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

Will you Drop Eggs this Easter?

Despite the opening question (“Will you drop eggs this Easter?”), this advert isn't actually intended to discourage consumption of eggs entirely. Instead, it uses the door-in-the-face technique to persuade people to reduce their consumption of eggs from caged hens, by replacing them with eggs from free range hens.

The door-in-the-face technique works by making a large request that most people will instantly refuse. When then asked to complete a much easier task, people are more likely to comply with the easy request than if they were given the easy request first. When asked to volunteer for two hours one afternoon, people were three times more likely to comply if they were first asked to volunteer for two hours per week for two years (Cialdini et al., 1975). In this advert, people are first asked to consider giving up eggs completely over the Easter period: for most people, an unreasonable request. The person viewing the poster is then asked to consider switching to buying only free range eggs. This is a much smaller request, and much more easily completed, meaning people are much more likely to comply.

The that’s-not-all technique is also used. By first asking the viewer to consider switching to free range eggs due to the welfare issues, they begin the weigh up the costs and benefits of doing so. Then, when adding the additional reason of better nutrition of free range eggs, people may decide that it must be worth it, as they were already considering the switch before the “deal” was improved. This has been shown to work when considering buying a product, when either adding another product for free or lowering the price (Burger, 1986).

The advertisement also uses affect to persuade to viewer. Firstly, there is a black tint used in the top left, over the caged hen picture and a green tint used in the bottom right, over the free range hen picture and farm. Colour has been shown to affect people’s perceptions of advertisements. Specifically, the colour green (or in this advert, the concept of free range eggs) is associated with good taste, joy and healthy food, while the colour black (in this advert, caged eggs) is associated with grief and fear (Aslam, 2006).

Pictures are also used to influence affect: in the top left, a picture of a sad looking caged hen, and in the bottom right a picture of a much healthier looking free range hen. The caged hen picture is relatively graphic, which can strongly increase negative attitudes towards a product: graphic image warnings can reduce cigarette consumption significantly more than text warnings (Hammond et al., 2007). Although it isn't claimed that these pictures are representative of every caged or free ranged hen respectively, it has been shown that people assume a direct connection between photographs and the real world that they appear to represent (Messaris, 1997). This means that the viewer is likely to assume that the pictures used accurately represent all caged or free range hens, which is not necessarily the case.

Affect is an important technique in this advertisement, as it can significantly influence decision making, especially when the time available to make a decision is short – known as the affect heuristic. Under time pressure conditions, participants relied much more on affect to make risk-benefit judgements (Finucane et al., 2000). As people are unlikely to spend a long time looking at a dietary choice poster, this could mean they will rely strongly on the affect heuristic in order to weigh up the costs and benefits of switching to free range eggs.


Aslam, M. M. (2006). Are you selling the right colour? A cross-cultural review of colour as a marketing cue. Journal of Marketing Communications, 12(1), 15-30. 

Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 277-283. 

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206-215.

Finucane, M. L., Alhakami, A., Slovic, P., & Johnson, S. M. (2000). The affect heuristic in judgments of risks and benefits. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 13(1), 1-17.

Hammond, D., Fong, G. T., Borland, R., Cummings, K. M., McNeill, A., & Driezen, P. (2007). Text and graphic warnings on cigarette packages: Findings from the international tobacco control four country study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(3), 202-209.

Messaris, P. (1997). Visual persuasion: The role of images in advertising. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA. 

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