Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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

Cut the Sugar!


Considering the harmful effects excess sugar has on the global population, this poster aims to raise further awareness of the issue and encourage others to reduce sugar amounts in their diets. Below are the persuasive tactics employed within the advertisement.

Responsibility

By including terms such as "We all need to..." and "Your NHS", the reader is placed at the centre of the problem and into the role of the responsible agent. 
Research has shown that this is an effective method for obtaining compliance to a request. Rothman, Salovey, Turvey, and Fishkin (1993) showed 197 women persuasive messages with different emphases on attribution (either internal, external, or information-only), encouraging them to adhere to the guidelines for mammogram screenings. As the internal attribution message created a feeling of responsibility, attitudes about mammography improved most for this group. They were also more likely to have obtained an examination 12 months later, compared to the women in the other two conditions. 
As a result, the attribution of responsibility greatly encourages behaviour change. It is expected that the sections of the poster which invoke the responsibility tactic will therefore help in influencing readers to consume less sugar.

Authority

Large amounts of evidence supports the notion that we are easily persuaded by authoritative figures. This led to my decision to include a picture of a doctor in the poster, urging reductions in sugar intake. 
One example shows that students are more likely to agree with an article if the author is a more credible source (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). So, by providing the image of the doctor and credible sources of information in the poster, the message is strengthened. 

Furthermore, Bleakley et al. (2015) investigated the mediating effects of argument strength on other persuasive techniques when attempting to reduce participants' intentions of consuming sugary drinks. Results indeed demonstrated that various other persuaders (such as fear) are mediated by argument strength. Therefore, by increasing the message strength by including a picture of a doctor and credible sources of information, other persuasive techniques within the poster are enhanced.

Valence Framing

Advertisement of a product or message can be made more effective by presenting the information within a loss or gain frame. In other words, if the benefits of an approved behaviour or consequences of a disapproved behaviour are displayed, the advert is perceived as being more persuasive. 
Research by Nan, Zhao, Yang, and Iles (2015) presented 253 US non-smokers with smoking warning labels which were either gain or loss framed. Labels that were presented with loss-frame information were perceived as more effective and presented a stronger argument. 
As a result, the above poster includes loss-frame information, stating the consequences of failing to reduce sugar intake: "lose your money, your NHS, your life".

The Power to Imagine It

Only a small part of the poster uses this tactic, which suggests that a message is more persuasive or an object more desirable if it is easy to imagine. 
The graph, which shows actual and recommended average amounts of sugar intake, originally used grams (g) to measure sugar consumption. Yet, I felt that this was not very easy to imagine, so converted the units into teaspoons. 
Although Praxmarer (2011) states that research does not consistently show message strength to be improved by imagining product use, the technique does not hinder persuasiveness either. Therefore, I chose to make this alteration in hope that it may still somewhat encourage others to reduce their sugar intake.

References

Bleakley, A., Jordan, A. B., Hennessy, M., Glanz, K., Strasser, A., et al. (2015). Do emotional appeals in public service advertisements influence adolescents' intention to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages? Journal of Health Communication, 20, 938-948.
Hovland, C. I. & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.
Nan, X., Zhao, X., Yang, B., & Iles, I. (2015). Effectiveness of cigarette warning labels: Examining the impact of graphics, message framing, and temporal framing. Health Communication, 30, 81-89.
Praxmarer, S. (2011). Message strength and persuasion when consumers imagine product usage. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 10, 225-231.
Rothman, A. J., Salovey, P., Turbey, C., & Fishkin, S. A. (1993). Attributions of responsibility and persuasion: Increasing mammography utilisation among women over 40 with an internally oriented message. Health Psychology, 12, 39-47.

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