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, February 26, 2015

Is it really campaigning week?

If you've walked around the university campus at any point since this Monday morning, you cannot possibly miss out on the posters, banners and signs that are simply plastered around pretty much the entire university. A group of students are currently running to be Sabbatical Officers for the University, and they are trying to win over as many votes as they can. It's not just exposure around campus with their colourful posters and people approaching you trying to justify why you should vote for them - it's all over facebook, twitter, instagram... etc. IT'S EVERYWHERE!!

I can easily recall what some of the posters look like, not just because they're everywhere, but because they have slogans and policies that are just repeated everywhere. As you're walking to your next destination on campus, you'll probably be handed a leaflet that contains certain candidate's manifesto and policies. They are trying to constantly remind you of what a good job they can do, and the good ideas that they have.

The mere exposure effect suggests that the more you expose yourself to something, the stronger your attitude will be towards it. This was demonstrated in a study by Zajonc (1968). He told a group of participants that they had to learn a foreign language, and they needed to pay attention to a set of nonsense Chinese like syllables. The researchers exposed the participants to the words at different levels, meaning that some participants were exposed to the words more than others. The participants were then presented with the characters, and they had to guess the meaning of the characters, whether the characters were good or bad, using a "good-bad scale". The results showed that participants rated the characters as more favourable if they were exposed to them more. There was a significant relationship found between the increasing exposure of the characters and the positive favourability of the characters, and this can be portrayed in Figure 1. You can see that for all of the characters apart from the first one, it was rated as more positively if they were in the high frequency group, meaning that they were exposed to it more. The first character had a slightly higher liking in the low frequency group, but only by around 0.25 of a rating. For the high frequency group, the rated goodness meaning was around 1 point higher than the low frequency group. The highest difference in the liking of the words in the low and high frequency group was nearly 2 points. This suggests that we are only slightly affected by the exposure of the words.

Figure 1: The favourability of the word when it presented at a high and low frequency. 

This study supports the idea that mere exposure to the object can make people have more positive attitudes towards it. This suggests that the way that people are campaigning are effective, as they are constantly exposing their ideas, posters, slogans everywhere in different forms so that people can feel more familiar and that they'll increase their liking towards them.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27.

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