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 4, 2016

"PLEASE DON'T EAT ME! At least not on Mondays..."

For most of my life I've been a vegetarian. Not one of those high horse vegetarians who announce their beliefs every five minutes, but I'm certainly proud that I don’t eat animals. This is one of the reasons I support the idea of “Meat Free Monday” so much, it allows meat eaters to get a taste of being a veggie and hopefully show it isn't all rabbit food!
Launched by Stella and Paul McCartney in 2009, “Meat Free Monday” is the idea that one day a week people surrender their meat eating behaviour to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. The campaign goes further than just saving animals, it encourages people to understand the detrimental impact eating meat has on the environment and climate change, a very hot topic in the news currently. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have estimated that up to 20% of the greenhouse gasses are a result of livestock farming, with cows being the largest contributor.

It could be argued though that the success of “Meat Free Monday” is a result of the publicity and marketing strategies, specifically using Sir Paul McCartney, an influential, iconic figure as the face of the campaign.

The impact a famous celebrity can have on influence, particularly identification, has been recognised and explored in research. Identification is the idea whereby you model your behaviours and attitudes based on others, most commonly famous people. Igartua (2010) looked at identification, and how identification can influence people’s attitudes and beliefs. The aim of the 3rd part of the study looks at whether identification with a film character can explain the change of attitude towards immigration. Using a feature film on immigration (A day without a Mexican) participants were allocated to the control condition: complete a questionnaire assessing beliefs and attitudes towards immigration before watching the film, or the treatment condition: complete a questionnaire after watching the film. 

The above table summarises the Pearson’s correlation coefficients found in Study 3, looking at the association between identification with characters and the attitudes of participants regarding immigrants in both groups.
As predicted results found participants in the treatment group had a more positive attitude towards immigration, than participants in the control condition. Participant’s ratings of how they identified with a film character and their attitudes towards immigration were analysed together. In the treatment group statistically significant results found, the more participants identified with a character they had more positive emotions towards immigration, less negative emotions towards immigration and felt immigration can help a country.  
The results from this study show how identification with a film character can help to explain change of attitudes, caused specifically by viewing a film. In relation to “Meat free Monday” having Paul McCartney, a famous person, as the face of the campaign may increase the amount of people willing to give the idea a try.  If people can identify with the beliefs of Paul McCartney it may positively change a person’s attitude towards giving up meat once a week. Igartua explicitly suggests identifying with a character who is projecting empathy towards an issue may assist other people to feel the same.
So, from the animals to Sir Paul McCartney for his “Meat free Monday” campaign….  

Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G. (2013). Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.
Igartua, J. J. (2010). Identification with characters and narrative persuasion through fictional feature films. Communications, 35(4), 347-373.

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