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

Not so Lush

Lush’s first global campaign consisted of a live demonstration across 800 shops in 49 countries. It depicted a young woman receiving animal testing procedures in the window of their shops. The aim of this campaign was to further establish Lush’s brand as an ethical company and promote the pro-social message against animal testing.

The use of graphic imagery within the campaign is rooted in the persuasive technique of vivid appeals, as investigated by Borgida and Nisbett (1977). Exploring effects of abstract versus concrete information on decisions, they investigated the type of information given and its effect on ranking of students’ prospective courses.

The study consisted of 87 subjects from the University of Michigan, both male and female. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1. Base-rate 2. Face-to-face 3. No evaluation control. The base-rate participants were given a catalogue of psychology courses with the ‘mean course evaluation’ marked on each scale (5 point, excellent to poor) underneath the course description. In the face-to-face condition more experienced students were brought in to discuss the prospective courses alongside their 5 point scale evaluation of each course. Despite the control having been given almost no information, the task concluded in all conditions checking which courses they would most likely take.  

Firstly results were derived from the number of recommended courses chosen, non-recommended courses chosen, and unmentioned courses chosen. These were evaluated by a mean evaluation of 2.50 or better, 3.75 or poorer and unmentioned respectively. A second form of analysis included a weighted choice tendency index, showing the students certainty of choosing recommended, non-recommended and unmentioned courses (assigned weight of zero if un-chosen, one if chosen, two if circled [definite]).

Figure 1.

Figure 1. suggests the face-to-face method is significantly more effective in choosing courses with certainty than those in the no evaluation condition. Base-rate participants did not significantly benefit from information given, leading Borgida and Nisbett to suggest this is due to the lack of vividness in abstract information. They proposed abstract information (provided in the base-rate condition) does not remain in memory as long as concrete, vivid information that is of ‘greater dramatic interest and salience’.

Lush’s live demonstration takes advantage of this in their vivid approach to communicating. Through publicly experiencing animal testing as a human, relatable looking female, the company actively sends a message to their audience through graphic imagery. Borgida and Nisbett discussed sampling assumptions in their evaluation of differential impacts of abstract and concrete information, suggesting students got more out of talking to experienced students first-hand as they were reasonable people with reasonable views. Lush uses this technique to relate the audience to an abstract concept (animal testing) through concrete evidence of the horrors that it often entails.

Borgida, E., & Nisbett, R. (1977). The differential impact of abstract vs. concrete information on decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 7(3), 258-271.

Henrietta Bennett

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