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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The power of peripheral route in motivating children to eat healthy

Healthy Kids.
Young children are very vulnerable to advertising and do not understand the persuasive intent behind marketing actions (Enax et al., 2015), which can be exploited to increase sales of carrots among children. The focus of the advert is on the peripheral components of the advert (i.e. images/graphics, colour, layout and writing style) rather than factual knowledge such as the health benefits which children would disregard anyways. Thus bright colors, cartoon-like graphics are used to grab children's attention and interest in the product.

Cartoon characters are often used as an effective way to nudge young children into eating more healthy food, like carrots, that they may not prefer to eat (Roberto, Baik, Harris & Brownell, 2010). By using a cartoon character like “Bugs bunny” in the advert, a character famously known to love carrots, will increase the interest and motivation of children to also love carrots, as they would want to copy the character they admire so much (Kraak & Story, 2014). Thus, the child viewer’s relationship with the cartoon characters is strong enough to influence their preferences for the product. Another persuasive technique the advert uses is that it induces an overall positive mood, through several ways and this positive mood is associated with the good taste and a positive attitude towards carrots (Baldassarre & Campo, 2015). For instance, the ‘smiling carrot’ and ‘smiling boy’ will induce a positive mood, which will contribute to the positive attitude when buying carrots. The use of the sentence “orange you glad they are good for you” is humorous and will make the viewers laugh and this state of happiness will translate onto a positive attitude towards buying carrots, thus leading to an increase in the sales of carrots (Lyttle, 2001) 

Finally, the advert chooses to use a picture of a younger person on the poster to increase the similarities (i.e. age) between message conveyer and the children viewing the poster. This similarity would increase the attractiveness (Brock, 1965) of the poster among the child viewers. Children would see the boy on the poster and better be able to relate to him than an adult. This would further motivate children to eat carrots as someone more similar to them, thus more convincing, is suggesting that carrots are in fact good to eat (Brock, 1965).

However, it is important to acknowledge that parents are the ones who will ultimately buy the product for the children and also need to be persuaded. The advert considers this by mentioning some essential and relevant health benefits of carrots that may be more interesting for adult viewers. Parents could read the factual knowledge on the benefits of carrots and learn something they didn’t know about carrots, which would further motivate them to buy carrots to improve their child's wellbeing.


Baldassarre, F., & Campo, R. (2015). A character a day keeps the fruit on display: the influence of cartoon characters on preschoolers' preference for healthy food. IJMABS1(3), 260.

Enax, L., Weber, B., Ahlers, M., Kaiser, U., Diethelm, K., & Holtkamp, D. et al. (2015). Food packaging cues influence taste perception and increase effort provision for a recommended snack product in children. Frontiers In Psychology6.

Gardner, J. (2013). Carrots, the orange power food: Orange you glad they’re so good for you? | Healthy Kids. Retrieved 22 February 2016, from

Kraak, V., & Story, M. (2014). Influence of food companies' brand mascots and entertainment companies' cartoon media characters on children's diet and health: a systematic review and research needs. Obes Rev, 16(2), 107-126.

Lyttle, J. (2001). The Effectiveness of Humor in Persuasion: The Case of Business Ethics Training. The Journal Of General Psychology128(2), 206-216.

Roberto, C., Baik, J., Harris, J., & Brownell, K. (2010). Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack Preferences. PEDIATRICS126(1), 88-93.

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