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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Every penny counts!

Penny for London is a recently launched campaign, designed to encourage Londoners to make charitable contributions. When using the city's contact-less payment system, commuters can make small donations to charity whilst travelling. How much are people being asked to donate ? Just a penny!

This campaign is a great example of the persuasive technique known as "legitimizing paltry contributions". A common excuse people use to avoid donating to charities is "I don't have enough money".  A simple way to overcome such objections and increase compliance, is by legitimizing minimal levels of contributions, like the donation of 1p.

Support for the legitimizing paltry contributions approach comes from Cialdini and Schroeder (1976). In this experiment confederates dressed up as members of the American Cancer Society and asked for monetary contributions through door-to-door pleas. In the control condition the confederates said " I'm collecting money for the American Cancer Society, would you be willing to help by giving a donation ?". In another condition they added "even a penny will help" to the standard pitch.

As shown in table 1, including the phrase "even a penny will help" in the standard pitch resulted in 58.1% of subjects donating, compared to 37.2% in the control condition. In addition, this condition did not lead to a decrease in the average size of contribution.

Based on previous findings, the use of the legitimizing paltry contributions technique in the Penny for London campaign, is likely to persuade more Londoners to make charitable contributions on their daily commute.

Cialdini, R. B., & Schroeder, D. A. (1976). Increasing compliance by legitimizing paltry contributions: When even a penny helps.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(4), 599-604

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