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

Save the world by going Vegan!

The advert above uses a number of persuasive techniques to convey its message to the reader. Visually, the Superhero theme, with Superman and the comic speech bubbles of ‘Meanwhile’ and ‘Stay Tuned’, combined with the environmental information in ‘green’ text, makes for a cohesive advert. The capitalised ‘YOU’ places responsibility with the reader, a tactic seen in war propaganda (the famous Lord Kitchener military poster is a notable example) (Chambers, 1983).
The Carbon Footprints clearly portray the difference in CO2 levels produced each day (Scarborough et al., 2014) depending on the diet. Having the ‘meat-eater’ statistics in the colour red is to allow it to stick out and not be a part of the ‘green’ lifestyle this poster advocates for. This, coupled with the images of deforestation and factory farming should stir feelings of unease in the reader. By placing these explicit and potentially upsetting images of intense farming, animal cruelty and destroyed nature with the meat eater diet, it becomes associated with that lifestyle in the readers mind. Festinger’s (1962) ‘Cognitive Dissonance Theory’ could play a role here, where meat-eaters would see the images and think ‘I don’t support that, so why are my actions doing so?’, encouraging them to think twice about their diet choice.
The colour ‘green’ is strongly associated with environmental issues in the UK (as can be seen in everyday life, in the recycling logo or the ‘Green Party’ for example) and this familiarity with that association could lead to easier ‘perceptual fluency’, where one processes a message more readily, with a higher likelihood of a positive reaction if the concept is something they are familiar with (Bornstein & D’Agostino, 1994). Similarly, the character of Superman is also universally acknowledged as a DC Comics Superhero, a large franchise that many people have been exposed to. The superhero concept is one of power and surpassing human abilities, which people idolise and aspire towards, evidenced by the success in the Superheroes franchise. The ‘mere exposure effect’ (Zajonc, 1968), where simply being exposed to a stimulus more makes it more likely for you to have a positive affect towards it, and ‘perceptual fluency’ (Bornstein & D’Agostino, 1994) both contribute to the Superhero aspect of the advertisement, as well as the fact that Henry Cavill (a popular celebrity) is playing Superman here (Erdogan, 1999).
The use of having an attractive person, let alone a celebrity, advocate your message is that the reader is more likely to endorse it (Patzer, 1983; Erdogan, 1999). Previous studies have demonstrated positive correlational relationships between the attractiveness of the communicator and how effectively the message persuaded the receiver.
And lastly, the ‘AND reduced chance of...’ with the list of health problems that can be avoided by taking up a vegan lifestyle is use of the ‘That’s Not All’ technique (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Here, the readers are first presented with the statistics of the environmental benefits by being vegan, which is then followed up with even more benefits, this time health orientated, which increase the likelihood of compliance.


Bornstein, Robert F.; D'Agostino, Paul R. (1994). "The Attribution and Discounting of Perceptual Fluency: Preliminary Tests of a Perceptual Fluency/Attributional Model of the Mere Exposure Effect". Social Cognition, 12 (2): 103–128.

Chambers, R. (1983). "Art and Propaganda in an Age of War: The Role of Posters"South African Journal of Military Studies 13 (4).

Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of Marketing Management, 15 (4), 291-314.

Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance (Vol. 2). Stanford university press.

Patzer, G. L. (1983). Source credibility as a function of communicator physical attractiveness. Journal of business research, 11(2), 229-241

Scarborough, P., Appleby, P. N., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A. D., Travis, R. C., Bradbury, K. E., & Key, T. J. (2014). Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Climatic Change, 125 (2), 179-192. 
Zajonc, Robert B. (1968). "Attitudinal Effects Of Mere Exposure”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9 (2, Pt.2): 1–27.

*edited - Superman is a DC comics Superhero, I put Marvel by accident (sorry comic book fans!)

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