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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Smoking. Don't keep it in the family"


The advertisement above was used as part of an NHS campaign in 2008 to encourage individuals to stop smoking, Using the tagline "Smoking. Don't keep it in the family". The idea in this advertisement is that your children copy your behaviours via social modelling and if you smoke, ultimately, they will too. This is an example of how fear appeals (Pratkanis, 2007) can be used to persuade individuals to quit smoking. 

A fear appeal communication attempts to influence or persuade through the threat of impending danger or harm.  In this case, the impending fear is that you will encourage your children to smoke. In today’s society we are now aware of all the health risks associated with smoking, thus by encouraging your child to smoke you will be putting them in danger.  The advertisement makes use of the fact that in the majority of parent’s eyes, their child is the most important thing for them to protect from harm and danger. The ad suggests that if they smoke they are consciously putting their child in danger by encouraging them to smoke as well, thus creating fear within the viewer.

Fear has proved to be effective for persuasion when 1) it arouses intense fear, 2) offers a recommendation for overcoming this fear, 3) the target believes he/she can perform the recommendation. In the scenario above, the fear is that your child will be influenced to smoke, while the recommendation is to quit smoking and that every individual can achieve this.

Maddux and Rodgers (1983) provide evidence that fear appeal techniques can lead to attitude and behavioural changes. in their study, 153 undergraduates, all smokers, were exposed to "educational essays" with facts or fabricated information about smoking. The topics of the essays were; whether smoking would lead to lung cancer or heart disease (high vs low probability of occurrence), that giving up smoking was likely or unlikely to reduce risk for these conditions (high vs low coping response), whether or not lung cancer and heart disease were harmful conditions (high vs low outcome severity) and whether the reader would have low or high difficulty in reducing or eliminating smoking (high vs low self-efficiency expectancy).  Participants then completed a questionnaire about their smoking attitudes and behaviours.

Maddux and Rodgers found that coping response efficacy and self-efficacy expectancy predicted directions of intention to stop smoking. 



Table 1 shows that a high level of any two of these independent variables was sufficient to lead to attitude and behavioral changes which was reflected in the intention scores. The table demonstrates that individuals were a lot more likely to intend to quit or reduce smoking in the high conditions vs the low conditions. Maddux and Rodgers found that high coping response essays were significantly more effective than the low coping response essays in low self-efficacy conditions (7.7 and 5.7 respectively). But, they were not significantly different in high self-efficacy conditions (8.3 and 8.2 respectively). These results suggest that more motivation is needed if the goal is harder to achieve.  

The study provides support for the importance of self-efficacy within persuasion to change attitudes and behavior

In relation to the advertisement, the motivation of protecting your child from the dangers of smoking is used to persuade individuals to try to achieve the difficult goal of quitting smoking. Also, that giving up smoking was likely to reduce risk for this condition. Also, at the end of the ad they show a helpline number which is suggesting the individual they would have low difficultly in reducing or eliminating smoking.  

Maddux, J. E., & Rodgers, R. W. (1983). Protection motivation and self-efficacy: A revised theory of fear appeals and attitude change. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 19, 469 – 479.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Eds.). (2007). The science of social influence: advances and future progress. Frontiers of Social Psychology. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.

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