Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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

The Art of Advertising


In this image, the words "the art of making people give away their eyes for 30 seconds" accompanies a hand holding two bloody eyeballs that presumably have been ripped out from a person's head. The art in question is advertisement. This advertisement invites submissions to the Roy awards event for advertising. However, it is questionable whether the viewer will receive the advertisement's intended message. It is strikingly gory, and though this may draw attention, it is excessively gruesome, and the analogy to advertising is over-the-top. An exaggerated portrayal of advertising, it implies that watching an advertisement is a violent ordeal that the individual will not recover from. As a result, viewers may turn away in disgust before reading the small words calling for award submissions on the bottom of the advertisement.

To increase the effectiveness of the advertisement, one could use the technique of manded altercasting, where one projects a certain identity onto the intended audience. The identity is compatible with one's goals of persuasion. If the person accepts the identity, they are more likely to act in accordance with the identity and therefore how the influencer hopes they will act.

Figure 1. The percentage of surfers who signed the position, as a function of the altercast they received.

The effectiveness of altercasting on influencing behaviour was demonstrated in a study investigating the link between manded altercasting a person as an expert (termed the "expert snare") and the likelihood of the individual to sign a petition. It was proposed that the surfers would engage in activities, including nonsensical behaviour, to maintain the appearance of being an expert, because it is a respectable societal position. 90 surfers were placed into one of three groups: expert surfer, socially-attractive surfer, or control. People who were altercasted as expert suffers received praise on their surfing abilities. The socially-attractive altercasts were complimented on aspects unrelated to surfing skills. This altercast controlled for the possible alternative explanation of behaviour change through social approval. The researchers approached the control group participants asking if they had seen an individual they claimed to be searching for. The surfers were then asked to sign a petition advocating for the addition of polka dots to all new surfboards, in support of surfer safety. The main dependent measure was the percentage of surfers who signed the petition. The researchers also observed the percentage of surfers who asked questions (which would indicate feelings of incredulity), as well as the surfers' actual level of expertise (for any possible mediation effects on the ability to avoid the expert snare) (Pratkanis & Uriel, 2011).

Surfers altercast as experts were significantly more likely to sign the petition (refer to Figure 1). They were furthermore less likely to ask questions, in comparison with both the socially-attractive and control groups. There was no significant relationship found between objective level of expertise and willingness to sign the petition, suggesting that their true level of expertise did not affect how sensitive they were to the expert altercast (Pratkanis & Uriel, 2011). Thus, instead of using the shock factor, an advertisement for the Roy Awards would likely benefit from manded altercasting. For example, they could cast those who work in advertising agencies as people who create top-quality work and deserving of an award. Perhaps the image could read: "We know you create grand advertisements. It's about time you submit them for a Roy Award". This would make the viewer feel confident about their skills and qualified for an award, resulting in a greater number of applicants.

Pratkanis, A.R. & Uriel, Y. (2011). The expert snare as an influence tactic: Surf, turf, and ballroom demonstrations of some compliance consequences of being altercast as an expert. Current Psychology, 30, 335-344.

Yida Liao

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