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

Eat more beets

Beets are a vegetable rich in nitrate, a natural chemical that has been shown to improve athletic endurance by increasing the time to exhaustion (Larsen et al., 2010) and lower blood pressure (Webb et al., 2008). A study done by Murphy and colleagues (2012) examined whether the consumption of whole beets, that are naturally nitrite rich (more than 250mg of nitrite per 100g) would have enhancing effects on physical performance by improving running performance on a 5km treadmill time trial. The participants were separated into a beetroot consuming experimental group and a placebo group, which consumed a cranberry relish. The 5km time trial run took place 75 minutes after the food consumption. Results of the study show that beetroot consumption led to a significantly faster (5%) running velocity in the last 1.8km of the 5km run and had no affect on running velocity earlier in the run – but the perceived degree of exertion was lower in the beetroot group than in the placebo group even early in the run.

Two main behavior change techniques were applied in the creation of the advertising poster promoting beet consumption – gain frames and an appeal to the ideal of being fitter and stronger.

Framing information in terms of gains for the consumer highlights the possibility of attaining the positive benefits (Lee & Aaker, 2004). In their study, Lee and Aaker (2004) separated participants into two groups – one that viewed an advertisement that was gain-framed with the tagline “Get Energized”, and one that viewed an advertisement that was loss-framed with the tagline “Prevent Clogged Arteries!”. Results of the study show that advertisements concerning the promotion of the product were significantly more effective when gain-framed rather than loss-framed. The poster promotes eating more beets by using gain frames, highlighting the beneficial and positive outcomes of beet consumption, namely – having more power, having a greater endurance and being faster.

            The use of idealized images and photographs in media and advertising arouse the consumer’s desire for what is being displayed through two main mechanisms. Firstly, through the process of upward social comparison the consumer compares themselves with the idealized images that oftentimes display highly unattainable qualities, a comparison in which they unsurprisingly fail ultimately causing feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and inferiority. Secondly, these idealized qualities which can be achieved by only a select few, alter the average consumer’s expectations and cause them to believe they should be living a life of a higher standard than is realistic (Richins, 1995).  The poster promoting eating more beets uses images of very athletically fit individuals engaging in vigorous sporting activities as a technique to persuade consumers to consume more beets to bring them closer to the athletic and physically fit ideal displayed.


Larsen, F. J., Weitzberg, E., Lundberg, J. O., & Ekblom, B. (2010). Dietary nitrate reduces maximal oxygen consumption while maintaining work performance in maximal exercise. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 48, 342-347.

Lee, A. Y., & Aaker, J. L. (2004). Bringing the frame into focus: the influence of regulatory fit on processing fluency and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 205-218.

Murphy, M., Eliot, K., Heuertz, R. M., & Weiss, E. (2012). Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112, 548-552.

Richins, M. L. (1995). Social comparison, advertising, and consumer discontent. American Behavioral Scientist, 38, 593-607.

Webb, A. J., Patel, N., Loukogeorgakis, S., Okorie, M., Aboud, Z., Misra, S., Rashid, R., Miall, P., Deanfield, J., Benjamin, N., MacAllister, R., Hoobs, A. J., & Ahluwalia, A. (2008). Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite.  Hypertension, 51, 784-790.

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