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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Not Much Room for Mushrooms? Think Again!

The health benefits of eating mushrooms are highlighted in this advertisement, where lots of health claims are made about the benefits of eating mushrooms, such as their high protein content and the fact that they are low in calories (Mattila, 2001). Research has indeed shown that mushrooms are packed with different B-Vitamins, proteins, and minerals such as selenium, copper and potassium (Koyyalamudi et al., 2010;Falandysz, 2008) . A certain medicinal mushroom blend has been able to slow cell proliferation and cell cycle arrest during a later stage of human breast cancer, highlighting that there is something in mushrooms that genuinely might slow tumour growth (Jiang & Sliva, 2010).  Claims that highlight how healthy a product can be can help improve people’s attitudes towards those products, especially in today’s world, where everyone is so conscious of being healthier (Kozup et al., 2003). 

Already the title is persuasive, as it attempts to empower the reader to turn a new leaf, change their diet and become a mushroom-eater as well. The old you ate fast food and didn't care much for your health, but let's forget about that person. The new you has turned a new leaf and is going to be healthy and eat mushrooms. 

Messages are always deemed to be more persuasive if they come from a credible source, and in today’s world we tend to attribute credibility to scientific research, without even considering whether that research was well executed. The advertisement claims mushrooms are "scientifically" proven to prevent cancer, suggesting this information stems from a credible source. In a study by Hovland and Weiss (1951), participants were presented with one of two articles, and each time told it was written by a different person, of a pool of eight different people. Each time one was either presented by a "trustworthy" or "untrustworthy" source, who would then give either a "negative" or "affirmative" on the article they were presenting. Opinions were measured before and after exposure to these articles, and a significant effect was found, where people were most likely to change their opinions based on articles they believed stemmed from a more credible source. 

The use of celebrity endorsement is also another method of persuasion. Katy Perry has indeed been in the news recently for having taken part in a "Mushroom Diet", which is simply a mushroom-rich diet. Research has shown that celebrities are perceived by the general public as being more credible than your average person, and these feelings of credibility that consumers have towards the celebrities will be reflected in their attitudes of the products being marketed (Goldsmith, Lafferty & Newell, 2000).We also tend to idolise these celebrities due to the amount that we are exposed to them. The more exposed we are to someone, after all, the more we begin to like them (Zajonc, 1968).

Finally, this advertisement also uses the “That’s not all!” technique. Here, a few benefits of eating mushrooms are named, and then the reader is told that that’s not all—there is more to eating mushrooms than just the nutritional benefits, they also happen to prevent cancer! Burger (1986) showed that by allocating one price to a product, and then deciding that under that same price one would also receive another product (That's not all!) on top of the original one, the consumer would be more likely to perceive the new deal as a bargain and purchase it on the basis of this. The That's-Not-All technique, when it was initially put into practice, led to twice the original sales. 


Falandysz, J. Selenium in edible mushrooms (2008). Journal of Environment Science and Health, 26, 256-299. 

Goldsmith, R., Lafferty, B. & Newell, S. (2000). The impact of corporate credibility and celebrity credibility on consumer reaction to advertisements and brands. Journal of Advertising Research, 29, 43-54. 

Hovland, C.I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication  effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly,15, 635-650. 

Jiang J, Sliva D (2010). Novel medicinal mushroom blend suppresses growth and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells. International Journal of Oncology,37,:1529-1536. 

Kozup, J. C., Creyer, E. H., & Burton, S. (2003). Making healthful food choices: the influence of health claims and nutrition information on consumers’ evaluations of packaged food products and restaurant menu items. Journal of Marketing, 67, 19-34. 

Koyyalamudi, S.R., Jeong, S.C., Cho, K.Y., & Pang, G. (2009). Vitamin B12 is the active corrinoid produced in cultivated white button mushrooms. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,57, 6327-6333. 

Mattila, P. (2001). Contents of vitamins, mineral elements, and some phenolic compounds in cultivated mushrooms. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 49, 2343-2348. 

Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social   Psychology,9 (2p2), 1.

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