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

'VIP She wants you'

The commercial advertisement above uses persuasive technique like ‘flattery’ to promote the electronic cigarette. Rather than increasing sales an advert such as this is more likely to result in reduced revenue and worsened brand image because many people have complained about the content used in this ad. These consequences are supported by Hendrick, Borden, Giesen, Murray, and Seyfried (1972). They found that flattery increased compliance with a request to complete a seven-page questionnaire relative to a control condition.

This advertisement could be improved by using the combination of persuasive techniques such as vivid appeals, image contrast and the negativity effect. Nisbett and Ross (1980) suggests that a vivid appeal is a message that is '' (a) emotionally interesting, (b) concrete and image-provoking, (c) immediate’’. According to Kanouse and Hanson (1972), negative information receives more attention and weight than positive information when making judgements about persons, issues and things. For example, making comparisons of vivid after images of people’s lungs after having normal cigarettes and electronic cigarettes might be a more persuasive promotion campaign for the electronic cigarettes.

Hodges (1974) conducted a study whereby participants were given three different personality descriptors varying in the amount of positive and negative information (with only favourable traits (PP), with favourable and unfavourable traits (PN) and with only unfavourable traits (NN)). The results (shown in diagram below) suggest that the more unfavourable the trait is, the more weight it takes. In other words, the negative information has a greater influence in evaluation. 

Therefore, if the electronic cigarette company would change their promotion campaign into image contrast this may increase people’s awareness of the electronic cigarettes as these maybe the better choice for smokers in terms of health issues.


Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Giesen, M., Murray, E, J., & Seyfried, B, A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychodynamic Science, 26, 349-351.

Hodges, B. H. (1974). Effect of valence on relative weighting in impression formation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 378-381.

Kanouse, D. E., & Hansom, L, R. (1972). Negativity in evaluations. In E.E. Jones, D.E. Kanouse, H.H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution Perceiving the causes of behaviour. Morristown, NJ:  General Learning Press.

Nisbett, R.E., & Loss, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and short comings of social judgement. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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