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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When In Rome...

Last summer, me and three of my friends enjoyed a holiday in Rome, and spent the days admiring such beauties as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. In fact, we had a tour around these two sites, and were delighted that our tour guide turned out to be an attractive, American student. So delighted by this, actually, we hurriedly bought tickets for another tour around the Sistine Chapel that he would be leading the next morning. However, upon arriving at the meet-up point the next day we did not find this attractive, American student waiting for us, but instead an old, Italian man. Understandably, we were horribly disappointed.

This anecdote, aside from boasting about my holiday, demonstrates the physically attractive – admirer altercast. The persuader, in this case the American tour guide, holds a high status due to their attractiveness. The audience, being me, my friends, and several other tourists, wish to be associated with that high status, and so are likely to comply to the persuader’s requests.

Reingen and Kernan (1993) demonstrated the power of the physically attractive in a series of experiments. In their third experiment in this paper, they employed undergraduates, three male and three female, to play the roles of ‘more attractive solicitors’ and ‘less attractive solicitors’. Their attractiveness was determined by the ratings of ten independent observers. The task of the solicitors was to ask for donations for the Heart Fund from passers-by.

The above table summarises the results. For the more attractive solicitors, 42% of passers-by asked actually donated. This is compared to 23% for the less attractive solicitors. The more attractive persuaders were almost twice as likely to have their audience comply! No wonder it was so difficult for me and my friends to resist buying those tickets from that tour guide.


Reingen, P. H., & Kernan, J. B. (1993). Social perception and interpersonal influence: Some consequences of the physical attractiveness stereotype in a personal selling setting. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2, 25-38.

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