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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Time To Get Some Vegucation

For our behaviour change project, we decided to tackle over consumption of meat. It was a topic that each member of the group had recently become interested in; so, we set out to design a poster that could influence people to eat less meat or cut it out entirely. The meat industry plays a part in a whole host of environmental issues, as well as an array of human health problems. For example, the per day carbon dioxide emissions for a vegetarian or almost half that of a high meat eater, with meat farming responsible for approximately 20% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (Scarborough et al., 2014; Steinfeld et al., 2006). Moreover, red and processed meat has also been strongly linked with cancer, diabetes and obesity (Leitzmann, 2005). Though, these are a just a glimpse of the issues that the meat industry creates, the problems spreading much further.

We are also aware the reason for many individuals to alter their diet is for ethical reasons – in other words they do not want to be complicit in the pain and suffering of animals (Fox & Ward, 2008). A lot of vegetarian media does tend to focus on this aspect of the meat industry, often utilising distressing scenes to evoke sadness or guilt (PETA, 2017). However, we noted that for us the most convincing arguments initially were those from a conservational and health point of view. The argument of whether it is moral to kill an animal seemed inherently subjective to us, though one cannot really argue against the observable and empirically tested that meat consumption is having on the planet and the body. We found this to be supported by evidence; people report going vegetarian for a variety of reasons, and inducing emotions such as guilt and sadness may not result in a message being perceived as more persuasive (Fox & Ward, 2008; Dillard & Peck, 2000). Moreover, the overuse of ethical treatment of animals as topic for persuasive media may be potentially detrimental to long term behaviour change. Research suggests that excessive repetition may actually decrease persuasive effectiveness (Cacioppo & Petty, 1980).

As a result, we decided to use Petty and Cacioppo’s (1986) Elaboration Likelihood Model as a framework to create an effective piece of persuasive media. The large humorous pie chart in the middle is designed to access to peripheral route to persuasion, which people utilise when they do not have the time/motivation to process the message deeply. Humour has been shown to be an effective tool to influence individuals when the message is being processed peripherally (Bless & Schwarz, 1999; Geuens & De Pelsmacker, 2002) with a likely explanation being that humour induces a positive mood which facilitates persuasion (Petty, Schumann, Richman, & Strathman, 1993). Another way in which we used this peripheral route is with social proof (Rao, Greve & Davis, 2001). This suggests that people will perceive a behaviour to be of higher value (e.g. they should be doing it) if it is what everyone else is also doing (Pratkanis, 2007). So, with our question, we imply that there are many other people becoming vegetarians which should be persuasive if the message is being processed heuristically.

We also integrated more detailed and rational arguments around the outside of the poster, which people could read if they have the time to do so. According to Petty & Cacioppo (1986) logically sound arguments are the most persuasive when the message is being processed by the central route and the use the of statistics increases persuasion because it provides supporting evidence.

Callam Constant, Luke Harris and Enzo Gian 


Bless, H., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Sufficient and necessary conditions in dual-process models. Dual- process theories in social psychology, 423-440.
Cacioppo, J., & Petty, R. (1980). Persuasiveness of communications is affected by exposure frequency and message quality: A theoretical and empirical analysis of persisting attitude change. Current issues and research in advertising, 3, 97-122.
Fox, N., & Ward, K. (2008). Health, ethics and environment: a qualitative study of vegetarian motivations. Appetite, 50, 422-429.
Geuens, M., & De Pelsmacker, P. (2002). The role of humor in the persuasion of individuals varying in need for cognition. Advances in Consumer Research, 29, 50-56.
PETA . (2017, March 11). Issues. Retrieved from
Petty, R., & Cacioppo, J. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.
Petty, R., Schumann, D., Richman, S., & Strathman, A. (1993). Positive mood and persuasion: Different roles for affect under high-and low-elaboration conditions. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64, 5.
Pratkanis, A. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics . The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.
Rao, H., Greve, H., & Davis, G. (2001). Fool's gold: Social proof in the initiation and abandonment of coverage by Wall Street analysts. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46, 502-526.
Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wassenaar, T., Castel, V., & de Haan, C. (2006). Livestock's long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Food & Agriculture Org.

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