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

Catch Of The Day: Brain Power.

In order to change an individuals diet, one of the methods of persuasion I chose to use in my ad was fear. A large amount of research has identified fear as a useful motivator. Witte and Allen (2000) showed that the more an individual is aroused by a fear appeal, the more likely they are to change their behavior. They also found that the stronger the self-efficacy in a message, the more persuasive it was. My ad suggests that if you do not gain the nutrients necessary from fish then you may fail exams, not graduate or not get a job, this is the fear element. The simple diet change of eating fish means that an individual is likely to have self-efficacy in the message, as simple as picking fish off the menu. 

Similarly, research has shown that the use of risk-avoidance tactics in food advertising enhances the perceived healthiness of the advertised product (Choi, Yoo, Baek, & Reid, 2014). I took advantage of this method by drawing on the fact that if you eat fish, you can avoid the risk of developing brain cancer, and therefore hopefully making the consumer view fish as healthier. 

The claim that the information comes from 'leading researchers' is also likely to influence persuasion, prominent research has demonstrated the power of using credible sources to gain the audiences trust (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). Holland and Weiss (1951) found that when information is perceived to be from a credible source or from a place of authority, it is more likely to illicit agreement compared to a source that is viewed as untrustworthy. The prevailing research used in my infographic should lead consumers to perceive eating fish positively due to credibility of it's source. 

Through the use of rhetorical questions, I aimed to grab the readers attention, advertisements that begin with rhetorical questions have been found to arouse the reader's uncertainty and motivate more intensive processing of the message (Burnkrant & Howard, 1984). Passing exams and getting a job are typically goals in most peoples lives, asking the question if they want to succeed in this area will motivate the consumer to keep reading and find out how they can do this. 

Furthermore, the use of humour is another tactic by which an advertiser can appeal to a consumer. Duncan, Nelson and Frontczak (1984) found that perceived humour aided recall relationship and promotes message comprehension. The pun in my title and the fun lay out of the advertisement adds humour and therefore should be memorable and easy to understand for readers and hopefully lead to a behaviour change in diet. 


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, 1218–1230.

Choi, H., Yoo, K., Baek, T. H., & Reid, L. N. (2014). Presence and effects of health and nutrition-related (HNR) claims with benefit-seeking and risk-avoidance appeals in female-orientated magazine food advertisements. International Journal of Advertising, 32, 587.

Duncan, C., Nelson, J., & Frontczak, N. (1984). The Effect of Humor on Advertising Comprehension. In Advances in Consumer Research (pp. 432-437). Thomas C. Kinnear, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research.

Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635.

Witte, K., & Allen, M. (2000). A Meta-Analysis of fear appeals: Implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Education & Behavior, 27, 591–615.

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