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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Social Proof in SU Elections


It was hard to miss the elections last week on Warwick campus, the university was littered with painted cardboard advertising candidates. Social media outlets were also full of candidate videos, such as the one above. Many of them took a similar route and got as many people as they could possibly find to feature in their video claiming they were going to be voting for said candidate. The above video is from the now elected president of the students union, so this method is clearly effective. This is a prime example of utilising social proof in persuasion; showing the audience that everyone else is voting for Isaac, so you should too.


Bryan and Test (1967) illustrated the effects of social proof in their study. They had an undergraduate female student stood by a car which had a flat tyre. For half of the participants, this car was positioned after a control car which was consisted of a male changing the flat tire for a female. They wanted to see if seeing someone else helping someone change a tire would incentivise participants to help the woman later down the road with a flat tyre. They found that significantly more participants stopped to help if they had previously seen a woman being helped in a similar scenario, this is illustrated in Figure 1. This effect also transferred to collection for a charity, participants who saw someone donate money were more likely to then carry on and donate money themselves.


In the video presented, the other people saying they are going to vote Isaac are the social models, they are creating the social proof for you. You see that other people are voting for Isaac and thus, or so the theory goes, you will then be more likely to vote Isaac yourself.

Bryan, J. H., & Test, M. A. (1967). Models and helping: Naturalistic studies in aiding behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 400-407.

Danielle Huskinson

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