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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Group Project: Give Blood!

The official NHS blood donation Twitter account retweeted our inforgraphic!

Sophie Hardy, Zeta Meheux, Gibran Dar

Monday, March 30, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Group Project - Ring Childline

We aim our video at young children and are wanting them to phone Childline if they are worried that there may be domestic violence in the home, whether this is verbal or physical. The video is available for Public viewing on YouTube:

Amy Isham, Abi Davies & Amy Gaertner

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Group project- Abuse doesn't discriminate

Below are photos of where we have put our poster around campus. Our poster aimed to raise awareness of domestic violence in any type of relationship and with any gender being the victim, and provide information about a charity help-line that men could turn to if they are the victim of domestic abuse.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If Katie Can Lose Weight, So Can You!

The above video is the trailer for Katie Hopkins, My Fat Story, in which Katie Hopkins documents her way through gaining 4 stone and her journey to lose the weight. Not only is she trying to show that those who are obese have no reason not to lose their weight, but she also aims to show the consequences obesity can lead to. There are multiple persuasive techniques in this documentary, such as shocking individuals into leading a healthy life and showing individuals the consequences of being obese, however the most prominent tactic used, is the just plain folks; similarity altercast.

The just plain folks altercast suggests that a high profile individual is in many ways similar to the lay person. This tactic works using Festinger’s (1954) social comparison process, in which we have a tendency to cooperate more and listen to others who may be similar in some way to us. Similarity is thought to create a bond between the individuals concerned enhancing the likelihood compliance will occur.

For example, Mills and Jellison (1968) conducted an experiment in which they examined the effects on opinion change due to similarity. In their experiment they asked an individual to give a speech to a group of college students about general education and had 4 conditions. There were 2 audience conditions, music students and engineering students, and there were also 2 conditions for the speaker; a music student or an engineering student. The experiment examined how likely an opinion change was when the subject of the audience matched the subject of the speaker, compared to when the speaker was of a different subject to the students.

Therefore the conditions were
Music student speaker, music student audience
Music student speaker, engineering student audience
Engineering student speaker, engineering student audience
Engineering student speaker, music student audience

The results, shown below in table 1 indicate that when there was a match between audience and speaker, and consequently similarity between the two, opinion change was more likely, thereby influencing the behaviour.

With reference to Katie Hopkins, is it suggested she is just like everybody else through the fact she doesn’t have a gym membership, nor does she eat expensive meals. Therefore Katie is just like everyone else and so no one has any excuse for not leading a healthy lifestyle, just like her.  The show suggests Katie can put weight on and lose it again, with no special tricks. By using techniques everyone can afford such as running through her neighbourhood, Katie can lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle and as she is just like you, you can too!


Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human relations, 7(2), 117-140.

Mills, J., & Jellison, J. M. (1968). Effect on opinion change of similarity between the communicator and the audience he addressed. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2), 153-156.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Group project: charging bars on campus!

By Gaby Brogan, Shauna Tucker and Aishwarya Ahuja

Group Work: Get Your Eyes Tested!

By Lori Bain, Abigail Crowhurst and Billy Poynter

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Flattery Works!

The movie clip above is taken from the move Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The scence above illustrates how flattery can be used as a persuasive technique in order to influence an individuals decision and they way he perceives a situation. Jake Gyllenhaal exposes his "intern" to a variety of high-risk situations in return for a very low pay and the special chance to gain some valuable experience as he has explained to his intern previously. However, Jake Gyllenhaal is aware that in order to keep his intern perform he must offer some form of incentive in order to keep his performance and loyalty. The clip above is an excellent example of how flattery can be used in order to make another person feel worthy and deserving of what he has chosen to do and beyond this it also shows how flattery can serve as a factor motivating you to behave a certain way.

An experiment conducted by Grant et al. (2010) can be seen as an example providing empiracle evidence for the effectiveness compliments have on compliance. Participants were welcomed by the experimenter and they were then asked to wait in a room until the other participants had arrived. Shortly thereafter, a confederate entered the room. While the participant and the confederate were in the same room, the confederate started a conversation with the participant. There were two conditions. The experimental condition was marked by deliberate compliments made by the confederate about the participant's clothing. The control condition did not include any compliments during their exchange. Finally the crucial measure of compliance was tested by having the confederate ask the participant whether they would be willing to help her out and hand some flyers out at the university center. If participants answered yes they were considered as having complied with the demand.

The results yielded by this study can be seen in the table above. The findings show that the experimental condition participants were significantly more likely to comply to the request when compared to the control condition. In other words, 79% of the participants who were complimented turned out to comply with the request made by the confederate, while only 46% of the participants who were not given a compliment ended up complying with the request. 

As with the study explained above, Jake Gyllenhaal uses compliments and flattery in order to motivate and persuade his intern to keep working for him despite the high-risk situations he might be faced. He tells his intern what a great improvement he has made in his overall focus. He tells him that given complex problems he has developed an ability to find clear and simple solutions. Finally he also compliments him on his enthusiasm and offers him a promotion in his position. By the end of the movie clip he gives his intern the chance to decide himself about the pay he wants to receive again flattering him by showing him he values him so much that he is willing to give him the power to decide for himself. As seen with the experiment by Grant et al. the intern keeps his job and continues to work for Jake Gyllenhaal. 

Grnat, N. K., Fabrigar, L. R., Lim, H. (2010). Exploring the efficacy of compliments as a tactic for securing compliance. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 32, 226-233. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Have a chocolate, now please join us?

Anyone who’s been to societies’ fairs at university can attest to the fact that a lot of the different societies attempt to lure new members in by offering them chocolates, biscuits or even free mugs. In fact this is making the use of the rule of reciprocation – people generally feel obligated to repay a favour, invitation or a gift. In this case students receive the “gift” of a free chocolate and then feel that they have to give something in return, ranging from just listening to a member of the exec talk about how amazing the socials at the board game society are, to actually paying the fee to join a particular society.

Research by Dennis Regan (1971) shows that people are more likely to comply with a request from someone, if they had been provided with a favour by that person beforehand. The experiment involved 81 freshmen (all men) at Stanford University and also looked at whether liking a person affected the subjects’ compliance, however we will not focus on that here. The subject would be asked to have a seat by the secretary and wait for the experiment to begin. Then the secretary would leave and another person would enter, who the subject would think is just someone else taking part in the experiment, but is in actual fact a confederate. After liking manipulation took place (the subject would either see the confederate behave in a polite and pleasant manner, or in a rude way), the two people were seated at desks in adjoining rooms and told that they were taking part in an experiment about appreciation of art. During a short break, the confederate would leave the room and favour manipulation would take place.

Favour Condition: the confederate returns with two Cokes and offer one to the subject.

No Favour Condition: the confederate returns empty-handed.

Irrelevant Favour Condition: introduced to account for the possibility of later compliance being related to a general effect of the favour such as improved mood. In this condition the confederate returns empty-handed, but the experimenter gives both the subject and the confederate a Coke.

In the next break, during which the experimenter would tell the two to not talk at all, the confederate would write a note to the subject asking them to buy some raffle tickets.

The table below shows the results in term of the mean number of raffle tickets bought by the subjects. About twice as many were bought if the confederate bought the subject a Coke (Favour Condition) in comparison to the no favour condition, regardless of the liking condition (pleasant or unpleasant). However, in the condition where the confederate behaved in a pleasant manner, the subjects also appeared to buy more raffle tickets in the Irrelevant Favour Condition perhaps partly due to the general positive atmosphere.
Overall, we can see that people are more likely to comply with a request from a person who has provided them with a favour, even if they don’t particularly like that person. Therefore free chocolates ought to result in an increased number of society members, which is why societies use them, essentially as bait. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

More value, more motivation!

For this blog post I decided to write about a recent conversation I had with my girlfriend. I find it really hard to find motivation for studying through my final year, and as the year is reaching the finish line with upcoming exams this problem became more and more apparent. This is how it sounded like (it is not word-to-word as it was a conversation):

Me: Exams are just around the corner and with this tempo I‘m going to get nowhere.
Girlfriend: So study more then, or is there just too much of information to learn?
Me: Well, at this moment it might be, but anyway I am really far from the pace of studying I could have if I tried more.
Girlfriend: Well, just think about it this way, it‘s only a couple of months until your final exam, probably ever. So just try to put your head down and dive in, you can do it!
Me: I know, but I‘ve been trying this out throughout the whole year and it does not really bring any results to me..
Girlfriend: Okay, I have an idea. When we talk on the phone in the evening you will tell me what would be a realistic target with a rather high level of performance to learn for tomorrow. Like how many weeks of a particular module you want to go through and so on.
Me: Okay, but I knew I have to study all the time anyway.
Girlfriend: That‘s not all. When we‘re on the phone next evening, you will tell me if you have reached that target or not. We will do this every day until your last exam. And I am going to make a note every day if you reach the target or not. And then the more times you will have reached your target, the bigger surprise awaits for you after exams before our holidays. Plus, I know that you‘re behind now, but if you manage to get a higher average mark from your exams than what you planned in september, there will be another surprise throughout the holidays.
Me: Well, that just sounds great! Sad that I can‘t get ir right by myself, but I do feel like I can do it.
Girlfriend: No cheating though, okay? After all, it is your studies and it is you who is going to lose in your exams in the end if you cheat. Okay?

Me: Sure!

Pritchard and Curtis (1973) looked into the contribution of incentives on task performance. There were 87 participants in the study. All of them were students from introductory psychology subject pool at Purdue University. They received experimental credit for participation as well as any money they earned during the experiment. The task for the subjects was to sort 24 shuffled practice cards into 12 corresponding position (2 cards for each position). Each card contained information possible for categorization (sex – male/female, education – finished/didn‘t finish high school, income level – under $5000/$5000-10,000/over $10,000), making it possible 12 configurations (2 x 2 x 3). Participants had to sort them as quickly as they could. A rest period of approximately two minutes was given. After that one of the five experimental manipulations were given: A) goal setting with 1) no incentive, 2) 50 cent incentive, 3) $3.00 incentive; B) no goal setting with 1) incentive, 2) no incentive. The results of the study can be seen in Fig. 1.

As you can see, incentives seem to play a big role in task performance. When there is no goal set, an improvement in the task is seen. However, no difference was seen between no incentive and the low incentive condition when a goal was set.

In this situation, incentives seem to be working as well. The goal was for me to go through more studying material everyday and I can definitely see an increase already. There is another incentive if I reach the second set goal (getting higher average exam grades than expected) but I cannot say whether that worked yet.


Pritchard, R. D., & Curtis, M. I. (1973). The influence of goal setting and financial incentives on task performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 10, 175-183.

NSS & Free lunch

It's that time of the year again - the time when uni finalists are being bombarded with requests to fill out the infamous National Student Survey (NSS). You may have seen these posters around the Warwick campus, offering you an opportunity to 'SHAPE the future of Warwick quicker than you can eat a FREE LUNCH'. 

On the poster, the words 'shape' and 'free lunch' are printed in a bold font, attracting the attention of students passing by. Understandably, the promise of a free lunch, in the form of 5 pounds gifted on the Eating @ Warwick card, is an incentive that needs to be communicated. So what evidence is there to support the use of a bold font, in persuasive messages? 

A study by Lohse (1996) was aimed at determining how various characteristics of advertisements, such as their size, colour, and whether they are bold or plain, influence consumer information processing behaviour. 

The participants were asked to flick through the adverts in yellow page directories,  in alphabetical order, and choose their preferred businesses. Their eye movement data was collected, together with their choices of the businesses that attracted them most. Some of the adverts were never seen by the participants throughout their quick scan, and the study attempted to pick out the characteristics of the adverts that were indeed noticed.  
One of the particularly relevant findings was that bold listings were viewed 42% more than plain listings (as indicated by the chart below). 

What is the significance of this for NSS and the design of the poster? Anyone who has been on Warwick University campus knows, that our wall space is always filled with posters from various clubs, societies, advertisements of new films, events, employer presentations and more. As we pass by, most of them never get noticed or cause us to stop and process them. The primary goal is therefore to get the student to actually see the message among all the other messages competing for the viewers' attention. Indeed, Lohse (1997) showed that consumers spent 54% more time on the adverts they ended up choosing as their preferred ones, which shows that initial attention is an important predictor of subsequent behaviour. 

Therefore, using a bold font in this case to attract attention to what is a great incentive for every student, seems to be an example of effective use of advertising principles in a non-advert message. 

Lohse, G. L. (1997). Consumer eye movement patterns on yellow pages advertising. Journal of Advertising26(1), 61-73.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Classical music boosts wine sales!

Mozart Piano Concerto no.23 in A major, performed by Vladimir Horowitz at age 84

Have you ever wondered why Classical music is often played in the background at wine stores? Does music by Mozart, Chopin etc have anything to do with wine selling?

We are all aware of the persuasion messages that come verbally and visually, in advertisements and in real life. However, we often forget that persuasion also comes in auditory form. In wine stores, music is often used as part of a powerful persuasion tool: AtmosphericsAtmospherics is the conscious designing of the environment where purchasing behaviours occurs, in order to create specific emotional effects in the customers to enhance their probability of purchase (Kotler, 1973). Kotler (1993) also suggested that atmospherics is particularly important when products being sold are aimed at a specific social class or life style group, as the atmosphere could be designed to cue buyers to the class qualities that they want to enjoy.

Atmospherics is supported by Areni and Kim's (1993) study, which showed that customers spend more money at a wine store when Classical music was played in the background, than when top-forty pop music was played. In the study, either Classical or Top-Forty music was played in the background at a wine store, depending on the condition. In the Classical music condition, recordings being played include: The Mozart Collection, My Favourite Chopin, Mendelssohn Piano Concerto no.2, and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". In the top-forty condition, recordings of pop music from recent Billboard Magazine's top forty albums were played. The data was then collected through direct observation of the customers. 

Table 1 shows that customers in the Classical music condition spent more money in the wine store, but the number of items handled, purchased, and examined, and the amount of time spent did not show statistically significant difference between the two conditions. Areni and Kim (1993) suggested the Classical music being played might have created an upper class and sophisticated atmosphere in the wine store, and cued that the wine being sold ought to be high quality and expensive. As wine consumption is often associated with sophistication and prestige, the Classical music being played might provide a compatible cue that appeals to customers who are seeking sophistication, and facilitate purchase behaviour of higher-priced wine. 

Whilst it is clear that we are bombarded with visual and verbal persuasive messages, we ought to bear in mind that we are also potentially influenced by what we hear, such as music as in atmospherics, whenever we take on the role as consumers.


Areni, C. S., & Kim, D. (1993). The influence of background music on shopping behavior: classical versus top-forty music in a wine store. Advances in consumer research20(1), 336-340.

Kotler, P. (1973). Atmospherics as a marketing tool. Journal of retailing49(4), 48-64.

- Conan Wan

It Makes More Sense!

I visited London recently, for the last time before returning to my home country (I am an exchange student). My friend asked me if I was interested in seeing a West End theatre production. I replied, “No, I am too tired”.

She responded with, “But you have wanted to see a West End show for so long!”

“Yes, but that’s okay. I have seen many other attractions in London already”, I said.  However, I began to feel a bit uneasy, as what she said was also true.

“This is your last chance probably in a very long time! It will be years before you visit London again and get the chance to see a musical here.” At hearing this, I thought her argument was quite valid. This resulted in cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance refers to the result of having two or more inconsistent cognitions simultaneously, leading a person to feel uncomfortable. People strive to be consistent and are motivated to reduce inconsistencies. They may do so by lowering the importance of one of the factors, add elements that are consistent with the factors, or change one of the dissonant factors so that they are consistent with each other.

Figure 1. Model of interrelationships between emotional and product dissonance, product returns, and factors affecting dissonance. *** = significant at 0.05 level. ** = significant at 0.05 level. N.S. = not significant.

Thomas and Jack (2013) investigated the role of cognitive dissonance in dissatisfied customers who return their products. 308 customers who had shopped at either Target or Walmart completed an online survey. They responded to questions about their most recent product return. The survey incorporated various scales, which measured product dissonance (dissonance related to the cognitions of the product, e.g., doubting the effectiveness of the product), emotional dissonance (dissonance in emotions related to the product, e.g., feeling sad that they might have acquired a better product), and product return frequency. The survey also measured different factors related to cognitive dissonance, including opportunistic behaviour of the customer (e.g., deciding to return an item after a single use), gender, and product brand. They found that the levels of both product dissonance and emotional dissonance were significantly correlated to the frequency of product returns (refer to Figure 1). 

In my situation, I was still interested in watching a theatre production in London, and it was a rare opportunity. Conversely, I was feeling very tired and preferred to rest. I felt conflicted. However, I decided that seeing a show would be better a decision than missing it due to simply being tired. In the end, I chose to view a production. Like people who returned their products, I also reduced my cognitive dissonance by changing one of the dissonant factors, in this case thinking I was too tired to attend a show.

Powers, T. L., Jack, E. P. (2013). The influence of cognitive dissonance on retail product returns. Psychology & Marketing, 30, 724-735. 

Self attribution effect of success

Recently I worked at an A level revision day where year 13 students came to have revision sessions for their final chemistry exam. The teacher was very enthusiastic and encouraging and tried to motivate the students by reminding them that they are all bright students who are all capable of achieving the higher grades. Throughout the session, he kept saying comments like “you are all so bright” or “you’re some of the brightest students in the UK”. This technique, which may even have been unintentional, uses the power of the attribution effect to influence the students to do well in their exams.
Miller, Bickerman and Bolen (1975) did a study in which they had three different conditions. In one condition they kept telling the students that they are a very tidy class, or that the head master had commented at how tidy the class is (attribution group). In another condition, the students were told not to litter and had posters around their classroom telling them not to litter (the persuasion group). The third group was a control group who received no treatment. They used the percentage of rubbish thrown in the bin by the class as the outcome measure at the end to see which technique influenced the students to be the tidiest.

Their results showed that those students who were in the “attribution group” ended up being the tidiest out of the three groups. The graph below shows their results and showed that a higher percentage of rubbish was thrown in the bin in the attribution group compared to the other groups. It also shows that those in the attribution group continued to be tidy two weeks after the manipulation, whereas those in the persuasion group went back down again.

The researchers called this the attribution effect and explained it by saying that if you attribute a personality or trait, they will make that attribution themselves eventually, and think that it is in fact true. When this happens, they will try to play up to the label and so will start to do things associated with that label. Therefore in the case that I described above in the A level revision sessions, the fact that the teacher kept telling the students that they are bright and capable of getting good grades, would make the students attribute the label of “bright” and “capable” to themselves. This would mean that they might study hard and believe that they can do it, which in turn would mean that they do well in their exams. This shows a technique which a teacher might use to influence their students.


Miller, R. L., Brickman, P., & Bolen, D. (1975). Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 31, 430.

Chelsea vs. PSG: Red card persuasion.

On Wednesday night, premier league giants Chelsea FC bowed out of the champions league, losing to Paris Saint Germain via the away goals rule. The game finished 2-2, but was overshadowed by the controversial dismissal of the PSG talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The referee sent Zlatan off for a dangerous challenge on a Chelsea midfielder. Replays show that the tackle was not worthy of a red card, even prompting Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to call for the European footballing body (UEFA) to rescind the red card. The referee made the decision to send the PSG player off after being bombarded by the whole Chelsea team. The Chelsea players persuaded the referee to show the red card by their collective influence. The following morning, back pages of national newspapers showed dismay at the way the Chelsea players, branding them as crying babies (see below).

Gerard, Wilhelmy, Conolley (1968) repeated Solomon Asch's classic 'line length' experiment (1951). In the original experiment, participants had to decide which of three lines (A, B or C) were the same length as a comparison line. On critical trials, confederates in the room purposely said the wrong answer. Most often, participants agreed with the majority - even if the majority group was obviously incorrect. Asch claimed that as long as the majority group had three members, the effect would stand with "full force" and increasing the number of members in the group would not amplify the conformity effect.

Gerard, Wilhely and Conolley (1968) note that Asch's claim about group size is not supported by any statistical analysis of trend. They repeat the line experiment using several numbers of confederates (1-7). The results display a positive linear relationship between group size and level of conformity (as measured by mean number of conformity induced errors). This relationship is displayed in figure 1.

The results demonstrate that the level of persuasion roughly increases with group size. Picture yourself as referee Bjorn Kuipers: eleven Chelsea players running at you screaming "send him off", is more persuasive than just one or two players. The above research supports this anecdotal hypothesis.

Although the Chelsea eleven managed to reduce PSG to ten, they couldn't capitalize and ended up missing out on a champions league last eight place.

          Ascir, S. E. Effects of group pressure, upon the modification and distortion of judgments. In II. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership, and men. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press, 1951. Pp. 177-190.
          Gerard, H. B., Wilhelmy, R. A., & Conolley, E. S. (1968). Conformity and group size. Journal of personality and social psychology, 8, 79-82.

There's NO excuse for violence against women. It's rubbish.

The above sign was part of a campaign run by The City of Sydney to raise awareness about White Ribbon Week and ending violence against women. While some have argued that this trivializes the severity of violence against women, I believe the ad manages to grab onlookers' attention while making a clear, negative association between violence and rubbish.

Staats and Staats (1958) conducted a study that showed how creating associations through classical conditioning could influence attitudes. In Experiment I, participants were equally split into 2 groups and given 2 types of stimuli: visual (words written on a screen) and verbal (words presented orally, that participants had to immediately repeat). The words were either national names or familiar masculine names. Participants then had to learn five visually presented national names, and 33 verbally presented words. They were presented with 12 pairs of words, and had to identify which of each pair they had seen before.

6 new national names were visually displayed on a screen as part of the conditioned stimulus. 1 second after each word was shown, another word was verbally presented as part of the unconditioned stimulus. Participants were asked to silently learn the visually presented words, but to repeat the verbally presented words aloud. The words were visually displayed 18 times and accompanied by different verbal stimuli. However, 2 of the national names were repeatedly paired with words with evaluative meaning e.g. Dutch was paired with words with positive evaluative meaning while Swedish was paired with words with negative evaluative meaning for Group 1 and vice-versa for Group 2. Finally, participants were tested on how many visually presented words they could remember and asked how they felt about each of the words.

In Experiment II, this was repeated with masculine names as the conditioned stimulus. For Group 1, Tom was paired with words with positive evaluative meaning and Bill with words with negative evaluative meaning. The opposite was true for Group 2.

The results were significant for both words in Experiment I and II. A within-subjects comparison revealed that conditioning had occurred as participants now had significantly different attitudes towards each of the conditioned words in both  Experiment I, F(1) = 5.52, p<.05, and Experiment II,F(1) - 10.47, p<.05. As shown in Table 1 below, words paired with positive evaluative meanings were now associated with lower, more pleasant attitude scores than words paired with negative evaluative meanings.

Thus, the study demonstrated that participants could be conditioned to find words more or less pleasant by having them paired with words with pre-existing pleasant or unpleasant connotations. This is likely to be the mentality behind the There's NO excuse for violence against women. It's rubbish.” campaign, as “attitudes evoked by concepts are considered part of the total meaning of the concept" (Staats & Staats, 1958, pp. 37).

Staats, A. W., & Staats, C. K. (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 57(1), 37.

Shareen Rikhraj

Blowfishin' This Up!

In this scene, taken from Breaking Bad, we find the up-and-coming drug kingpin Walter White trying to raise Jesse Pinkman’s self-esteem and nurse his ego in order to get him selling their product again. Walter employs the analogy of Jesse being like a Blowfish, to make Jesse think no one will oppose him in the drugs trade:

-Walter White: “Intimidating, so that the other scarier fish are scared off. And that's you. You are a blowfish. You see? It's just all an illusion. See? It's nothing but air. Now, who messes with the blowfish, Jesse?”
-Jesse Pinkman: “Nobody.”
- WW: “You're damn right.”
- JP: “I'm a blowfish.”
- WW: “You are a blowfish. Say it again.”
-JP: “I'm a blowfish.”
- WW: “Say it like you mean it.”
-JP: “I'm a blowfish!”
-WW: “ That's it.”

In this discussion, Walter uses repetition to convey his point to Jesse. The use of repetition is a stalwart in the plethora of persuasion techniques, depicted in Zajonc’s (1968) classic research. The ‘mere exposure effect’ occurs when repeated exposure to an argument increases the target’s belief in the validity of the argument. The person trying to convey the persuasive message must be careful not to overexpose the target however, as they risk reducing the perceived validity of their argument.

This effect has been replicated, as seen in Cacioppo & Petty (1979). Undergraduate students were either presented with an argument for or against a certain way of funding a marginal increase in tuition fees either 0, 1, 3 or 5 times. The students were then asked to rate on a 15-point Likert scale how much they agreed with the statement.

As seen in Graph 1 below, exposure to the statement 3 times led to increased agreement with whichever statement the students were presented with.

Graph 1: Demonstrating the increase and eventual decrease in student agreement with a statement as it is repeated (Cacioppo & Petty1979).

The graph also indicates that beyond 3 times, agreement with the statement decreased, so Walter encouraged Jesse to repeat the statement and be exposed to it the correct number of times, before it lost its perceived validity.

By engaging Jesse with the act of repeating the “I’m a blowfish!” statement, Walter persuades Jesse that he is the alleged, intimidating blowfish. Jesse identifies positively with the concept and internalises the fact that, yes, he is indeed a blowfish and proceeds to celebrate appropriately.


Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1979). Effects of message repetition and position on cognitive response, recall, and persuasion. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 97.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9(2p2), 1.