Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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

Sleepiness is Stronger than You

  The advertising campaign below, produced by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, tries to warn viewers how driving when tired can lead to the negative outcome of crashing. With the quote 'sleepiness is stronger than you', the image depicts that once the eyes are closed, the car is going to hit the people or other vehicles so encouraging individuals not to drive while drowsy. 

  This advertisement mainly uses an emotional tactic, specifically fear appeals based on a vivid appeal as this image is emotionally interesting, image-provoking and immediate (Nisbett & Ross, 1980). Persuasive messages using the fear tactic often present viewers with negative consequences that they may experience as a result of engaging in the depicted risky and undesirable behaviours. As a response to danger possibilities, a sense of fear is likely to be evoked, thus motivating individuals to change their attitudes and/or behaviours and avert such dangers.

  Rogers and Mewborn (1976) argued that there are three components of a fear appeal to be considered when mediating persuasion; the degree of threat of a depicted danger, the probability of being exposed to the danger and the efficacy of a coping response in avoiding the danger. In order to investigate the effectiveness of those components, they conducted a study with 176 undergraduates using three topics; cigarette smoking, driving safety and venereal disease. Participants were first shown films depicting high or low levels of threat about venereal disease, smoking and driving and then instructed to read written messages arguing that the probability the threatened events will occur was either high or low. Also, with regards to the efficacy of response variables, written messages of either effective (high efficacy) or ineffective (low efficacy) methods of averting the dangers were shown.

  As shown in Table 1, their results indicated that fear appeals were reliable motivators in facilitating attitude change. This was particularly evident when high levels of threat films were accompanied with high-efficacy messages, altering the viewers’ likelihood of accepting the recommended preventive practices. Thus, the previous result suggests that the current advertisement would be more powerful if effective coping strategies were added.

Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment (p. 167). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Rogers, R. W., & Mewborn, C. R. (1976). Fear appeals and attitude change: Effects of a threat’s noxiousness, probability of occurrence, and the efficacy of coping responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 54-61.

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