Thinkbox is a marketing body responsible for creating adverts for the main tv broadcasters in the UK- Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media and Turner Media Innovations. In its latest addition to a series of adverts featuring the Harvey the dog, Thinkbox relies heavily on our tendency to form attitudes based on association. The advert tells us the heart warming story of how Harvey and Harmony found love, and, between the catchy song and the adorable doggy dating montage, it would be hard not to come away feeling just a little bit warm and fuzzy.
Unsurprisingly it turns out that this is exactly what the advert sets out to achieve, as findings indicate that an association with a positive experience is enough to form a positive attitude towards an issue, idea or cause even if the two are not directly related. This means that if we experience something that makes us feel happy, for example hearing our favourite song, or watching two dogs fall in love over a trip to the natural history museum, we are more likely to create a positive attitude to whatever is paired with that experience.
Research which demonstrates this effect includes a study by Lott and Lott (1960) in which participants, children at school, were split into groups to play a game with people that they did not already have a positive attitude towards. The results of the study suggest that participants whose group received a reward for winning were more likely to form a positive attitude towards the other members of the group, as tested by asking the participants afterwards who in the class they would choose to join them on a family holiday to a nearby star.
This table taken from the original research summarises the results, with significantly more participants (or subjects) from the rewarded group choosing members of the same play-group than did those from the nonrewarded group. This suggests that participants were more likely to have a positive attitude towards and enjoy spending time with play-group members if they were associated with receiving a reward than if they were not.
This just goes to show how powerful the use of association can be as a tool for changing peoples attitudes- whether it's through advertising or in every day life! So next time you're looking to buy something new, it might be useful to ask yourself whether it's the product that you're buying, or the feeling that comes along with it.
Lott, B. E., & Lott, A. J. (1960). The formation of positive attitudes toward group members. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 61, 297.
by Georgia Kelly