjects communicated a persuasive message to a set of target subjects. The results showed that significantly greater persuasion was elicited by the attractive subjects than the unattractive. (Chaiken, 1979). This goes to show how dangerously effective this tendency is, when something as superficial as looks influences the formation of our opinions!

This advert demonstrates how physical attractiveness and high-status can be used to persuade buyers, in the hope that we can enter the admired person’s world. Not only this, but we often make this assessment without even knowing it! So next time a handsome stranger makes you an offer you can’t refuse, make sure you do.

Bickman, L. (1971). The effect of social status on the honesty of others. The Journal of Social Psychology, 85(1), 87-92.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(8), 1387.

Chloe McCloskey

1 comment:

  1. I love the last line! You have presented the evidence and brought your own sense of humour to the writing.


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