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.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Protect your baby, use Folic Acid supplements.




This advert was designed to encourage pregnant women to use a supplement for folic acid during pregnancy as most women do not attain the recommended daily allowance from diet alone. Given how important folic acid is to early foetal development and wellbeing many persuasion techniques have been used to convince expectant mothers (Scholl and Johnson, 2000).

 The first technique requires readers to make an internal commitment as the title asks a question that readers will find difficult to dispute, considering all mothers will want their children to be born healthy.  By answering ‘yes’ to the question “Want to ensure your body is as healthy as possible during pregnancy?”, they have made a commitment to themselves and as a result are more likely to alter their behaviour to honour this commitment as people like to be consistent with their beliefs and actions (Cialdini, 2013). Sherman (1980) demonstrated the effectiveness of commitment and consistency by ringing households and asking them to predict what their response would be if the American Cancer Society asked them to spend three hours collecting. Many participants stated they would be happy to collect money, not wanting to appear uncharitable to the researcher. The American Cancer Society then rang a few days later asking participants to collect money on behalf of the charity. Due to the prior commitment made there was a 700% increase in volunteers. This drastic increase in volunteers highlights the natural tendency people feel to oblige with their commitments.

In addition, the use of folic acid has received ‘expert backing’ by The Preventative Services Task Force. This adds credibility to the information which has proven to greatly increase trust in the product being advertised as people highly value source credibility (Hovland and Weiss, 1951). Research conducted by Birnbaum and Stegner (1979) emphasises the importance of a credible source as participants were asked to judge the value of used cars based on estimates given by sources who varied in mechanical expertise. Their results showed that the participant’s evaluations of the car were largely based on the expertise of the source as they were more likely to agree with the value the source provided if they had more experience with mechanics than those who did not.

The Preventative Services Task Force was not the only credible source used as the advert is also endorsed by Jessica Ennis; an Olympic gold medallist who was able to successfully continue her athletic career after giving birth to a healthy boy in 2014. Celebrity endorsements have been shown to increase people’s confidence in the product being advertised if the celebrity is someone they trust (Atkin and Block, 1983).

References from advert 

1. Scholl, T. O., & Johnson, W.G. (2000) Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71 (5), 1295-1303.  

2.   US Preventive Services Task Force. (2009). Folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med, 150(9),626-631.

References in article
Atkin, C., & Block, M. 1983. Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsers. Journal of Advertising Research, 23 (1), 57-61

Birnbaum, M. H., & Stegner, S.E. (1979). Source Credibility in Social Judgment: Bias, Expertise, and the Judge's Point of View. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37 (1), 48-74.

Cialdini, R. B. (2013). Influence: Science and Practice. Boston: Pearson.

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

Sherman, S, J. (1980).  On the Self-Erasing Nature of Errors of Prediction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39 (2), 211-221.  


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