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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This is an advertisement for the highly used acne medication, Proactiv. Proactiv's advertisements usually contain celebrities that provide anecdotes for how effective their product is. The celebrity in this case, Katy Perry, discusses how she has always struggled with her acne and this product solved the problem. Since we view Katy Perry as a public figure, it is thought that she carries weight as a spokesperson for the brand of Proactiv.

As consumers, we pay more attention to those that we believe have more credibility or authority than ourselves. This Prestige Bias is evident in all different types of advertisement. On occasion, actors will dress up as dentists to endorse a toothpaste or as doctors to encourage a medication.

Pratkanis refers to this type of advertising as High Status-Admirer Altercast due to the employment of Katy Perry. Bickman (1974) found that people were more likely to return dimes to people they perceived them as having higher status. In this study, a confederate would approach a subject and ask if they had found a dime they left in the phone booth. It was found that if the person was wearing a suit, they were perceived as higher status and 77% of participants returned the dime. However, if the confederate was poorly dressed, on 38% of participants returned the dime. These findings are illustrated in the graph below.

This explains the concept of authority in advertising because when a participant perceives someone as having high status they are more likely to comply with their requests. This can be used in advertising by hiring high-status individuals to convince consumers to purchase their product. 

  • Bickman, L. (1971). The effect of social status on the honesty of others. Journal of Social Psychology, 85(1), 87-92.

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