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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

There is a lot to like this Christmas.

Most would probably agree that a huge part of Christmas is the food. In Aldi’s 2013 Christmas advert it brings together peoples love of treats at Christmas, whilst speaking to its customers about sensible choices instead of having to break the bank.

The most blatant persuasive technique of this advert uses is perceptual contrast. Cialdini (2007) describes when we see two different items in a sequence; we tend to view the latter as more different from the first than it actually is. The advert clearly demonstrates this, as the boy presents the more expensive chocolate reindeer first (Lindt), and then the cheaper chocolate reindeer (Aldi), whilst explaining that his sister likes both. This explicitly points out that Aldi’s chocolate reindeer are better value because they are a lot cheaper (perceptual contrast) and just as delicious!

Perceptual contrast in advertising is based on anchoring stimuli on judgements. Sherif, Taub and Hovland (1958) found that following the presentation of a heavy weight, subjects were more likely to underestimate a lighter weight due to being anchored to the heavy weight as a contrast. Using perceptual contrast as an advertising technique is very dangerous, especially if you are a sucker for a bargain!

Having an archetypal boy describing his plans for his sisters Christmas stocking plays on the theory of social proof; specifically similarity. If everyone’s children are having Aldi chocolate reindeer for Christmas then it must be the right thing to do, especially if their children are similar to the boy in the advert (Pratkanis, 2007).

Platow, Haslam, Both, Chew, Cuddon, Goharpey, ... & Grace (2005) investigated canned laughter in terms of similarity. They found subjects smiled and laughed more and longer and overall rated the programme funnier when they heard ingroup laughter in comparison to outgroup laughter – it is only funny if similar people think it is funny. Aldi’s use of an ordinary child makes customers think – parents like me buy Aldi chocolate reindeer for Christmas.      

So, is there a lot to like this Christmas? Yes, if you like cheap (supposedly tasty) chocolate that everyone is buying.


Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence. Psychology Press.

Platow, M. J., Haslam, S. A., Both, A., Chew, I., Cuddon, M., Goharpey, N., ... & Grace, D. M. (2005). “It’s not funny if< i> they’re</i> laughing”: Self-categorization, social influence, and responses to canned laughter. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology41(5), 542-550.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence. Psychology Press.

Sherif, M., Taub, D. and Hovland, C. I. (1958). Assimilation and contrast effects of anchoring stimuli on judgements. Journal of Experimental Psychology55, 150-155.

Natasha Morris

1 comment:

  1. Good ending, good analysis, but could be written better in places.


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