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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

He can say yes to you, but does he mean it?

Throughout the course we've learnt about the many techniques, dispositions & shortcuts that we can use to influence people, and it is interesting to see if there's a deeper process underlying attitude changes that affects the outcome of using those techniques of persuasion; whether we can see from the subject's public conformity, their private acceptance of the new attitude. It is hypothesized that the two are very much separable, and it is not intuitively surprising because public conformity can happen in the face of time, scarcity of knowledge and authoritative pressure, but denied internalization by the subject upon careful reflection.


In his 1954 experiment, Kelman played on the opinions and attitudes of African-American college Freshmen about the pending announcement of the Supreme Court decision on desegregation in the public schools. They were all presented a fix message: "[i]f the Supreme Court rules that segregation is unconstitutional, it would still be desirable to maintain some of the private Negro colleges as all-Negro institutions, in order to preserve Negro culture" (Kelman, 1958). Preliminary testing indicated that a large majority of the subjects would initially oppose the message presented in the communication.
The communications were tape-recorded interviews in the style of a radio program between a moderator and a guest speaker (the communicator). By changing the communicator (the tone employed, degree of identification with the subject and their status) it was possible to alter the source and degree of communicator's power, without changing the message. Their resulting attitude was tested by filling in three separate questionnaires.

The aim of the experiment is to analyse the different processes of attitude change resulting from social influence. Assumption: changes in attitudes produced by social influence occur at different levels, which corresponds to the processes that produce them.

Three different processes of influence can be distinguished:
  • Compliance (to achieve favorable reaction from others, not necessarily because of belief in content),
  • Identification (in order to establish or maintaining a satisfying self-defining relationship to others. believes in the responses which he adopts through identification, but specific content is somewhat irrelevant. more conformity), and
  • Internalization (content of induced behavior is intrinsically rewarding. it's congruent with his value system. Content matters)
Depending on which of the above is the principal motivator, we can anticipate the probability of accepting influence.


Transcribing Table 1,
  1. When an individual adopts an induced response through compliance, he tends to perform it only under conditions of surveillance by the influencing agent.
  2. When an individual adopts an induced response through identification, he tends to perform it only under conditions of salience of his relationship to the agent.
  3. When an individual adopts an induced response through internalization, he tends to perform it under conditions of relevance of the issue, regardless of surveillance or salience.


Table 2 shows that the results were highly consistent with the hypothesis. In general, those who complied in the means-control group showed resistance to the new attitude when the authority was not around (questionnaires II & III). Those in the attractiveness group showed conformity even when they were not under surveillance, but not when the people they want to identify with was not mentioned in questionnaire III. Finally, it seems credibility is the most effective way of influencing people, because it's effects are resent throughout the three different questionnaires/conditions.

Kelman, H. C. (1958). Compliance, identification, and internalization three processes of attitude change. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1958 2: 51

Qi Peng Wang


  1. Brilliant Article. I also believe a good persuader should have excellent intrapersonal, interpersonal, and interaction skills. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your article.

    1. Thank you Sridhar! What you've said is very true. Quick question, how do you distinguish between interpersonal and interaction skills?

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