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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Making America Great Again using mere exposure

We’re all familiar with President-Elect Donald Trump – some know him as a brilliant entrepreneur businessman, while others know him as a bigot of questionable intelligence and integrity. Whether you belong to the first category or the second, there is one thing we can’t deny – the man knows how to be persuasive. There is an overabundance of techniques he has implemented throughout his campaign, including fear, simple language to aid cognitive processing, and creating an in-group. However, there is one he used repeatedly – repetition. 

‘Make America Great Again’ was one of the most prominent phrases throughout this presidential election. The reason behind this repetition was simple – the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it. As demonstrated by Zajonc in 1968, people prefer stimuli they are more familiar with even if the stimuli is nonsensical or not understood by participants due to language differences. By constantly repeating the slogan, selling and wearing merchandise visibly promoting ‘Making America Great Again’ Trump increased America’s familiarity with him, which in turn made him more likeable. 

In comparison, Hillary Clinton has not been as consistent as she used multiple different phrases throughout her campaign, failing to take advantage of this very effective persuasive technique. Maybe she should recruit a few of the Behaviour Change students to help her next time around?

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9(22).

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