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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Domino Effect



Prudential’s ‘Dominoes Experiment’ conceptualises the effect small payments can make on your overall retirement. Representing several time periods through larger-than-life dominos gives the audience a simplified view of the drastic effects caring about your pension can bring. This advertisement relies on imagery to convey a message, helping the viewers mentally picture how much money they could save for the future. Imaging an advocated course of action has shown to increase the probability that the course of action will be adopted, as shown through Taylor et al.’s (1998) experiments.

Taylor et al. (1998) conducted several experiments primarily focus on mental stimulation, enabling people to envision possibilities and develop plans to achieve these goals. One of the experiments examined 84 students in a school related project. One group were told to envision themselves planning, organising and beginning to work on their project, along with the specifics it entailed (materials/resources needed). Another group were told to perform an outcome simulation; imagining the project was completed and how pleased they would be with the final result. The table below depicts the participants’ performance in each group.

Figure 1.




Here we can see that using process simulation (imagining the processes involved in succeeding in a project) was more effective for students, leading them to finish the project on time. This means that conceptualising the process of the desired course of action increased the participants chances of succeeding, significantly more so than simply picturing the outcome. Prudential’s advertisement uses this technique effectively, with oversized props effectively demonstrating the power of ‘starting out small’ to achieve a larger-than-life goal. The overt imagery mentally stimulates us; the dominoes falling over one another showing the path to a financially pleasant retirement. 

Taylor, S., Pham, L., Rivkin, I., & Armor, D. (1998). Harnessing the imagination: Mental stimulation, self-regulation, and coping. American Psychologist53(4), 429-439. 

Henrietta Esme Bennett

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