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

Big Portion Sizes - Is it worth it?

The purpose of this advert is to encourage people to think about their portion sizes and the apparent consequences of these being to large: obesity, a trend which has been rising significantly in recent years. The source of this information is Forslund, Torgerson, Sjöström, and Lindroos, 2005. The above advertisement employs several techniques to support this claim.

One of the techniques employed is the use of rhetorical questions such as ‘Which would you swipe right for’ and ‘Want to join the growing population of obese Brits’? Research has found that when a rhetorical question is used in persuasion they produce more favourable responses than when statements are used (Burnkrant and Howard, 1984). In this sense, weight is something that we usually don’t discuss in a very direct way and so this confrontational approach will cause the audience to carefully consider the question asked.

Another method used is the ‘That’s not all technique’ which was proposed by Burger, 1986. In this advert it not only states the original risk, obesity, but goes on to state the added benefits of avoiding large portion sizes such as better sleep and reduced risk of diabetes. This technique is based around the idea that the customer sees the salesperson as entering into a negotiation by appearing to offer additional products and so they feel an increasing obligation. It is successful because the customer begins by considering a deal which is then continually improved. In this case the reader is given the original point and then throughout the poster is being convinced with the help of other positive information.

This advert also employs the use of humour. By beginning with the not so serious statement ‘which would you swipe right for’ makes light of quite a serious situation because weight isn’t something commonly discussed in day to day situations. Using the humorous background and terminology (ie swipe right) of ‘tinder profiles’ provides easier viewing and more relaxed way of presenting the information and causes more people to pay attention. Duncan, Nelson and Frontczak (1984) found that, contrary to previous research, the use of humour is effective in persuasion and does promote message comprehension and offers support to information processing. Sala (2003) also found that humour also helps to communicate difficult messages, which in this case is crucial due to weight being a rarely discussed topic.

The final persuasive technique used is the portrayal of disgust by showing the internal effects of obesity, something which an audience may not have previously considered.  Nabi (1998) conducted a study in this previously neglected area where they presented participants with images carrying in terms of levels of disgust and emotion. They found that disgust can be the most dominant emotion elicited by persuasive messages and can trigger attitude change. By presenting a not so appealing photo of the consequences of being obese next to a ‘healthy’ body weight should shock people into realising the importance of the message being conveyed in the poster and the serious consequences of their actions which need to be considered


Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology51, 277
Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47(6), 1218.
Duncan, C. P., Nelson, J. E., & Frontczak, N. T. (1984). The Effect of Humor on Advertising Comprehension. Advances in consumer research,11(1).
Nabi, R. L. (1998). The effect of disgusteliciting visuals on attitudes toward animal experimentation. Communication Quarterly, 46(4), 472-484.
Sala, F. (2003). Laughing all the way to the bank. Harvard business review,81(9), 16-

Advert Sources
Forslund, H. B., Torgerson, J. S., Sjöström, L., & Lindroos, A. K. (2005). Snacking frequency in relation to energy intake and food choices in obese men and women compared to a reference population. International journal of obesity29(6), 711-719.

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