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

Small Change, Big Difference

Above is a campaign by Saatchi and Saatchi to raise awareness and collect donations for people living in poverty stricken areas of the world. It became viral in 2015, when it was shared on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, and reached over 50 million views all around the world. So what is it about this charity campaign that made is so successful in capturing people's attention?

To answer this question, it is important to examine how seeing such an advert makes you feel personally - what kind of a response does it evoke?

Firstly, it makes the viewer feel sad about people who must live in poverty. It makes them feel pity for people who live without the resources and facilities so easily available for the viewer. Most importantly, the stark comparison between the things we so easily spend money on and the basic needs of people living in poverty creates the powerful feeling of guilt. The form of existential guilt used here highlights the massive discrepancy between the state of the audience and the villagers shown in the advert. The campaigners successfully use the price of luxury items as an anchor, a standard against which the price of a small and donation seems even less than is usually would. This aims to create further feelings of guilt and regret; why have I not been making meaningful contributions to people's lives when it costs so little? How can I make up for not helping?

Carlsmith and Gross (1969) investigated the power of guilt as a persuasive tool in their study, where participants firstly engaged in a learning task where they would act as the 'teacher' and would test a 'learner'. As part of the learning task, participants in the experimental condition were led to believe that they had given a series of painful shocks to the learner. Later on, the same participants were then requested by the learner to make phone calls to potential signers of a petition to 'Save the Redwood' trees. In the control condition, participants did not believe they had shocked anyone and were requested the same thing by the learner.  The aim of the experiment was to test whether the guilt induced by the experimenters would affect the compliance of the participants to agree to a further request.

The results above shows the mean responses of the participants. When the participants were asked to make phone calls to save Redwood trees, variables such as the presence of the experimenter (E present or E not present) and the socioeconomic status of the person making the request (high or low) did not have any significant effects on the participant compliance rates. Participants who believed that they had shocked the learner went on to be significantly more compliant than those who were in the control condition; whilst 75% of participants in the experimental condition complied, only 25% of participants in the control condition complied. These results have also been replicated by Konecni (1972) as part of a filed experiment, who further found that the relationship between guilt and compliance (helping behaviour) is a significant.

Personally, I found this campaign unusually interesting because it does not focus merely on the plight of those who live in poverty; the main focus is the contrast between the needs of the viewer and the needs of the villager. The advert is very direct and explicit in conveying its message; it draws a daring comparison between designer items and basic human needs, such as access to clean water. Ultimately, it effectively leads the viewer to question their priorities and makes them feel guilty about their own spending habits. The effectiveness of this campaign is therefore that it uses guilt to personally engage with the audience and subsequently offers them a way to feel better and get rid of this displeasing emotion; by donating to their worthy cause.

Carlsmith, J. M., & Gross, A. E. (1969). Some effects of guilt on compliance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 11(3), 232.

Konecni, V. J. (1972). Some effects of guilt on compliance: a field replication. Journal of personality and social psychology, 23(1), 30-32.

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