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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Not your cup of tea? Think again.

The poster employs the use of the simulation heuristic (Kahnemen & Tversky, 1982) as a persuasive technique to get people to drink green tea. This cognitive bias allows people to determine the likelihood of an event according to the ease with which they can imagine it. Thus, when Dr McKeith quotes that it is so readily available and easy to implement into one’s daily routine, people can imagine how easy it would be to start drinking it. Furthermore, the use of the green tea image contributes to the effect of this heuristic as seeing the object of persuasion makes it easier to recall and imagine. Finally, the use of words which have a high concreteness rating also contribute to the simulation heuristic as concrete words have a high perceptible reality, thus making it easy to envisage in one’s head (Brysbaert, 2013). The simulation heuristic was established by Kahnemen and Tversky (1982), who posed hypothetical situations to participants and then measured their responses, an example of which asked participants to imagine missing a flight by a few minutes or half an hour. The participants reported feeling more upset at having missed the flight by a few minutes as it was easier to imagine making it due to the short time frame within which they missed it. As they had only missed it by a few minutes it was easier to imagine being on the flight than had they missed it by 30 minutes.

The poster presents the benefits of drinking green tea as gain frames. Information that leads to a relatively certain outcome is more persuasive when the benefits of engaging in behaviour that leads to that outcome are presented, as opposed to the dangers of not engaging. Tversky and Kahneman (1986) gave participants a scenario in which 600 people contracted a new virus, but there was a solution. The positively-framed solution stated that 200 people were saved, whereas the negatively-framed solution stated that 400 people would die. Significantly more people chose the positively-framed solution, as there was a degree of certainty and so people were risk-averse. When a decision involves risk-aversion, such as avoiding health risks by drinking green tea, people are more persuaded by positively-framed messages.

Employing the use of a credible source to deliver a persuasive message has also been shown to have a persuasive effect. This poster used the popular nutritionist Dr Gillian McKeith to deliver a message. Hovland and Weiss (1951), conducted a study in which participants received a passage of writing regarding the use atomic submarines, but were told they were written by either a high credibility source (scientist Robert J. Oppenheimer) or a low credibility source (Russian magazine PRVDA). They found that people perceived the identical passage differently according to who ‘wrote’ it; when they believed the passage was written by the high credibility source, they adjudged it to be more credible and more justified, and the opposite results were obtained when it was written by the low credibility source.

The final persuasive technique employed in the article is the use of the ‘that’s-not-all’ technique. A list of benefits is given before stating that the list isn’t exhaustive, and that there are even more benefits. Burger (1986) found that when selling cupcakes, sales increased if seller offered the cake at a price and then offered two more cookies before the buyer had a chance to respond. Burger reasoned that this was because as the perceived to be negotiating on the deal, the buyer feels obliged to reciprocate their generosity and thus compliance is induced. Having presented the reader with a first set of benefits, a second list of benefits is then presented before the reader has time to respond to the first, thus persuading them that the benefits of drinking tea are generous, and that they should try it. 


Brysbaert, M., Warriner, A. B., & Kuperman, V. (2013). Concreteness ratings for 40 thousand generally known English word lemmas. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 904–911
Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 277-283.
Chacko, S. M., Thambi, P. T., Kuttan, R., & Nishigaki, I. (2010). Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review. Chinese Medicine5, 13.
Hovland, C. I. & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.
Kahneman, Daniel, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Tversky, A. & D. Kahneman. 1986. “Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions.” Journal of Business 59: S251-S278.

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