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, March 2, 2016

Be Consistent and Eat Your Lemons

This advert aims to persuade individuals to start eating lemons because through doing this they are combating against various strains of cancer in the body in a simple way, as previously stated in research by Wood (2005) who suggests citrus fruits contain an element that is beneficial in preventing cancerous growths.

There are various techniques within this advert that aim to persuade individuals to come to this conclusion and influence their attitudes towards eating lemons. Pratkanis (2011) explains how limiting the choice an individual has can induce them to pick a certain option; therefore through limiting and controlling one’s choices and options you can induce them how they pick. In this particular advert, the individual is presented with one of two options, either to fight cancer by eating lemons or not, their options are limited. In reality, the decision is a lot more complex and includes various other factors to consider however in this advert this is all greatly simplified and presents a restrictive perspective of such a scenario in which the individual feels they are forced to choose one or the other, and with cancer already being an unwanted scenario for many to logical option would be to choose to eat lemons.

Depending on one’s attitudes towards lemons this could even be viewed as the ‘least-of-evils’ technique/scenario (Lee, 1952) in which an individual chooses from a limited number of options and is thus ‘free’ to select the lesser of the evils. Or in this case where the worst alternative is presented as the only other option.

Another technique adopted in this advert is the law of commitment and consistency; individuals tend to view consistency as desirable. The first sentence directly asks the individual if they want to fight cancer and it is expected that many will say yes, the addition of ‘or not?’ introduces an idea of inconsistency. The individual is then presented with the words ‘eat lemons’ to then suggest that in order to follow in the consistency of their attitude to fighting cancer, eating lemons is the answer. By firstly getting the ready to agree with something that the general consensus would have great difficulty disagreeing with, relating eating lemons back to the ultimate point that has already been accepted. This relates back to the Cognitive Dissonance theory, people feeling psychological discomfort after having performed an attitude-inconsistent behaviour or when confronted with counter-attitudinal information (Festinger, 1957 ; Eisenstadt and Leipoe, 1994 ; Linville and Carlson, 1994).

Ultimately the techniques used play on the individuals perception of their own schema and influencing them based on their loyalty to being consistent to it.


Eisenstadt, D., & Leippe, M. R. (1994). The self-comparison process and self-discrepant feedback: consequences of learning you are what you thought you were not. Journal of personality and social psychology, 67, 611.
Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Lee, A. M. (1952). How to understand propaganda. Rinehart.
Linville, P. W., & Carlston, D. E. (1994). Social cognition of the self.
Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2011). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.
Staats, A. W., & Staats, C. K. (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 57, 37.
Wood, M. (2005). Citrus compound: Ready to help your body!. Agricultural Research, 53, 16-18.
Zuwerink, J. R., & Devine, P. G. (1996). Attitude importance and resistance to persuasion: It's not just the thought that counts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(5), 931.

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