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.

Friday, March 4, 2016

How getting your 5-a-day is as easy as (apple) pie!

With obesity becoming more and more of a problem, adverting to encourage healthier dietary choices in day to day life could prove beneficial. Along with combating obesity, consuming more portions of fruit and vegetables has also been found to reduce the risk of major chronic disease and cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated in the advertisement designed above (Hung, Joshipura, Jiang, Hu, Hunter, & Smith-Warner et al., 2004). As well as providing information on health benefits, this advertisement uses persuasive techniques to promote healthy choices, including perceived control and social-cognitive messages.

Perceived Control

In the Theory of Planned Behaviour model, perceived control is thought to play an important role in influencing certain behaviours; a person must believe they have a personal influence on outcomes, which, with intention, could lead to behaviour change.

This is demonstrated in a study in which members of the public filled in a questionnaire containing perceived control items for maintaining a low-fat diet or consuming 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. Actual food intake was also measured in a later questionnaire (Povey, Conner, Sparks, James & Shepherd, 2000). ‘It is mostly up to me whether or not I eat a low-fat diet from now on’ is an example of a perceived control item on the questionnaire, asking participants how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement. Perceived control correlated significantly with a lower fat-intake and with a higher fruit and vegetable intake, suggesting it has some influence over dietary behaviour.

In the advertisement I have created, I have attempted to increase perceived control of the consumer; ‘your health, your choice’ is written in bold as a heading, with a thought bubble asking ‘what will it be today’. These methods address the consumer personally, suggesting that they themselves are in control of their diet and that the day to day choices they make can influence their health outcomes. The aim here is to encourage viewers that they ought to take charge in order to gain the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables as detailed in the advert.

Social-Cognitive Messages and Self-Efficacy

Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory proposes that our self-efficacy can influence our likelihood of behaving a certain way. Self-efficacy (SE) refers to a person’s belief that they have the skills and capabilities to achieve their desired outcome. Doerksen and Estabrooks (2007) demonstrated the effects of SE on number of fruit and vegetable servings a day. Participants enrolled in a physical activity program either received the standard-care newsletter or a newsletter adapted with social-cognitive messages. These aimed to increase SE, leading to greater fruit and vegetable consumption. Messages included how to prepare these foods, make them more appealing and integrate them into routine. At an 8-week follow up, those who had read social-cognitive messages ate an average of 1.3 more daily fruit and vegetable servings compared to the standard-care controls.

As the daily guideline recommendation is 5 servings, I provided a section in my advertisement for ‘5 ways to get your 5-a-day’. This aimed to highlight how easily fruit and vegetables can be integrated into a diet, so the viewer feels capable of doing this. This creates impact for the rhetoric question ‘so what’s stopping you?’

To summarise, the advertisement I have created aims to persuade consumers to eat more fruit and veg by emphasising health benefits, suggesting health consequences are due to personal decision making, and demonstrating how easy it could be to have a healthy diet.


Doerksen, S. E., & Estabrooks, P. A. (2007). Brief fruit and vegetable messages integrated within a community physical activity program successfully change behaviour. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4, 12.

Hung, H. C., Joshipura, K. J., Jiang, R., Hu, F. B., Hunter, D., Smith-Warner, S. A., et al. (2004). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 96, 1577–1584.

Povey, R., Conner, M., Sparks, P., James, R., & Shepherd, R. (2000). Application of the Theory of Planned Behaviour to two dietary behaviours: Roles of perceived control and self‐efficacy. British Journal of Health Psychology, 5, 121-139.

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