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

Looking for a new diet?

This advert promotes a high-fibre diet, using a number of persuasive methods to do so. The first  is through the rhetorical question ‘Looking for a new diet?’ If the individual looking at the poster is indeed looking for a new diet, they are more likely to look at the poster and interpret the information more intensely. This is especially the case if the message provides a argument that causes elaboration in thinking (Petty, Cacioppo & Heesacker, 1981). Blankenship and Craig (2006) found when participants had to rate an editorial of a professor advocating the use of nuclear power, the use of rhetorical questions made the participants think more thoroughly about the message (especially with a strong message) compared to when statements were used. Therefore the advert’s use of a rhetorical question is used to enhance the individual’s processing of the information, increasing the likelihood they will be persuaded into starting a high-fibre diet.

Additionally, the quote used in the poster is from a survey carried out for the government by an expert diet and nutrition organisation. Research has indicated that level of expertise of the source information affects the likelihood that someone will actually carry out a desired behaviour. For example, Crisci and Kassinove (1973) found that when mothers had their children psychologically assessed by an experimenter introduced as 'Dr' compared to a 'Mr', they were more likely to then try and obtain a book the experimenter had suggested when the experimenter was a 'Dr', as this title signifies more expertise. Therefore expertise will affect how likely an individual is to carry out a desired behaviour. In the case of the food advert, the observer seeing that a government organisation has recommended a higher intake of fibre in the population will increase the likelihood that the individual will engage in such a diet.

This poster uses a gain frame method of persuasion to encourage individuals to start a high-fibre diet. Individuals who tend to focus on positive outcomes have been found to be persuaded to avoid disease as a result of gain frame methods (Latimer, Salovey & Rothman, 2007). For example, non-smoking women remained non-smokers for longer when gain frame methods of health benefits were used compared to those who received loss frame methods (Toll, Salovey, O'Malley, Mazure, Latimer & McKee, 2008). Therefore, this poster uses a gain frame by highlighting the fact a high-fibre diet can lead to avoidance of some diseases and can help health aspects such as blood pressure and cholesterol, further persuading the individual that this is the diet for them.

The final use of persuasion on the poster is through the use of an attractive and healthy looking woman holding a high-fibre food item. Attractive models are often used to increase the effectiveness of an advert (Bower, 2001). Richins (1991) found that participants who had been shown adverts with attractive models were less satisfied with their own appearance than the participants who had been shown at advert without a model. The researcher concluded that adverts cause women to engage in social comparison of themselves with the model. This could persuade the individual to then engage in the behaviour advertised. Although Richins’ (1991) research focuses on women’s response to advertising, images of both sexes can be used in advertising to attract the opposite sex (Messaris, 1996).  For this food advert, the individual associates the model’s attractiveness with the high-fibre diet and is therefore more likely to engage in the same diet in order to improve their own appearance satisfaction.


Blankenship, K. L., & Craig, T. Y. (2006). Rhetorical question use and resistance to persuasion: An attitude strength analysis, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 25, 111-128.

Bower, A. B. (2001). Highly attractive models in advertising and the women who loathe them: The implications of negative effect for spokesperson effectiveness, Journal of Advertising, 30, 51-63

Crisci, R., & Kassinove, H. (1973). Effect of perceived expertise, strength of advice, and environmental setting on parental compliance, The Journal of Social Psychology, 89, 245-250.

Latimer, A. E., Salovey, P., & Rothman, A. J. (2007). Effectiveness of gain-framed messages for encouraging disease prevention behaviour: Is all hope lost? Journal of Health Communication, 12, 645-649.Messaris, P. (1996). Visual persuasion: The role of images in advertising. Sage publications.

Petty, R. E. Cacioppo, J. T., & Heesacker, M. (1981). The use of rhetorical questions in persuasion: A cognitive response analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 722-741.

Richins, M. L. (1991). Social comparison and the idealised images of advertising, Journal of Consumer Research, 18, 71-83.

Toll, B. A., Salovey, P., O'Malley, S. S., Mazure, C. M., Latimer, A., & McKee, S. A. (2008). Message framing for smoking cessation: The interaction of risk perceptions and gender, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 10, 195-200.


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