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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It Really Does Get Better

 It gets better. This is a phrase that is said frequently to LGBTQUA+ youth, whilst they are growing up in difficult, and sometimes even life-threatening environments. In 2010, the “It Gets Better Project” was created, as a response to increased numbers of LGBTQUA+ students committing suicide because of bullying. It has now developed into a massive movement, trying to create encouraging messages and positive change for these youth, and also to show them there are others out there who understand what they are going through. With this projects success, it was no wonder a huge company jumped on the bandwagon. Google released the above video as an addition to the campaign, which they then aired during an episode of Glee. This video was met with huge support and managed to go viral. The “It Gets Better Project” itself, has more than 50,000 videos of support, from a huge variety of people. Examples of which are Barack Obama, David Cameron, and Woody from Toy Story.

Lets start by looking at the persuasive message behind the “It Gets Better Project”. When LGBTQUA+ youth watch these videos, they are told that the people on their screens used to be in their position and they should look to them as proof that life does get better. If the person saying this message is one of the regular people who have posted videos, then the principle of similarity is being used. This is when people look at other similar people to make a judgment of their actions. Aune and Basil (2006) showed that people were more likely to donate to a charity, if the person collecting goes to the same university as them. Therefore, if LGBTQUA+ youth were feeling suicidal, then this study would suggest that they would look at others for the correct course of action. But then why would messages from high profile people work? Taylor and Lobel (1989) found that cancer patients look towards people who have overcome their cancer or who have adjusted well to a life with cancer as role models. It was argued that this occurred to fill informational and emotional needs about how to behave positively. So depressed LGBTQUA+ youths would see these videos of people like Neil Patrick Harris, or Ellen DeGeneres and would use them to satisfy informational needs about survival and emotional needs by gaining hope. Projects like the "It Gets Better Project" are important for these reasons. If suicidal youth only see stories about people in situations committing suicide then they are  more likely to follow their lead. Stories of survival and hope need to be made more public so that these suicidal youth can have examples of people who have been through the same situations as them and still gone on to live long and happy lives.

So then, now onto the advert itself. Simonin and Ruth (1998) found that when one brand has a relation to another brand, then attitudes about one could affect attitudes towards another. The Google Chrome advert uses the positive message of the “It Gets Better Project” and the positive feelings of the general public towards the project, and then through association, relates all these positive aspects to Google as a company and Google Chrome. The advert never actually states its views on LGBTQUA+ suicide, or in fact that it had any part in setting up the project. The only relation the advert uses is the suggestion that the project was created on Google Chrome, but yet we are left with a positive view towards Google and the belief that they are helping stop these suicides.

So why would the “It Gets Better Project” want to collaborate with Google? Well, the answer is simple. Google can fund the advert onto primetime television (even if it is during Glee), and so with the increased exposure, hopefully more at risk youth will be able to see it. As well, more possible donators will be able to be reached, therefore hopefully increasing the funding they can get.

Oliver Stoney

 Aune, K., & Basil, M. (1994). A relational obligations approach to the foot-in-the-mouth effect. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 546-556.

Simonin, B. L., & Ruth, J. A. (1998). Is a company known by the company it keeps? Assessing the spillover effects of brand alliances on consumer brand attitudes. Journal of Marketing Research, 35(1), 30-42.

Taylor, S. E., & Lobel, M. (1989). Social comparison activity under threat: Downward evaluation and upward contacts. Psychological Review, 96, 569-575.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I think you should have used the words 'social proof' somewhere in that first paragraph, though you did point at it on several occasions! Good work.


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