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, March 13, 2015

Persuading parents to travel abroad

  It’s not always easy for Asian girls to get their parents' permission when they plan to travel abroad for a while. When a friend of mine simply asked her parents if she could travel around Europe for a month, they did not let her. However once she used storytelling to illustrate to her parents why this trip is important to her, the kind of experience she thinks she could have and how safe it would be, along with vivid pictures of the places she would go, she was to persuade her parents to let her visit me here in England.

  The effects of storytelling and vividness as persuasive techniques were illustrated by Baesler and Burgoon (1994) who investigated the persuasive effects of statistical evidence versus story evidence whilst controlling for the effect of vividness. In their study, participants in the experimental group were instructed to read four messages that argued against the proposition that “juvenile delinquents grow up to become criminals”. Each message was presented either within a vivid story, within a nonvivid story, using vivid statistical information or using nonvivid statistical information. There was also a control group who were simply presented with the proposition (no additional evidence). After exposure to the evidence, researchers measured the degree to which participants change their beliefs about the proposition.

Figure 1. Persuasiveness of the five message conditions.

  As shown in figure 1, it is clear that participants in all of the four evidence conditions were significantly more likely to be persuaded by their message than those in the control condition. Also, vividness played an important role in changing individuals' beliefs as vivid evidence led to higher persuasive effects than nonvivid evidence. On the other hand, whether evidence is presented in a story or statistic form did not make any difference in changing participants' mind.

  This study did not find storytelling to be any more effective than statistical evidence in changing beliefs. Nevertheless it was more effective than simply presenting the statement. If she was ever in a situation whereby she needed to persuade her parents again it may be a good idea to try to use statistics as well as vivid and storytelling information. 

Baesler, E. J., & Burgoon, J. K. (1994). The temporal effects of story and statistical evidence on belief change. Communication Research, 21, 582-602.

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