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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lose weight the "easy" way...

For most, dieting is a daily struggle of enduring unappetising food and requiring strong resolve to overcome temptation. I chose to create an advert for the increasingly popular 5:2 diet which takes a slightly unorthodox approach. In most diets, people must constantly moderate food intake. However, the 5:2 diet allows people to eat whatever they want (within reason) for 5 days a week with only 2 days of calorie restriction. Studies have shown that adopting this lifestyle choice can lead to many health benefits, as mentioned in the advert.

To persuade people to undertake the 5:2 diet, I utilised rhetorical questions to increase attention and cognitive processing of the message (Fitzsimons, & Shiv, 2001). These initial questions aim to remind consumers of the negative experiences associated with other diets. In particular, they emphasise the lack of freedom in food choice. The theory of psychological reactance suggests that if consumers feel that their freedom to choose is threatened, they will perceive a behaviour as more attractive, especially if a way of restoring freedom is provided (Miller, Lane, Deatrick, Young, & Potts, 2007). By promoting the fact that they would have freedom in their food choice 5 days of the week, they will be more likely to adopt the diet. This technique has previously been effective in anti-smoking campaigns. Rather than enforcing traditional anti-smoking methods, students were explicitly told to smoke. In doing so, the students felt forced so were actually more likely to give up smoking (Grandpre, Alvaro, Burgoon, Miller, & Hall, 2003).

Along the same lines, self-determination theory states that loss of autonomy, through feeling restricted in choices, is one of the key factors that prevents internalisation of a message. An additional factor within this theory that affects the adoption of a behaviour is perceived competency (Ryan, Patrick, Deci, & Williams, 2008). By highlighting that the diet only requires 2 days of effort, it appears easy in comparison to other diets. Thus, it will persuade people to attempt the diet as they will believe they have more chance at success. By subsequently listing the health benefits, it implies that their minimal effort will enable them to profit from more than just weight loss, increasing the appeal of the diet. Both of the aforementioned factors associated with the self-determination of behaviours have been used successfully in encouraging increased vegetable intake (Thomson, & Ravia, 2011).

With the 5:2 diet tapping into people’s desire for a “simple” way to achieve their weight loss goals, it seems imperative that advertisers take full advantage of this factor to ensure more people adopt this new lifestyle choice.

Fitzsimons, G. J., & Shiv, B. (2001). Nonconscious and contaminative effects of hypothetical questions on subsequent decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(2), 224-238.
Grandpre, J., Alvaro, E. M., Burgoon, M., Miller, C. H., & Hall, J. R. (2003). Adolescent reactance and anti-smoking campaigns: A theoretical approach. Health Communication, 15(3), 349-366.
Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., ... & Son, T. G. (2011). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity, 35(5), 714-727.
Miller, C. H., Lane, L. T., Deatrick, L. M., Young, A. M., & Potts, K. A. (2007). Psychological reactance and promotional health messages: The effects of controlling language, lexical concreteness, and the restoration of freedom. Human Communication Research, 33(2), 219-240.
Ryan, R. M., Patrick, H., Deci, E. L., & Williams, G. C. (2008). Facilitating health behaviour change and its maintenance: Interventions based on self-determination theory. European Health Psychologist, 10(1), 2-5.
Thomson, C. A., & Ravia, J. (2011). A systematic review of behavioral interventions to promote intake of fruit and vegetables. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(10), 1523-1535.

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