Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


With exams fast approaching, it is not uncommon for students to start to feel the pressure associated with performing well through pulling unrealistic all-nighters or being glued to their library desk 15 hours a day. When we conducted an initial survey to explore stress in students, only 14.3% reported taking regular breaks and, unsurprisingly, over 75% reported feeling very or extremely stressed as a result. As well as fatigue, a lack of breaks and remaining at the same desk for hours can cause physical symptoms in students such as, back, neck and shoulder pain. All of these symptoms could be easily reduced by taking short breaks every hour (Galinsky et al., 2000). This project aimed to encourage students at university to take regular breaks from studying with the #PressPause social media campaign.

Before starting the campaign, we conducted a short qualtrix survey. This included two very short questions: 1) How often do you take study breaks? And 2) How stressed are you feeling with your workload currently? This was used to gage a general understanding of break-taking and stress in the student population.

The first way we implemented the #PressPause campaign was through putting posters around campus:

The first persuasive technique used was source credibility, but including the phrase “Psychologists have found that taking short study breaks results in greater concentration.” Secondly, we used social proof by including photos of students graduating. The claim here is to make students who see these posters believe students become successful through taking breaks.

Alongside our poster, we gave out free tea bags to use the technique of reciprocity. Evidence suggests that due to the norm of reciprocity, people are more likely to comply with our request to take breaks and post photos onto the Facebook page if they have first received something from us (Regan, 1971).

The second stage of our campaign was to set up a Facebook page, where students could post photos/ videos of themselves taking a break. This was also a platform where students could engage with each other and share taking a break ideas. So far the page has 52 likes and 22 students have posted on the page. Importantly, the Facebook page makes taking a break salient between students, by providing evidence from like-minded people on different ways to take a break. Again, social proof is used as seeing others posting photos of themselves taking a break makes it more likely that you will also go on to take breaks yourself (Cialdini et al., 1990).

Although it was not possible to re-survey those who had seen our campaign, the PressPause page has been viewed by over 100 Facebook users. We feel that our Facebook page having 52 likes and 22 posts from different students means that we were successful in encouraging more students at Warwick to take study breaks. 


Cialdini, R. B., Reno, R. R., & Kallgren, C. A. (1990). A focus theory of normative conduct: Recycling the concept of norms to reduce littering in public places. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 1015-1026.

Galinsky, T. L., Swanson, N. G., Sauter, S. L., Hurrell, J. J., & Schlleifer, L. M. (2000). A field study of supplementary rest breaks for data-entry operators. Ergonomics, 43, 622-638.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favour and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 627-639.

Siobhan Jones
Sashvinder Mandair
Megan Reay

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