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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

How the fitness industry steals from me

The fitness industry, it has to be said, is booming. The world in which we live is one which places an ever-increasing amount of importance onto our physical appearance, which means that more and more people are going to the gym and taking supplements. However, one thing that (ironically) hasn’t changed is how lazy we are as a species, so we will do anything possible to cut corners and get a quick fix. Anything over actual hard work, right? As someone who works in the leisure industry, I can tell you without a doubt that people who are trying to get fit are absolutely desperate. They will buy anything. Even when it’s fairly common sense that there’s no way some powder in a bottle can possibly deliver on all the promises it’s (weirdly aggressively) trying to sell to you, faster than you can say ‘*something funny*’ the guy floundering on the treadmill will drop £39.99 on it.  I know all about this problem, and I still fall for it today. Quite recently I bought a tub of stuff, and the guy on the front literally looked like this (below), and I thought ‘yeah, this is probably legit’. 
The company to which I am most loyal when it comes to supplements is MyProtein, and I think this is due in part to their constant pestering of me via email. Here are a few of the effects they’ve tried (and succeeded) to employ to make me part ways with my hard earned cash:


They’re certainly guilty of this. They seem to have a perpetual ‘ending tonight’ sale, in which everything must go, and obviously, I end up helping them out, because I’m a nice guy. This effect works because a) we assume that we have a limited time to make a purchase, so rather than making a considered decision about whether or not we really need something, we just jump the gun and whip out our wallets, and b) it acts as a form of social proof: if something is selling fast, then it has to be being bought by people, so we should probably buy it too.


This one too. The amount of times they tell me they’ve ‘extended their offer’ because I missed out is unfathomable. They haven’t extended it. The liars. This effect works because inherently, we’re all nice enough people, so if somebody does something nice for us, we ultimately want to repay them. This was demonstrated by Cialdini, Green and Rusch (1993), who were able to manipulate participants’ publicly stated opinions, by essentially guilt tripping them via reciprocity. 

As much as it stings for me to admit, as much as retailers like MyProtein are desperate to make you believe that they hold the key to fitness, the only surefire way, sadly, is through hard work. 

Cialdini, R. B., Green, B. L., & Rusch, A. J. (1992). When tactical pronouncements of change become real change: The case of reciprocal persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology63, 30.

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