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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


The above advert demonstrates a range of persuasive techniques, encouraging individuals to ‘ChooseRealFood’ and to avoid processed, sugary foods. Studies have conveyed this to be an effective way to tackle obesity and provide health benefits for those who follow the ‘low-carb, low-fat’ healthy diet (Meckling, O'Sullivan & Saari, 2004). Primarily, the advert has an adult target audience; individuals who would be providing the food for themselves and others.

Caildini (2009) suggests that one of the strongest influences upon behaviour is the implementation of social compliance and trust in an authority figures. Milgram (1963) demonstrated that subjects could be manipulated or encouraged to follow particular instructions and behaviours when asked by an authority figure. This was further supported by Bickman (1974) who portrayed subjects complied more with an individual dressed in uniform (figure of authority, i.e. a guard), than someone dressed as a civilian. The advert above generates this concept through using the image of two doctors, known specialists and authority figures in the health department. As a result, the audience is more likely to comply with the given message. In addition, the health benefits labelled below the images are more likely to be believed due to the association with the trusted authority figures (Frewer, Howard, Hedderley & Shepherd, 1996).

A merchandising technique, based on the theory of reciprocity, is the use of a free sample (Bawa & Shoemaker, 2004). The theory of reciprocity states that individuals should repay what has been provided or given to us (Cialdini, 2009), violating this rule is viewed as an un-sociable trait. Regan (1971) exhibited this through a confederate providing a small favour for the subject, leading the subject to then agree to a later favour when asked. This demonstrates an external pressure to agree due to the small favour provided previously. The advert provides potential customers with access to the product, through a 'first free meal plan'. However, this free sample can also be interpreted as a gift, of which according to the theory must be reciprocated, leading customers to follow-through with future purchases.

Finally, the advert states that a free sample can be received by simply calling the number provided. Not only does this invite potential customers to receive more information, but it may be suggested they are more likely to follow through with potential orders due to the theory of commitment and consistency. Cialdini, Trost, Newsom (1995) suggest that every individual has a desire to be consistent with their actions and so behave in such ways to justify their decisions, Newcomb (1953) states that for this reason, consistency is a primary motivator of behaviour. According to this theory, a customer would be more likely to commit to the product to appear consistent with their decision to call in the first place and due to the extra time and effort they have gone to in order to receive this information (Cialdini 2009). 


Bawa, K., & Shoemaker, R. (2004). The effects of free sample promotions on incremental brand sales. Marketing Science, 23(3), 345-363

Bickman, L. (1974). The social power of a uniform1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(1), 47-61

Cialdini, R.B. (2009).Influence: Science and Practice (Vol. 4). Boston: Pearson Education

Cialdini, R.B., Trost, M.R., & Newsom, J.T, (1995). Preference for consistency: The Development of a valid measure and the discovery of surprising behavioural implications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(2), 318

Frewer, L.J., Howard, C., Hedderley, D., & Shepherd, R. (1996). What determines trust in information about food-related risks? Underlying Psychological Constructs. Risk Analysis, 16(4), 473-486

Meckling, K.A., O'Sullivan, C., & Saari, D. (2004). Comparison of a low-fat diet to a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss, body composition, and risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in free-living, overweight men and women.The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89(6), 2717-2723

Milgram, S.(1963). Behavioural study of obedience. The Journal of abnormal and social psychology, 67(4), 371

Newcomb, T.M. (1953). An approach to the study of communicative acts. Psychological review, 60(6), 393

Regan, D.T. (1971). Effects of favour and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7(6), 627-639

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