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.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cut the crap


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So many nowadays are ‘eating clean’ by cutting out processed foods and drinks, cutting out alcohol and choosing to eat only ‘natural’ foods. This has proven to have many health benefits such as lowering your cancer risk (prevention.com) or boosting energy and aiding weight loss (yogajournal).

The advertisement I have created aims to persuade people to follow a clean eating diet by using several persuasion techniques. The first, is included in the headline ‘don’t be cheap, easy or fake’, these are threatening words leading to fearful emotions, as no one wants to become any of these things. Becheur et al. (2007) found that when advertisements include words or images that produce a negative emotional response such as fear, the advertisements were successful in persuading young people to alter their behaviours. The word Cancer also produces a fearful response as it’s something that all of us try to avoid. Threatening words such as Cancer also produces a fearful emotion, which makes the viewers feel they will have to deal with negative consequences if they don’t comply (i.e. eat clean.) This has also been proven to be highly effect in persuading behaviour change as it makes people think more deeply about it through triggering emotions (LaTour & Zahra, 1998).

The second technique used was to use an a model with a desirable body, this increases the appeal of the ‘clean eating’ diet especially as the fact ‘helps lose weight’ suggests you too could achieve this body and the picture is also relevant to the diet it is advertising (Trampe, Stapel, Siero & Mulder, 2010). This technique is powerful as it provides people with an end goal when adopting this new diet.

Thirdly, ‘Join the millions’ suggests that everyone is already doing it, thus employing the social proof principle. This technique has shown that by knowing what others are doing can have a large influence over one's own behaviour, especially if these are ingroup members or people we aspire to be like, such as the fitness model in the advert, whom a lot of people want a body like. O’Connor (1969) found that children interacted more positively with peers when they were shown a video suggesting that all children interact positively.

By showing facts in the advert, it gives the idea that the information is coming from expertise and so is therefore credible. Having facts coming from an expert source is a highly effective persuasive technique (Homer & Kahle, 1990). Experts are usually considered to be authority figures and as Bickman (1974) observed, people were more likely to change their behaviour if they were told to do so by a member of authority. This finding was also observed by Milgram (1963) who showed that people could be easily manipulated when someone of perceived authority was asking them to do something they would not usually feel comfortable doing. The reason for this technique working in advertising may be due to experts, or credible sources being associated with positive outcomes, e.g. a fitness expert is usually fit themselves, so they have proven that it will work.


Bécheur, I., Dib, H., Merunka, D., & Valette-Florence, P. (2007). Emotions of fear, guilt or shame in anti-alcohol messages: measuring direct effects on persuasion and the moderating role of sensation seeking. In The 2007 European Conference of the Association for Consumer Research.

Bickman, L. (1974). The social power of a uniform1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 4, 47-61.

Homer, P. M., & Kahle, L. R. (1990). Source expertise, time of source identification, and involvement in persuasion: An elaborative processing perspective. Journal of Advertising, 19(1), 30-39.

LaTour, M. S., & Zahra, S. A. (1988). Fear appeals as advertising strategy: Should they be used?Journal of Services Marketing, 2, 5-14.

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

O'Connor, R. D. (1969). Modification of social withdrawal through symbolic modeling1. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2(1), 15-22.

Trampe, D., Stapel, D. A., Siero, F. W., & Mulder, H. (2010). Beauty as a tool: The effect of model attractiveness, product relevance, and elaboration likelihood on advertising effectiveness. Psychology & Marketing, 27(12), 1101-1121.


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