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, February 13, 2015

Show me some makeup & I'll consider a career in science

The European Union Commission has decided to attempt to persuade more girls to become interested in the field of science. Apparently they think the only or rather the best way to do this is by associating science with fashion and makeup.. Because that is what girls are all about, is it not?

The video advertisement alternates between shots of girls walking 'runway style' while dressed in summer apparel, then liquid hydrogen, then high heels and sunglasses, test tubes, pink lipsticks and other makeup accessories; also accompanied by model poses and giggles. Followed by a slogan 'Science - it's a girl thing!', this advert could not seem more ironic. The commission has spoken that the video had to "speak their (girls') language to get their attention" and that it was intended to be "fun, catchy" and strike a chord with young people. Thanks a lot for this deep target audience analysis.

Making an easy assumption that people with interest in science are most likely analytical and would prefer a clear set of logical arguments rather than a peripheral route to persuasion; this kind of an advertisement is not exactly the most appropriate choice. It is clear from the fact that there are 12 830 'thumbs down' on YouTube on this video, other people have similarly not found it neither convincing nor amusing. That is probably why this video was officially taken down after it has received a lot of negative feedback.

Trying to increase awareness of girls in science or trying to persuade more girls to consider a career in the field of science is a complex task that needs to be executed loudly to override the voices of social disapproval and argue in a convincing way to really change the stereotype opinion that is common in our society - that women are not a fit for a career in science. In other words, I believe this intention needs to be delivered by offering some quality arguments. That is certainly what this advertisement has not attempted at all.

Based on what I have said so far, one of better choices of a campaign for this goal would be creating a video using higher elaboration of the persuasive message. An example of this would be featuring female scientists to talk about their careers and encourage girls to consider thinking about Science as a career choice, while responding to some common current beliefs and misconceptions about women in science. One specific technique that could be used is what was first known as the Yale Attitude Change Approach. In this approach, credible and attractive speakers would be used to deliver a two-sided message. This technique has been studied for multiple years at Yale University, and later developed into the more contemporary Elaboration-Likelihood model of persuasion.

The table below shows the impact of different variables on attitude change, according to the ELM.
As we can see attitudes are affected mostly by argument quality when it comes to conditions of high elaboration likelihood. As previously explained, the specific goal of this advertisement should be made by engaging in ways that will ensure true attitude change by combining both cognitive and affective components in the method of persuasion. That can be done best by offering quality arguments. On the other hand, if we were to operate under the conditions of low elaboration likelihood; as the table shows peripheral cues would be a better choice to affect attitude changes.

John T. Cacioppo and Richard E. Petty (1984) ,"The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion" p.135.

Diana Drgonova

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