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 12, 2015

Mascara Beyond Belief

This advert is attempting to cash in on the age old concept: sex sells. Unfortunately for them its use in this setting is more distracting than anything else- I'm sure I can't be the only one who failed to notice how big her eyelashes were! While this image may appeal to some of the female population, it alienates those who are not drawn in by the overall "fake" look of the model. Instead it might have been a more effective tactic to use the similarity altercast, by featuring model who more closely represents the target audience of the product- and without the focus on her breasts! In this way the size of her lashes (and thus the effectiveness of the product) will be more immediately apparent.

In an experiment by Burnstein, Stotland & Zander (1961) the similarity altercast effect was shown when school age boys met an adult who they thought to be a deep sea diver.

  • One group was led to believe that the diver was very similar to them at their age, in that he grew up in the same area, went to a similar school and enjoyed the same activities, they were also led to believe that he had answered a personality questionnaire very similarly to them.
  • Another group was led to believe that the diver was very dissimilar to them at their age, being raised in a very different setting, going to a very different school and engaging in very different activities, they were also led to believe that he had answered a personality questionnaire very differently to them.
  • The final group were given no information about how similar to them the diver had been at their age, and instead were asked to guess how the diver might have answered the personality questionnaire in order to give an indication of how similar the boys found him to be to them.

The diver gave a speech to all the boys about the skills that are necessary to being a good deep sea diver. He either presented himself as a positive model- indicating that he excelled in each of these skills and was a great diver, or a negative model- indicating that he struggled with each of the skills and was a poor diver. He finished his speech by stating a few attributes which were neutral in terms of diving ability, but which each diver has preferences in regardless of ability e.g. whether they prefer to work in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean, and he stated his preferences.

The boys then answered questions about their own preferences, their answers were checked to see how many of them had taken the divers preferences as their own.

As is shown in the table, those who saw themselves as more similar to the diver chose significantly more of the diver's preferences in conditions where they were led to believe that he was similar to them, regardless of whether he had portrayed himself as having positive or negative attributes.

In summary, the evidence shows that people are more likely to take on a models preferences as their own if they see themselves as being more like the model, and so the makers of this advert could improve it by using a model who could be seen as more similar to their target audience, i.e. the average women.

Burnstein, E., Stotland, E., & Zander, A. (1961). Similarity to a model and self-evaluation. The journal of abnormal and social psychology, 62, 257-264.

By Georgia Kelly

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