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.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Follow Us On Facebook

Why do so many companies include this in their advertisement campaigns?

  • Commitment. Once you have followed the company/product on Facebook or another social media app or website, you feel in someway committed to them. Perhaps, now you are more likely to purchase their product repeatedly. This technique is often referred to as 'foot-in-the-door.' Here, potential customers have decided and agreed to following the product on Facebook, which makes the customers more likely to comply to demands or requests made later by the company, such as to buy the product. Pliner et al (1974) demonstrated this technique by asking individuals to wear a lapel pin publicising American Cancer Society. They were then twice as likely to later make a donation when asked. 
  • Mere Exposure. Now you have followed them on Facebook, each time you log on there will undoubtedly be a new upload from them - be it a status, an image or a poll of some sort. These all engage you and you find yourself scrolling down through these and briefly looking at them. The more you see something the more you like it. Zajonc (1968) demonstrated these mere exposure effects. The Chinese characters that participants were exposed to more were deemed to have a greater 'goodness' of meaning, as displayed in the graph below. Zajonc (1968) concluded that the things participants were exposed to more were deemed more favourable. 

  • The availability heuristic. Individuals use how easy retrieval of information is as an indicator of its importance. Therefore, individuals are likely to rate the product or company as more important the more they are exposed to it, such as via adverts on Facebook. This is because it will 'come to mind' more readily. (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973).
  • Reciprocity. Now you have entered into a two-way relationship you are bound by social norms. You have followed them on Facebook. Now they offer you a 10% discount through an advert on their Facebook page and you feel more inclined to purchase the product. This is due to the norm of reciprocity. If they do something for you then you feel obliged to return the favour. (See Regan, 1971). The image below shows Tesco encouraging people to like their Facebook page and therefore be the first to hear about exclusive offers.
  • In-group. You are now in their group and adopt group norms. You also adopt an in-group bias reflecting a tendency to prefer your own group to others. Within the adverts and comments on the Facebook page you may see individuals within the group purchasing and enjoying the product and so you feel more obliged to follow suit and also purchase the product. This is part of the Social Identity Theory (Tajfel, 1981). The in-group may be favourably compared to the out-group and seen as a much better group to be a part of. This inter-group conflict has been demonstrated in studies such as 'The Robbers Cave' experiments (Sherif et al., 1961).
  • Just asking. Many of the companies will advertise on Facebook with requests for individuals to try new products or visit the store. Clark & Hatfield (1989) found that 50% of women would agree to go on a date just by being asked by a stranger. This is much higher than you might expect and indicates that simply asking can get results! Therefore, just by simply being asked indirectly on Facebook more individuals may try the products or visit the store.


Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality2(1), 39-55.

Pliner, P., Hart, H., Kohl, J., & Saari, D. (1974). Compliance without pressure: Some further data on the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology10(1), 17-22.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology7(6), 627-639.

Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories: Studies in social psychology. CUP Archive.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology5(2), 207-232.

University of Oklahoma. Institute of Group Relations, & Sherif, M. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment (Vol. 10, pp. 150-198). Norman, OK: University Book Exchange.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology9(2p2), 1.

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