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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The advertisement at hand provides an encouraging message to mothers (and others who support this cause) to unite and protest against the legalisation of gun possession in America. Throughout the past decades, there have been several school massacres carried out by school children in possession of guns.

Put yourself into the shoes of a mother. You have just been told by a police official that your child has been brutally murdered at school; a place where your child should feel safe. Would your position as a mother not make you feel obliged to support a cause such as this? Would you not experience a sense of cognitive dissonance which would ultimately lead to your desire to be a start of this movement that has “just got started”? (Oshikawa, 1969). Research shows that similarity often leads to more persuasion. For example, if we are placed in a group where our co-peers are more similar to us, we will work more efficiently than being placed in a group with individuals who differ from us (Civettini, 2007). The success of participation from this advertisement’s target audience will be high as it induces feelings of empathy in mothers (Davis 1996).

The feminist stance of having what appears to be a working mum (insinuated from the woman wearing a office suit) ripping off her day job attire to attend to her humanitarian job of creating more peace in the world creates a strong association with the popular comic book superhero, Superman. The creation of this favourable association will lead the viewer to experience more positivity towards the overall article by subconsciously transferring their positive feelings related to superman to the woman shown in the advert (Pratkanis, 2007). For example, it has been found that if we watch a television programme we enjoy, we will associate these feelings of positivity to the commercials that follow. However, if we watch a programme we do not find interesting, we will rate the commercials that negatively (Murray et al, 1992). Unfortunately, this may backfire if the viewer is not a superman fan...

“We’re” is a unifying word. The genius use of this one simple word leads the viewer to indirectly assume that the cause “moms demand action” is fighting for is one which me, you and everyone else is in favour of. This use of social proof will increase the likelihood of participation from the viewer as they are led to believe that the correct behaviour in this situation is to support this cause in the same way everyone is (Cialdini 1993; Lun et al, 2007). For example, it has been shown that we are more likely to participate in a study where no incentive is offered if we are told that our peers previously completed the study under the same conditions (Wosinska et al, 1999). Compliance to social proof also allows us to feel united with a social group and this is a fundamental need as social homo sapiens (Axelford, 1986). The advantages of collectively supporting a cause reduces the phenomena of pluralistic ignorance; the more support the campaign accumulates will lead to further awareness of the problem that exists which will result in  more of us wanting to change this problem.

Axelrod, R. (1986). An Evolutionary Approach to Norms. The American Political Science Review, 80, 1095 – 1111.

Cialdini, R. B. (2007).Influence: Science and practice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Cialdini, R. B., Wokinska, W., Barret, D. W., Butner, J., & Gornok-Durose, M. (1999). Compliance With a Request in Two Cultures: The Differential Influence of Social Proof and Commitment/Consistency on Collectivists and Individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1241 – 1253.
Davis, M. H. (1996). Empathy. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Davis, M. H. (1996). Empathy. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Lun. J., Sinclair, S., Whitchurch, E. R., & Glenn, C. (2007). (Why) do i think what you think? Epistemic social turning and implicit prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 957-972.

Murray, J. P., Lastovicka, J. L., & Singh, S. N. (1992). Feeling and Liking Responses to Television Programs: An Examination of Two Explanations for Media-Context Effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 18, 441 – 451.

Oshikawa, S. (1996). Can Cognitive Dissonance Theory Explain Consumer Behaviour? Journal of marketing, 33, 44 – 49.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007).The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.

Nimarta Dugh.

1 comment:

  1. Could be clearer in places but overall a good attempt.


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