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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Would You Care More If I Was a Panda?

The World Wildlife Fund is an organization that challenges environmental issues through various campaigns. In this advertisement, the World Wildlife Fund is raising awareness for the overfishing of the bluefish tuna, which is at risk for extinction. The image displays several bluefish tuna, one of which is wearing a panda mask. The advertisement questions, “Would you care more if I was a panda?” It assumes that people prefer to support an animal that is more familiar and favourable to them. In this case, pandas are more recognizable and aesthetically pleasant, and thus receive more attention and support than the bluefish tuna. The advertisement questions this logic behind choosing which species to assist. Therefore, asking this question would likely invoke feelings of guilt in the viewer. The use of a guilt appeal helps draw attention to the image, and the negative arousal that results may motivate the viewer to act in a pro-social fashion, such as making a donation, in order to reduce their unpleasant feelings of guilt.

To explore the relationship between guilt and donation intention, Hibbert, Smith, Davies, & Ireland (2007) studied a group of 100 participants who viewed ten guilt-inducing advertisements from different charities. Authentic advertisements were used from past campaigns. The individuals rated their levels of guilt on a seven-point scale, and rated their likelihood to donate on a seven-point scale. The researchers also explored the factors related to guilt, including viewers’ skepticism of advertising strategies, their perceptions of the advertisements, and their attitudes toward the corresponding organizations.

Figure 1. Model depicting the relationships between different factors affecting guilt level, and the relationship between guilt and donation intention.

The researchers found a positive relationship between the level of guilt and one’s intention to donate (B = .40, p < .05). This finding indicates that the experience of guilt this advertisement produces is an effective way of raising people’s interests in donating. In addition, the amount of knowledge a viewer has about an organization was found to be strongly and positively linked to the level of guilt (r = .82, p < .05), as displayed in Figure 1. It is suggested that possessing greater knowledge about an organization makes it more salient in an advertisement, thereby increasing guilt. Perhaps the World Wildlife fund would benefit from including a brief description of the organization in their advertisements, as well as enlarging their logo within the picture. Viewers may feel more guilty due to being better acquainted with the organization, and consequently be more likely to make donations.

Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A.,  & Ireland, F. (2007). Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and    charitable giving. Psychology & Marketing, 24, 723-742.

Yida Liao

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