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, March 15, 2017

“You don’t know where they’ve been”

Background & Statistics

The three of us were sitting in a coffee shop in Leamington Spa when a heated discussion was sparked by the topic of ignorance surrounding sexual health in our native countries of Cyprus, India and Pakistan . What we found particularly compelling were the stories each of us shared. The first, rather shocking story involved a 21-year-old boy in Pakistan who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and could not understand why. It later transpired that he was chewing condoms instead of wearing them. Another story involved an 18-year-old Cypriot girl who was convinced she could not receive sexually transmitted diseases from anal sex. The last story involved a 17-year-old boy in India who thought you could “only get STDs from whores”. 

However, it appears this is not a phenomenon endemic to Cyprus, India or Pakistan.  To highlight the gravity of the situation, a recent survey of American high school students revealed only 39% were taught how to use condoms in their health classes and only 60% admitted to having used them (Statistic Brian, 2016). These numbers call for some urgency since the youth are disproportionately affected by STDs, with people under 25 experiencing the highest rates of STDs in the UK (FPA,2011) and 15-24 year olds accounting for the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the US (CDC, 2015).

The consequences of unsafe sexual practices can be severe, for example, the trauma caused by abortions due to unexpected teenage pregnancies or the contraction of an STI such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. These two STIs are frequently undiagnosed and can have devastating consequences on both men and women.  For example, the bacteria can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women which can lead to the scarring of fallopian and infertility (Cates, Rolfs & Aral, 1990) whereas for men, Chlamydia can lead to an inflammation of the testicles and possible sterility (Berger et al., 1978; Westrom, 1998)

Our Idea

The idea for our project emerged when we noticed two things: (a) the common denominator in all our stories was the youth and (b) we were most shocked by the story of the young Pakistani boy. As three people within the same age bracket we wondered what factor caused him to have such a different idea about sexual health than we did. How do we know condoms are not meant to be chewed on to be effective while he didn’t? The answer is: education. Therefore, we created a simple, educational poster to target the youth and persuade them to indulge in safe sex, particularly, using condoms. 


The poster depicts a short story of a penis and a vagina that embark on two separate journeys around the world. The penis starts off in New York and then is seen in Paris, whereas, the vagina starts off in India and heads off to Egypt. In the final picture they have been shown to be on a date. Both their sexual intentions have been made clear with the condom on the penis’ head and the vagina’s speech bubble that says ‘second best meatballs I’ll be having tonight’.

Persuasive Techniques

We believe our poster has the potential to be effective in three ways:

(1) It uses narrative information
Studies that have compared the persuasiveness of statistical versus narrative evidence have found that narrative evidence is more persuasive in the case of health communication, for example, a study by Hinyard and Kreuter (2007). For this reason, we decided to use a pictorial narrative of a story of a penis and vagina traveller who meet.

(2) It is funny (Well we think so anyway)
Humour is an emotion that is often employed to persuade people. It has been shown to be effective when audiences are processing messages heuristically (Bless & Schwartz, 1999). It can also grab your attention and make the message more memorable. Additionally, they have an added impact on key points that need to be highlighted. Therefore, in the poster, we wanted to highlight our tagline ‘Use protection. You don’t know where they’ve been’ and the condom on the penis’ head using humour and hence, increasing the chances of persuasion.

(3) It is memorable
For our cause, memory is important because the act of using a condom will appear at a later time than when an individual sees the poster. Therefore, we wanted to make it as memorable as possible. Rhoads (1994) found that messages that used vivid details to stress their main point without the use of unnecessary details was rated more positive than those that did not adopt this technique. That is why we employed bright backgrounds and eye-catching characters to emphasise the meaning behind our poster.


The main goal of our project was to influence the youth to use condoms during sex since the ignorance surrounding sexual health and the statistics are concerning. Using the persuasive techniques outlined above, we hope to raise awareness in this area and impact the decisions and hence, the behaviour of our target audience. We accept that not everyone will be running to a pharmacy to buy a packet of Durex, but we think it will definitely push the majority to take charge of their own sexual well-being and most importantly, motivate them into making sexual health a central and shame-free part of their circles’ dialogue.

Berger, R. E., Alexander, E. R., Monda, G. D., Ansell, J., McCormick, G., & Holmes, K. K. (1978). Chlamydia trachomatis as a cause of acute idiopathic epididymitis. New England Journal of Medicine, 298, 301-304.

Bless, H., & Schwartz, N. (1999). Sufficient and necessary conditions in dual-process models. U: S. Chaiken, Y. Thorpe (ur.). Dual-process theories in social psychology.

Cates, W., Rolfs, R. T., & Aral, S. O. (1990). Sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility: an epidemiologic update. Epidemiologic Reviews, 12, 199-220.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015. Retrieved from

Eruptingmind. (2011). How Mood Affects Persuasion. Retrieved January 7, 2011, from

Hinyard, L. J., & Kreuter, M. W. (2007). Using narrative communication as a tool for health behavior change: a conceptual, theoretical, and empirical overview. Health Education & Behavior, 34, 777-792.

Rhoads, K. (1994). The impact of figural vividness on persuasion. Unpublished master’s thesis, Arizona State University, Tempe.

Statistic Brain. (2016, May 9). Condom Use Statistics. Retrieved from
Westrom, L. V. (1996). Chlamydia and its effect on reproduction. Journal of the British Fertility Society, 1, 23-30.

Authors: Ayse Lisa Allsion, Diva Chokshi, Alina Abid Zuberi

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