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

Upon first glance, what first stands out is Beyonce and the title (probably in that order) due to sheer size. Research using eye tracking heat maps have found that big, bold and large visuals on webpages attract and hold our attention more so than for smaller text and images Buscher, Cutrell & Morris, 2009). This the justification behind the use of the large font size and also a large photo of Beyoncé. Bearing in mind that what is enlarged is attained the most to, it is important to highlight the summary of the message (title) and Beyoncé (for peripheral purposes as will later be explained) was done especially for those who may not have enough time, attentional or motivational resources to attain to everything in the ad, upon a brief inspection they can at least gain some gist of the message.

This figure from the Buscher et al. (2009) paper showcases how the larger fixtures in the given display unit attract more visual attention relative to the rest of the information provided on the page.

Endorsing Beyoncé on this ad to highlight the negative impact of milk on the skin, fulfils the ‘attractive source’ element of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty & Caciopppo, 1986). This model posits that if a message comes from an attractive source it is highly likely to increase compliant behaviour or attitude change. In the ELM, this technique falls under the peripheral route to persuasion. This is the adopted when the receiver of the message adheres to the message based on ‘peripheral’ cues as opposed to the actual content presented. Here, the receiver should be more likely to adhere to the message and attain to it simply because Beyonce (in all her flawlessness) is presented with it. A study by Kahle and Homer (1985) also found that attractive and likeable celebrities are more the endorsed product than when unattractive sources were used. Considering Beyoncé fulfils both the attractive and likability criteria, putting her on the ad seemed very befitting.

Furthermore, Sherzer (1985) notes that the use of puns is usually considered humourous and is very useful in advertising. The underlying mechanism for this can be explained using the peripheral pathway to persuasion as it identifies that humour within a message is another method to getting more people ‘on board’. This was the reason for creating the pun between the word ‘be’ and Beyoncé’s nickname ‘Bey’ which also reinforces the use of Beyoncé as an attractive source.

The use of words “scientific research” was purposely employed to highlight the source credibility (which is deemed to influence behaviour under the ELM as the source is deemed trustworthy). In studies manipulating the source credibility of a message, it was indeed found that people are more likely to submit to messages from a person or body of expertise (Sternthal, Dholakia & Leavitt, 1978). People trust science and thus mentioning this in the ad should increase persuasion.  


Buscher, G., Cutrell, E., & Morris, M. R. (2009, April). What do you see when you're surfing?: using eye tracking to predict salient regions of web pages. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 21-30). NY: ACM.

C. A. Adebamawo, D. Spiegelman, A.L. Danby FW Frazier, W.C. Willett, M.D. Holmes High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne J Am Acad Dermatol, 52 (2005), pp. 207–214

Davidovici, B. B., & Wolf, R. (2010). The role of diet in acne: facts and controversies. Clinics Dermatology, 28, 12-16.

Khale, L. R., & Homer, P. M. (1985). Physical attractiveness of the celebrity endorser: A social adaptation perspective. The Journal of Consumer Research, 11, 954-961.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York

Sherzer, J., 1985. Puns and Jokes. In: T.A. van Dljk. (ed.). Handbook of discourse analyst. Vol. 3: Discourse and dialogue. _7 13-22 I London : Academic Press.

Sternthal, B., Dholakia, R., & Leavitt, C. (1978). The persuasive effect of source credibility: Tests of cognitive response. Journal of Consumer Research, 4, 252-260.

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