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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Breaking the glass ceiling "like a girl"


This powerful Always advert caused 76% of people who watched it to say they no longer held a negative association with the phrase "like a girl", with 2 out of 3 men saying they would think twice about using "like a girl" as an insult. So how could 3 minutes have influenced a double digit percentage increase in product sales, and accrue 62 billion views?

We can look at this advert using two particular persuasion models; the Likelihood Elaboration Model (Cacioppo and Petty, 1986) and the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). Firstly it's important to understand that adverts can take many angles when trying to influence their audience's behaviour, and the most common way is affect management - inducing an emotional response. This particular ad uses a mixture of two emotions; angers the audience through the stigmatisation of girls and empowers them to use this positively by gaining strength from this.


The Elaboration Likelihood Model explains attitude change can be triggered through two routes; peripheral routes and central routes, provided that we have the motivation to attend to the message and source. Ajzen shows us that the peripheral route is targeted through association with positive or negative cues, more automatically and we need less cognitive processing to occur. The central route however is more skeptical, resistant and needs more information/credibility to change our views. In order to ignite the motivation to attend to the message however we need there to be a form of cognitive dissonance (for something to make us feel uneasy), which this advert does well by contrasting interpretations of "like a girl" from a teenager and a little girl. From my own experience of watching the advert, the first half didn't shock me at all when watching people's interpretations of "running like a girl" or "hitting like a girl" - though it saddened me, it didn't seem to be anything new. However when I watched the second half of the video where the little girls seemed unphased by doing the actions like their normal selves, this causes dissonance within me as the glass ceiling became evident, its society that teaches us that "like a girl" means inadequacy. We feel motivated enough to attend the message at this point as uses negative cues to engage our attention, and then uses a positive message to increase our belief that we can change this.

The Theory of Planned Behaviour then shows that in order for us to actually change our behaviours there are a matrix of components that need interact; intention and perceived behavioural control. In order for us to change, we need to have strong attitudes towards wanting to change (usually caused by that uneasiness), subjective norms (everyone around us must feel the same way as us) and perceived behavioural control (the belief that we are actually able to change). These three components feed into our intention to change, however it is important to know that without perceived behavioural control it is not possible to change our behaviour as it's simply us feeling like we want to change and others want us to change but we don't actually think we can do it so we won't. For example in this advert, if we simply saw a negative stereotype attached to girls (unshocking) it would likely make us feel unhappy and others along with you (especially in western societies striving for more gender equality), however if there weren't laws that actually allowed women to fight for their rights females would be most likely to continue being submissive because they've never seen it happen before. Social proofing (Cialdini, 1987) facilitates this belief that it is possible as social proofing shows us real examples of where women are successful within sports and athletics.

So if we have the motivation to attend the message, the right emotions ignited to make us feel dissonance so our attitudes towards changing are triggered, with society reinforcing us that this is something that we should be changing - we are likely to develop an intention to change. In addition to this, if we are shown examples of where people have changed these stereotypes, or not developed them, it makes us believe in our self-efficacy to change our behaviour. With confidence plummeting during puberty for both males and females, this advert shows us how important it is to empower teenagers to feel comfortable within themselves and believe in their ability to succeed. Within sports specifically, females are significantly underrepresented - being stereotyped as "weak", "slow" and "rubbish compared to men". A study shows that even stating your gender as a female before competing in a mental task can actually reduce performance, compared to when females were given a fair chance to compete - so the stereotypes are so ingrained they reduce a girl's self-efficacy (Ortner and Sieverding, 2008). In order to boost confidence in girls, it's important for society to understand the stigmatisation and be motivated to change it so that we can empower girls to develop into strong and successful women.

So next time you tell a female or male not to "cry like a girl" or "hit like a girl"; remember that there is nothing wrong with being a girl... and to continue doing the best version of you!





Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes50(2), 179-211.

Cialdini, R. B. (1987). Influence (Vol. 3). A. Michel.


Ortner, T.M. & Sieverding, M. Sex Roles (2008) 59: 274


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

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