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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Raising an eyebrow or two

This truly has to be one of the most random, yet entertaining adverts I’ve seen. The weird eyebrow dance is enough to leave the audience confused and intrigued yet fixated on the screen.  This advert despite being so strange, works well thanks to the Vivid Appeals technique.

Research by Gonzales, Aronson and Costanzo (1988) showed that by making messages emotionally interesting, vivid and unusual you can increase compliance. The experimenters aimed to examine whether energy auditors using vivid and unusual language will be more successful when persuading homeowners to follow their recommendations for energy improvement. In both the control and experimental conditions auditors went to an individual’s home and made recommendations to help save energy. The individuals were then asked how likely they are to follow the recommendation. The difference between the two conditions lay in the way the recommendation itself was made.

For example when making a recommendation about loft insulation, the control condition auditor may plainly suggest that ‘the attic needs installation’.
Those in the experimental condition however would use vivid language in ways that wouldn’t be expected from someone just trying to sell loft insulation. For example they may suggest ‘you have a naked attic which is facing winter without any clothes on’.

The use of the vivid language was enough to grab the individual’s attention and adds depth to the message as it allows the individual the opportunity to carefully think about the message. This therefore promotes a deeper understanding and processing of the recommendation, which ultimately leads to more compliance.

The following table shows that when the individuals were asked how likely they were to make a change based on the recommendations, those in the experimental group who experienced vivid persuasion were more likely to go on and follow the recommendations. Specifically the average score for the experimental condition when asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely they were to make the changes was 7.2. In the control condition however, the average likelihood score was 6.1 therefore showing more compliance in the experimental condition which used techniques such as emotionally interesting and vivid material. 

If we look at the Cadbury advert, the unusual performance immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. The individual will probably wonder what they’re watching and when it is revealed to be Cadbury they’ll probably experience after thoughts about how on earth someone came up with that idea. The advert therefore makes the individual think about Cadbury in more ways than usual, which in turn increases the likelihood they will buy their products.

Who would have thought an advert of dancing eyebrows could sell the UK’s most famous chocolate?


Gonzales, M. H., Aronson, E., & Costanzo, M. A. (1988). Using Social Cognition and Persuasion to Promote Energy Conservation: A Quasi‐Experiment1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology18(12), 1049-1066.

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