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

Water You, Grow You

Water is one of the few healthy products that costs us nothing. I decided to promote the drinking of water for numerous reasons, including but not limited to the fact that research by Popkin, D’anci and Rosenberg (2010), based on collated experiments, shows it allows for healthy functioning of one’s bowels and immune system, allows for energized muscles and correlates with having clear skin. Thus, water poses an all round benefit to any individual.

Research shows that promoting the drinking of water with elementary school children reduced their risk of being overweight (Muckelbauer et al., 2009). In the experiment, 32 elementary schools were equipped with water fountains and data was collected from 2950 children. Elementary schools were randomized into control (N=15) and experimental (N= 17) groups with the latter receiving lectures promoting water consumption.  For comparison, BMI standard deviation scores, prevalence of obesity, beverage consumption and questionnaire reports were analysed before and after the 1 school-year intervention period. Results, as illustrated in Figure 1, showed that the experimental groups, with an increase in water consumption overall, showed a 31% decrease in risk of being overweight compared to the control group (Muckelbauer et al., 2009).  This research points to the power of drinking more water and the need to promote awareness for water consumption.
Figure 1 showing the reduced risk of being overweight for children in experimental group
Furthermore, research by Michaud and colleagues suggest an even greater benefit of water consumption (Michaud et al., 2007). Here, 397 individuals with bladder cancer and 664 healthy individuals were used as experimental group and control respectively. The use of logistic regression controlled for potential confounds. The results, as illustrated in Table 1, showed an inverse association between bladder cancer risk and water consumption but not for other beverages (Michaud et al., 2007). This shows water as a major health substance that seems to aid our immune system. It again alludes to my ads analysis that drinking soda as a substitute for water is far from beneficial.
Table 1 showing relationship between bladder cancer and water consumption
The ad I use to pass this message across provides an example of a number of persuasion techniques including:

The use of imagery and vivid appeals: By using pictures of water in relation to slogans like “drink water, you don’t get any fatter”, “say no to coke and monster, fuel your body with water”, individuals register the information using the peripheral route because they are catchy. Research by Ottati and colleagues outlined below further supports this technique.

The use of metaphors: By using the phrase “Water you, grow you”, I connect drinking water to watering a plant, something necessary for plant survival and inherently, our survival.  Research by Ottati, Rhoads and Graesser (1999) examined this principle by investigating whether individuals would be more likely to do a thesis if they enjoyed sports and a sport metaphor was infused in the argument. Sentence type (literal vs. sports metaphor) in relation to the strength of an argument (weak vs. strong) and affect of participants towards sports (like vs. dislike) were all put into consideration. The experiment had students rate their attitudes towards a thesis and towards sports. Results, seen in Table 2, showed that sport metaphors led to increased interest and systematic processing of the idea of a thesis in individuals who like sports. This research supports the technique used in my ad as I continually use metaphors and common slangs to reach out to individuals.

Table 2 showing relationship between metaphor and attitudes towards writing a thesis
The setting of expectations: By pointing out what to expect from drinking water, individuals look forward to seeing these changes and might engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy

The outlining the cons of an alternative: By pointing to the negative effect of drinking soda as a substitute for water, individual choice is limited to the superior option; water. Results from the Ottati, Rhoads and Graesser (1999) research shows that strong arguments also led to more positive attitudes towards a thesis, as such my technique is well adequate.

High status admirer alteracast: Everyone seems to love Beyoncè. Thus, promoting drinking water as route to being as flawless as she is might prompt people to drink more. Research by Bushman (1984) suggests individuals are more likely to copy an individual in a suit (seen as admirable).

Rhetorical: I ask two questions in the ad and provide answers for them to clear doubts in whoever might be unsure about drinking water.

Thus, promoting water consumption is a necessary quest that I sought to do using various principles of behaviour change.

Bushman, B. J. (1984), Perceived Symbols of Authority and Their Influence on Compliance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 501–508.
Michaud, D. S., Kogevinas, M., Cantor, K. P., Villanueva, C. M., Garcia-Closas, M., Rothman, N., & Silverman, D. T. (2007). Total Fluid and Water Consumption and the Joint Effect of Exposure to Disinfection By-Products on Risk of Bladder Cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives115(11), 1569–1572. 
Muckelbauer, R., Libuda, L., Clausen, K., Toschke, A., Reinehr, T., & Kersting, M. (2009). Promotion and Provision of Drinking Water in Schools for Overweight Prevention: Randomized, Controlled Cluster Trial. American Academy of Pediatrics, 123(4), 661-667.
Ottati, V., Rhoads, S., & Graesser, A. (1999). The Effect of Metaphor on Processing Style in a Persuasion Task: A motivational Resonance Model. The American Psychological Association, 77(4), 688-697.
Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews68(8), 439–458. 

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