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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When you fry your MEAT, you fry the EARTH

The advert above is trying to persuade people to avoid eating meat. The style of the advert is based on a great WWII poster I once saw (which I'll put at the bottom). As I realised that the writing is quite small the blue writing on the left says "Animal farming produces more greenhouse gasses than plant-based food." The blue writing to the right says "Do you want cancer? Eating meat has been linked to developing cancer." Just a note, it's a tree in the middle and not a broccoli!

Firstly, the advert uses guilt appeal by saying that you're frying the Earth when you cook meat. This is used to make you feel guilty for destroying the planet, just so you can have some bacon. Guilt appeal has been shown to work in persuading people and changing their behaviour. Haynes, Thornton, and Jones (2004) created two sets of leaflets for the RSPCA, where one contained a happy image of a dog - designed to elicit feelings of warmth - and the other showing a negative image of a dog - designed to elicit feelings of guilt. The participants who read the guilt appeal leaflet were more likely to have the intention to donate money and time to the RSPCA and to adopt a dog.

Secondly, the advert asks you, "Do you want cancer?" as a method of fear appeal to make you afraid of eating meat because it could increase the chance of you developing cancer. Dillard and Anderson (2004) found that fear appeal can be effective in advertisement. They showed participants different adverts concerning the dangers of influenza which then suggested free vaccinations. Some of the adverts differed in levels of fear appeal and it was found that those who were shown high fear appeal adverts were more likely to say that they would have a vaccination.

Thirdly, the picture in the centre of the advert of a piece of meat being fried with a burning tree on it is used to elicit strong imagery.  Gregory, Cialdini, and Carpenter (1982) demonstrated that even just using mental imagery can improve persuasion techniques. Participants were asked by confederates posing as salespeople about purchasing TV cable subscription. They were either just told about the benefits of cable TV or told the benefits but also asked to imagine themselves using it. Those who were asked to produce the image of them using cable TV were more likely to subscribe to it when asked weeks later. 

Finally, as cancer is often associated with death, asking "Do you want cancer?" is used to increase mortality salience in the reader. This was done in the hope to make the reader more likely to stop eating meat in order to avoid death. Schindler, and Reinhard (2015) found that making mortality salient can increase participants' compliance to buying a new product. In their study, participants were asked to answer questions about themselves. Participants were either asked to write about dental pain, in the control condition, or about their feelings towards their own deaths, mortality salient condition. Those that were in the mortality salient condition were more likely to say that they would subscribe to a newspaper for two years in a hypothetical scenario. 

Here's the WWII poster that inspired my advert:


Chao, A., Thun, M. J., Connell, C. J., McCullough, M. L., Jacobs, E. J., Flanders, W. D., &                       Calle, E. E. (2005). Meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Jama,                         293(2), 172-182.

Dillard, J. P., & Anderson, J. W. (2004). The role of fear in persuasion. Psychology & 
                     Marketing, 21(11), 909-926.

Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., & Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as                              mediators of  likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it                          so?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 43(1), 89.

Haynes, M., Thornton, J., & Jones, S. C. (2004). An exploratory study on the effect                                  of positive (warmth appeal) and negative (guilt appeal) print imagery on                              donation behaviour in animal welfare. Faculty of Health & Behavioural                                Sciences-Papers, 80.

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.

Schindler, S., & Reinhard, M. A. (2015). When Death Is Compelling. Social Psychology.

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