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.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Love to Remember

Since being released in 2004, The Notebook has often been referred to as the love story of our generation, and has placed enormous pressure on young men everywhere to live up to Ryan Gosling’s standards (sorry, boys!). In the story, a young woman from a wealthy family named Allie (Rachel McAdams) battles with the extremely difficult decision of choosing between a super hot rich man who is in love with her, and a super hot poor man who is in love with her. In the end, she opts for Noah (Ryan Gosling), a country boy from a poor family with whom she ultimately shares a nice life. However, before achieving this outcome, Noah had to first convince Allie to go on a date with him.

Although it’s difficult to imagine that someone as good-looking as Noah would ever have trouble getting a girl to go out with him, with Allie, this proved to be the case. In fact, some of the most effective persuasive techniques were used in order to get Allie to comply. For instance, Noah used the persuasive technique of reciprocity to influence Allie’s decision. A simple study conducted by Kunz and Woolcott (1976) established the persuasiveness of this technique. In their experiment, a number of Christmas cards were sent to a group of strangers. Although these people had never met Kunz or Woolcott, they, in turn, sent a Christmas card back to them. This study demonstrates the rule of reciprocity that states that people have a tendency to repay what another person has given to them. In the case of Noah and Allie, the reciprocal relationship is a bit more extreme. As Noah hangs precariously by one hand like a gorilla on the Ferris wheel, he makes a deal with Allie: go on a date with him, and he, in exchange, will climb back to safety and spare himself the certain likelihood of plummeting to his death. The things one does for love…

Furthermore, while considering whether or not to accept Noah’s offer (really, honey? What’s the matter with you?), another persuasive technique – that of uncertainty – came into play. When we find ourselves in a situation in which we are unsure of what actions are appropriate to take, we often look to others for direction. As Allie struggles with her decision, one of Noah’s friends shouts out “Oh, just go out with him, honey.” As a result, Allie complies. Research for this form of social proof comes from the man who invented the shopping trolley, Sylvan Goldman. He noticed that none of his shoppers were using the shopping trolleys that he had provided because they were unfamiliar with the contraption. Therefore, Goldman hired a few people to push around a shopping trolley, with the result that more and more shoppers began to partake in the practice and the invention became popular around the world (The Great Idea Finder, 2007).

The last persuasive technique used by Noah to win Allie was commitment. Commitment is an effective means of persuasion, for once a commitment has been made, the context for an automatic response has been set and a person will follow through on his/her promise even when it is not in his/her best interest to do so. In the case of Noah and Allie, Noah forces Allie to admit that she “wants to go out with him” not once, but twice. The declaration, as well as its repetition, reinforces the statement and ultimately ends with Allie going on a date with Noah. Research has also proven this technique to be persuasive. A study conducted by Sherman (1980) asked a group of residents whether they would participate in collecting door-to-door donations for the American Cancer Society. A few days later, the American Cancer Society asked the residents to volunteer and, as a result of the earlier solicitation, experienced a 700% increase in in volunteers.

What this proves is that Noah was a master at persuasion. What we come to realize as the movie unfolds, is that Allie was a willing victim who was more than happy to be persuaded. The build up to their love was the story that allowed Noah and Allie’s story to survive through illness and old age. As the movie slogan promised, “Behind every great love is a great story.”

Chloe Jadon (blog 5)

Kunz, P. R., & Woolcott, M. (1976). Season's greetings: From my status to yours. Social Science Research, 5,269-278.

Sherman, Steven (1980). \On the self-erasing nature of errors of prediction.", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 39 (2), pp. 211-221.

Sylvan Goldman. (2007). The Great Idea Finder. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from

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