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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Why is my clock smiling at me?

If you do a quick Google search of clocks or watches, you may notice that most happen to be displaying the time 10:08 (or 10:09, 10:10, or aesthetically similar times like 1:51 or 1:52). This is hardly a coincidence, and is, in fact, called the “10:08 rule” amongst advertisers. Why is this the case? In the past, most clocks and watches used to be tuned to 8:20, which was eventually changed because this made the clock’s face look a little too sad. So clock and watch sellers decided to turn their frowns upside down (literally), and have since started setting clocks to a time that more closely resembles a smile. This rule is followed by many of the top watch companies in the world, including Swatch, Ulysse Nardin, Rolex, The Hamilton Watch Company, and Timex, which exclusively photographs its products and displays them in shop windows at 10:09:36 (The New York Times, 2008). Why this happens is because of the phenomenon pareidolia, which is the tendency for people to see significance in insignificant things, for example spotting faces in randomness. Seeing the smiling watch makes us feel good, which we to associate with the product, which we then may be more likely to be persuaded to purchase.Petty, Schumann, Richman and Strathman (1993) conducted a study on how positive moods increased the effectiveness of a persuasive message. In their experiment, participants were asked to write about a recent positive life event for around 5 minutes (positive mood condition) or listened to 5.5 music (neutral mood condition). They then listened to either a strong (persuasive) or weak (unpersuasive) argument editorials about a particular topic they knew nothing about. Finally, participants completed a Need for Cognition Scale, which measures “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking" (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982, p. 116). High and low Cognition groups were created.
Following this, participants were rated on the attitude index and thought index. The former involved rating the argument editorial on 5 scales: good-bad, negative-positive, wise-foolish, agree-disagree and not at all persuaded-definitely persuaded. The latter involved participants write 21 thoughts they had while listening to the editorial and to rate them as positive, negative or neutral. Participants were asked about their feelings before, during and after the message presentation and given a score on the manipulation scale. Finally, they were asked to recall as many arguments from the message as possible.The results can be seen in Figure 1 below. Those in the positive condition reported feeling more positively than those in the neutral mood condition. Both weak and strong arguments were rated as equally convincing. However, participants in the positive mood conditions rated the arguments as more convincing than those in the neutral mood conditions F(1, 125) = 4.96, p < .05. This was independent of the strength of the argument and the participant’s Need for Cognition scores.

The fact that the strength of the argument was not relevant to how convincing the message was is particularly relevant to the clock and watch example – as long as participants were experiencing a positive mood, they were more likely to be persuaded. Thus, a clock with a smiling face may be a fairly persuasive advertising argument in itself.References               Andrew Adam Newman (2008). Why Time Stands Still for Watchmakers. [ONLINE] Available at: [Last Accessed 30/1/2015].Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of personality and social psychology, 42, 116.
Petty, R. E., Schumann, D. W., Richman, S. A., & Strathman, A. J. (1993). Positive mood and persuasion: Different roles for affect under high-and low-elaboration conditions. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64, 5.

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