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, March 3, 2016

Beycome a Vegan for 22 Days!

The above advertisement was designed to encourage people to become a Vegetarian for 22 days. Beyoncé, who is a part-time Vegan, was used as a poster girl for this advertisement to gain the audience's attention. The idea behind this advertisement is that during the time-frame they would see the health benefits of eating plant-based foods and therefore incorporate more plant-based foods in their diets following the 22 days or even eliminate animal produce from their diet completely. Therefore, the adoption of a healthier plant-based diet after 22 days which this advertisement encourages will hopefully feel more like a choice and less like an instruction.

There are four main persuasion techniques which I have used to influence people's willingness to commit to becoming a Vegetarian for 22 days. 

1) Celebrity Endorsement 
The inclusion of Beyoncé in this advertisement is an example of celebrity endorsement. Celebrity endorsement is when a famous individual uses their recognition to promote a product, service or in this case a health message. However, the effectiveness of the celebrity endorsement process does depend on factors such as Source Credibility.

Source Credibility  
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is by no means an expert in 'Veganism' and nor does she claim to be. However, Beyoncé has tried and tested this diet and according to her it works. Beyoncé is a global superstar who is not only admired for her flawless vocal range but her flawless body. Beyoncé's body has become a cultural fixation - yes "booytlicious" is now a word in English dictionaries worldwide. In other words, Beyoncé brings meaning to this advertisement because she has that body as a result of following a Vegan diet. PreviouslyBeyoncé has publicly stated that she uses a Vegan diet to lose weight and stay in shape. Therefore, if Beyoncé (a trustworthy figure) is saying that she uses a Vegan diet to maintain her svelte figure then people are going to believe her, irrespective of her level of expertise on Veganism. Such public declarations further supports the image of Beyoncé as a trustworthy endorser of Veganism ("If this is the method that Beyoncé uses to lose weight/stay in shape then it must work, so I will try going Vegan for 22 days too!"). The result is that the audience are more likely to endorse the message (Erdogan, 1999) because Beyoncé is not only trustworthy but attractive and hugely popular. Patzer (1983), for example, investigated source credibility as a function of communicator attractiveness. The results showed that there was a positive relationship between communicator physical attractiveness and persuasive communication effectiveness. Thus, the hope is that Beyoncé is perceived by the audience as a credible source because her body provides proof that the Vegan diet can help you lose weight and just feel better about oneself. 

2) Commitment 

The advertisement also invites the audience to make a commitment to becoming a Vegan for 22 days. with the opening statement "Beycome a Vegan for 22 Days". This statement should lead the audience to question "Why?". The health benefits of adopting a plant-based diet which include weight loss and increased energy have been made clear in this poster as quoted by Beyoncé. There is research which highlights the motivating qualities of when actions are inconsistent with the beliefs. This is called Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Therefore, the idea is that getting people to commit to a Vegan diet for 22 days and making them aware of the benefits of eating green would hopefully prompt them to feel some level of internal discomfort if they were eating meat or at least excessive amounts of it after the 22 day period. A study by Dickerson and colleagues (1992), in an investigation on the effects of cognitive dissonance on water conservation, found that participants in the 'hypocrisy' condition (had made a public commitment to reduce water use) made greater efforts to conserve water than participants in other conditions. This further highlights the motivating qualities of making a commitment on future actions.

3) Credible Sources 

This advert uses a credible source ("Psychologists have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit") to encourage behaviour change. Whilst, there is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that this is the case and people can and do form habits within this time frame, it can be useful in inducing behaviour change in people. This advert asks people to go Vegan for 22 days instead of 21 because I wanted to get across to people that by the 22nd day, according to psychologists, you would have formed a new habit - a plant-based diet. It has been suggested that a period of 21 days is short enough to be inspiring but long enough to be believable (Clear, 2014). This idea is derived from the "21 days" myth which suggests that people can form new habits within 21 days - Maltz (1960) suggested that 'it takes 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and for a new mental image to form' (Clear, 2014). This suggestion does not have an empirical basis but when "Psychologists" in front of a finding, it makes it more persuasive because it is perceived as more credible. For example, a study by Hovland and Weiss (1951) showed the effects of the credibility of the source on persuasion. The results demonstrated that sources which were high in credibility were more likely to be believed than non-credible sources.  

4) Humour

Finally, humour was used to encourage the initial process of attitude change towards Veganism. The opening title "Beycome a Vegan for 22 Days" is clearly a play on "Beyoncé". The point of this play on words is to encourage the audience to eat green like Beyoncé. Another use of humour is the rhetorical question "Do you want to wake up like this?" is a play on words from her famous song "Flawless" In most cases (at least to females), the answer would be yes! I mean who does not want to look like Beyoncé? This rhetorical device is used to make the audience visualise how much weight they could shift in a short period just by adopting a Vegan diet. 

Clear, J. (2014, June 10). How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science). Retrieved from:

Dickerson, C.A., Thibodeau, R., Aronson, E., & Miller, D. (1992). Using cognitive dissonance to encourage water conservation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22(11), 841-854.

Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of marketing management, 15(4), 291-314. 
Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 

Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public opinion quarterly, 15(4), 635-650. 

Maltz, M. (1960). Psycho-Cybernetics. 

Patzer, G. L. (1983). Source credibility as a function of communicator physical attractiveness. Journal of business research, 11(2), 229-241.

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