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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ditch Dairy.

The above advertisement is aimed at getting people to give up dairy foods by highlighting the various benefits to the environment and their health. The ad also warns of the dangers of dairy consumption.

A variety of persuasive techniques were integrated for maximum effect. Ariana Grande is a crucial part of this ad – being an attractive young woman who people desire to be, she is a key device for persuasion. Celebrity endorsement is a tactic often used in advertising whereby the message of the ad is associated with the attractiveness and popularity of the celebrity, making the target audience more likely to endorse the message (Erdogan, 1999). Further, the ad highlights the benefits Ariana has seen after eliminating dairy from her diet, such as weight loss. Associating the message with such positive rewards will further encourage people to change.

Another tactic used is the ‘door-in-the-face’ technique. This is where an extreme request is rejected and then followed by a moderate request. In the ad, this is used by first suggesting that people should save the lives of cows by cutting out beef (an extreme request), then following this with a smaller request to save cows by cutting out dairy instead. This works because of the norms of reciprocation, where due to the apparent concession being made by reducing the request to a smaller offer, the target is therefore more likely to comply with this smaller request (Cialdini and Ascani, 1976). For example in a study by Cialdini, Vincent, Lewis, Catalan, Wheeler and Darby (1975), subjects were first asked to be a counselor for two hours a week for two years (the extreme request), then after this was rejected they were asked a smaller request to make one two-hour commitment. Thanks to norms of reciprocation, this technique yielded a higher compliance rate compared to control conditions.

But wait... That’s not all! This ad uses the ‘that’s-not-all’ technique by presenting a wide range of the benefits of cutting out dairy, and then stating that there are even more benefits on top of those already mentioned. This makes the idea of cutting out dairy look even better than it did before. Burger (1986) demonstrated this by improving a cupcake deal (one 75p cupcake or one cupcake and two cookies for 75p), which increased compliance and doubled sales.

Additionally, the use of expert testimony from the University Professor in this ad enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of the information, making it more effective at persuading people to change their behaviour. Many studies have shown the influence of source credibility, for example, people who read an article were more likely to believe it when the author was a scientist (and thus a credible source) compared to a non-credible source, which in this case was a Soviet news agency named PRAVDA (Hovland & Weiss, 1951).

Finally, the technique of repetition was used with the simple message to ‘Ditch Dairy’. Repeating a message increases the liking for it, and this rise in familiarity leads us to infer that the opinion is popular, thus repetition acts as a form of social proof. Weaver et al., (2007) demonstrated this by showing that one message repeated three times was equally as persuasive as one message heard from three different people.


Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 277.

Cialdini, R. B., & Ascani, K. (1976). Test of a concession procedure for inducing verbal, behavioral, and further compliance with a request to give blood. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61(3), 295.

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206.

Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of marketing management, 15(4), 291-314.

Hovland, C. I. & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.

Weaver, K., Garcia, S. M., Schwarz, N., & Miller, D. T. (2007). Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity: a repetitive voice can sound like a chorus. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(5), 821.

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