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.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Persuasion and Perfumes!

One of the first things I noticed about this advert is that despite the advert promoting perfume, we only see the product for around 7 seconds in the whole advert. So how can this advert persuade the target of influence to buy a product they have hardly seen? Well, this advert is a very clear example of how celebrities can be used to persuade. This is known as high status-admirer altercasting. 

High status-admirer altercasting uses an individual high up in the status hierarchy of a social group. This can be a popular person, a person that is admired or, as it in this case, a celebrity. It works because the target of influence wishes to be like, and to be respected by, the the high status individual.

Though it was not with a celebrity, a study by Lefkowitz, Blake and Mouton (1955) demonstrates how the actions of a high status individual can influence our behaviour. Researchers conducted an experiment in which they observed pedestrians at a cross walk. However, another person was also at the cross walk who worked for the researchers (a confederate). He wore either a smart suit (indicating high status) or was dressed very scruffily with soiled patched trousers and an unpressed shirt (indicating low status). This individual either conformed to the wait signal on the crosswalk or walked over the road despite the signal indicating otherwise. With a large participant sample of 2,103, researchers recorded whether the participant would cross the road in each of these conditions.

The most interesting finding of this experiment was that when the confederate violated the wait sign, significantly more participants followed when the man was high status (14%) than when he was of a low status (4%).  This is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  A graph which shows the actions of the participants when the confederate violated the wait sign.

Therefore, individuals who are seen to be high status are more effective in influencing our behaviour than individuals who are seen as lower down in the social hierarchy. This is why the use of celebrities in advertisements has been so effective.

Lefkowitz, M., Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1955). Status factors in pedestrian violation of traffic signals. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 704-706.

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