This New Zealand television advert encapsulates the modelling behaviour fundamental to child development, showing the way children learn socially undesirable behaviours from the individuals around them, and persuading these individuals, particularly parents, to act in a positive and influential way.
Whilst the initial analysis of this advert focussed heavily on the anticipatory regret of target parents, it forgets to talk about the important imagery of dependency and responsibility, and the way in which this evokes an anticipatory emotion in the adult audience and persuades their influential behaviour.
Firstly, the use of children and parents in a modelling situation is a technique used to heighten the sensitivity of persuasion (Pratkanis & Gliner, 2004), and in combination with the feelings of guilt and embarrassment from the adult audience, individuals are influenced to acting in a more positive way as role models.
Carlsmith and Gross (1969) induced students into thinking they gave others painful shocks and found that those guilty students were more likely to comply to a behaviour than the control group. Similarly, Apsler et al (1975) had students perform a set of four embarrassing acts in front of each other. Compared to a control group, those embarrassed students were more likely to consent to help another student regardless of whether they had witnessed the embarrassing event or not.
As well as evoking these emotions of embarrassment and guilt in the adult target audience, the use of the negativity effect as an overriding theme gives rise to the true persuasiveness of this advert. Hodges (1974) found that giving individuals negative information had a greater impact than those individuals given positive information.
Pratkanis (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press