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

When you are not quite who you think you are

This moving video comes from a series of videos that global travel website Momondo's campaign "Let's Open Our World" in an effort to explore humans' diversity and show how much more everyone has in common with each other. With almost 15 million views on YouTube and 25.9 thousand shares on Facebook, it can be assumed that this video has made a relatively big impact on netizens.

The video shows 67 people from all around the world who have their definition of themselves questioned by taking a DNA test. The test shows many unexpected results to the participants' perceived knowledge of their ancestry, and out of all the people who participated in this video two participants who never knew of each other's existence found out that they were in fact distant cousins.

Although Momondo later admits to have sourced participants from casting agencies which were filtered by their ancestry and surprise elements in their results, the participants were from various backgrounds with only 10 having prior acting experiences. Momondo also states that the reactions and results were not scripted. While there are some scepticism about whether the reactions have been dramatized, assuming that Momondo's claims about the video is true the impact the video has on the Internet is still undeniable. This post will therefore start by addressing how the video influences the participants in the three stages of the video (participants' self-introduction, the wait for DNA test results, and the revealing of results) as well as how it might potentially influence you as a viewer.

During this part of the video, participants talked about theirs and their families' life and how it ties back to the culture of the nationality they identify with. Participants were also asked if there's any particular nationality that they dislike and the reasons for it. All these are indicators of their attitudes towards certain cultures and nationalities. Having them express it verbally is likely to polarize their attitudes further as found by Brauer, Judd & Gliner (1995).

The wait for results
Participants had two weeks to wait before they get their results, giving them plenty of time to think about their ancestry and speculate about the results. While this is not shown in the video, they may have worried about their knowledge of their ancestry being proven wrong. This brings about a conflict between two motivations in Chen, Duckworth and Chaiken's (1999) heuristic and systematic model: the need to be accurate and the need to defend beliefs about the self. Participants may spend the two weeks thinking of the possibility that they are wrong about their family identity and what it could mean for the way they see themselves.

Revealing of results
The video depicts participants who are shocked by their DNA test results and their thoughts after receiving them. The dissonance between the need to be right and the need to defend beliefs is reduced (because there is no need to defend their old beliefs when it is proven that they were wrong) , but gets changed into dissonance between the old self-image and the new self-image. As a result, the participants' attitudes towards certain nationalities change to reduce the dissonance created, leading to a more open attitude towards the initially disliked nationalities. The extent of attitude change could be amplified due to the polarisation of the original beliefs during the first stage, resulting in an equally polarised new belief.

Now that it is known how the attitudes of the participants in the video were changed, we will move on to discuss how the video affects its viewers. Chances are that if like me, you 'felt something' or reacted emotionally to this video, you were influenced by your self-regulation mechanism (Bandura, 1991). According to Bandura's (1991) Social Cognitive Theory, self-regulation is a reaction to an external environment by self-observation, an internal judgement process and a reaction (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Stages of self-regulation.

The video impacts viewers at the self-observation part of the theory. While there are many information that were present during the video (verbal content, the storyline, the themes behind the video etc.) Bandura (1991) states that people attend to selective aspects that are deemed important depending on their personal values and perceived significance of events. Although some of the viewers may not start off with the same attitude as their eventual one, the aspects present during the video may still be important to them regardless of the valence. This causes them to obtain information required to evaluate their own attitudes and behaviors which is further fueled by the emotions shown by the participants of the video. Although the video does not provide an extremely high quality of monitoring (with proximity and regularity lacking), the use of a relatively diverse cast helps to increase relatablilty which in turn makes the message more persuasive (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986).

Irregardless of how successful the video is in persuading a more open mind towards races or the participants' potentially scripted and exaggerated reactions, I personally think it still holds a beautiful message that should be shared. Like one participant from the video said, it holds potential in curbing things like racism and supremacist ideologies which could make the world a more pleasant place to live in for everyone. Although biased in my conclusion (I have obviously succumbed to the intended behaviour change), I hope that for the sake of humanity more parties would utilise such behaviour change techniques for the betterment of society.

Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50, 248-287.

Brauer, M., Judd, C. M., & Gliner, M. D. (1995). The effects of repeated expressions on attitude polarization during group discussions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 1014-1029.

Chen, S., Duckworth, K., & Chaiken, S. (1999). Motivated heuristic and systematic processing. Psychological Inquiry, 10, 44-49.

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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