Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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

Fight Stress Smartly

By Iza Kostro, Jonathan Kan, Yoon Bae Lim, Moriah Sharpe

The aim of our campaign - "Fight Stress Smartly" is to help University students deal with stress.
We constructed a video and a poster to aid the promotion of our campaign.
Ruth Caleb, chair of Universities UK's mental well-being working group, says counselling services are facing an annual rise in demand of about 10%. This is definitely an alarming figure, thus, we as Psychology students decided to do a campaign on helping students cope with stress.

Propaganda Materials

The video: It started off by introducing some common activities of typical university students. Proceed by reminding viewers that they could have been a victim of stress. Finally, some tips for the viewers on fighting stress.

The poster: It consists of 4 parts. An eye-catching title - "STRESSED?". An eye-catching cross-sectional image comparing the activity of the temporal lobes when we are healthy versus under chronic-stress. The latter half of the poster listed some typical symptoms of chronic stress, as well as some simple tips on stress-relief.

The posters were posted all over the University of Warwick, including places such as the Student Union, the Humanities Building, the Library etc. It also happened that one of our group mate lives by a bus-stop to the University in Earlsdon, Coventry. We thought it would be a perfect idea to demonstrate our poster next to the bus stop, so that not only passers-by, but students, teaching staff, could look at our poster while waiting for the bus.
At the bottom of the posters is a QR code that links to the video above.
The video could be watched on Youtube, i.e. all mobile devices, as well as on the Warwick Piazza.

Theory of Planned behaviour

By putting up posters and link to the video, we tried to raise students' awareness of the issues of stress,
as well as helping them to find out what is likely to happen to them, e.g. anxiety, fatigue etc.
When the audiences notice the materials (poster & video), it reminds themselves whether the problem of stress could have an effect on, or concerns them.

In terms of persuading techniques, the video emphasised on the prevalence of stress among university students, i.e. not just the audiences looking at the propaganda materials, but also people around them(subjective norms); and on both the video and the poster, we suggested some easy ways to begin with on fighting stress (perceived behavioural control).

We realise that the problem of stress is actually so prevalent that many university students believe being stressed is totally normal. It is indeed impossible to be stress-free, especially for young adults. We hope that by providing some common knowledge on "stress" to students, as well as giving them simple tips, from time-management skills to diet, on fighting stress, stress could one day become a healthy source of motivation to students instead of their burden. 

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.
Al Sunni, A., & Latif, R. (2014). Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. Int J Health Sci (Qassim), 8(4), 393-401.

Bogdanski, P., Suliburska, J., Szulinska, M., Stepien, M., Pupek-Musialik, D., & Jablecka, A. (2012). Green tea extract reduces blood pressure, inflammatory biomarkers, and oxidative stress and improves parameters associated with insulin resistance in obese, hypertensive patients. Nutr Res, 32(6), 421-427.

Britton, B. K., & Tesser, A. (1991). Effects of time-management practices on college grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 405–410.

Grassi, D., Necozione, S., Lippi, C., Croce, G., Valeri, L., Pasqualetti, P., Desideri, G., Blumberg, J.B., & Ferri, C. (2005). Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension, 46, 398–405.

Grissom, J., Loeb, S., & Mitani, H. (2015). Principal time management skills: explaining patterns in principals’ time use, job stress, and perceived effectiveness. J. Educ. Admin, 53(6), 773–793.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 57(1), 35-43.
James, C. (2016, November 15). NYU Study Examines Top High School Students’ Stress and Coping Mechanisms. Retrieved from
Misra, R., & McKean, M. (2000). College students’ academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management, and leisure satisfaction. Am J Health Stud, 16, 41–51.

Novotney, A. (2016, November 27). Students under pressure. Retrieved from
Renter, E. (2016, November 9). Foods to Reduce Stress – Green Tea, Blueberries, and More. Retrieved from

Schuder, K. (2016, November 27). Statistics on College Student Stress. Retrieved from

Brain-Body Benefits of Meditation. (2016, November 20). Retrieved from
Colleges and Universities Create Nap Rooms for Students. (2016, November 20). Retrieved from

Mental Health and College Students. (2016, November 15).  Retrieved from
Napping. (2016, November 20). Retrieved from
What’s The Best Time Of The Day To Nap?. (2016, November 20). Retrieved from
What is a Power Nap? (2016, November 20). Retrieved from

7 Health Benefits of Meditation. (2016, November 20). Retrieved from

Go Out Without


Our project relays the message to embrace your natural beauty to young women all around the world. We began with this idea as it is something ingrained in both of us, that young women should not feel the need to wear make-up, or feel the need to use it as something to hide behind, or as a tool to increase security.

We begin with showing images of articles where women from the media - celebrities - are embracing their own natural beauty and not falling towards that a woman should be presentable and wear make-up. The issue we face now is that young girls are not wearing make-up for the right reasons, rather as a means of covering up their insecurities. Now the message here, we both want to make clear, is not to force every woman not to wear make-up, but to make people aware of whether they are wearing make-up for a healthy reason. For example, if a young girl wants to be a makeup artist, by all means, she has every right to express her love for make-up by wearing her favourite brands etc.

Now this issue, much broadcasted in the media, has been very prominent in celebrities movements. The anti-makeup movement has been around for the past few years and so we decided to engage 'watchers' using the persuasion technique of 'Celebrity Endorsement'. We begin with images of influential women promoting natural beauty and sending images of themselves not wearing make-up.

Secondly, the use of a hashtag denotes the use of the foot in the door technique, something Cialdini (2007) refers to as 'Commitment and Consistency'. We decided to add this as a way to include people as part of a movement and secondly, to initiate a sense of commitment. Once women, using social media, hashtag our catch phrase 'Go Out Without', there is a desire to remain consistent and follow through with the behaviours. Secondly, by showing images of people complying with the behaviour change means they are more likely to commit.

This leads onto the persuasion technique Cialdini refers to as 'Social Proof'. We provided people with an idea of what others out there are currently doing; tweeting our hashtag, promoting natural beauty through little to no use of make-up in celebrities etc. Social proof implies that people are more likely to comply to behaviours if they see someone who they can easily relate to complying. We purposefully attempted to get the hashtag trending amongst everyday women from the University of Warwick. This meant that there was little gap in reliability between the women complying with the behaviour (the ones tweeting) and the target audience watching. 

Furthermore we tried to increase people's perceived behavioural control (one of the key aspects of the theory of planned behaviour) by using everyday young women to make clips of themselves outside without makeup on. This was to ensure that people still felt the behaviour was attainable.

Madeleine Bosman
Liah El-Fadel

Homelessness - 'Humans of Leamington Spa'

‘We are all human no matter what our circumstances.’

What was the issue?

Our project focuses on the issue of homelessness, predominately within Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, United Kingdom.

Homelessness is an issue because the lifestyle can be brutal. Both mental and physical health problems can develop and an inability to gain employment can exacerbate already substantial financial issues. Lack of self-esteem, confidence and skills can make it hard to sustain a tenancy or gain housing. Some homeless people have also been involved in sex work as well as unwanted sexual relations. The Salvation Army informed us that they strive to break the cycle of homelessness by helping people to take control of their life circumstances.

Prior to beginning our project we spoke to members of society who expressed negative connotations and a lack of understanding or support towards the homeless. These negative views have been built on further due to the confirmation bias. If people see a homeless individual taking drugs or consuming large amounts of alcohol they are more likely to remember this and therefore strengthen their already negative view. However, if they see a homeless person working or studying then they are likely to forget this and not pay attention to it because it doesn’t conform to their original views (Nickerson, 1998). This makes attitude and behaviour change quite difficult.

Our aims included reducing prejudice and providing better understanding towards the homeless and their circumstances. Ultimately, we aim to increase support for the homeless and donations to The Salvation Army. In particular, we wanted to stress the variety of reasons that can lead to homelessness and show how those unfortunate events could happen to YOU.

Within the 2016 homelessness review Warwick district council states that; “The council received 705 applications from people applying as homeless in 2015/16….an increase of 132% on the number received in 2009/10 compared to a 29% increase nationally over the same time period.”

Chart 1: Incline in number of homeless applicants (obtained from:

Table 1: The 5 main causes of homelessness in different years (obtained from:

What did we do?

Firstly, we got in contact with The Salvation Army; a charity based in Leamington spa which helps the homeless. They offer a place to do laundry, have a wash, access new clothes and toiletries and also provide an opportunity to have a cooked meal. The Salvation Army also aids the homeless by providing them with advice by signposting them to services and support and the opportunity to talk and be respected.

Image 1: The Salvation Army Logo

Members of our group were inspired by their work and decided to volunteer with The Salvation Army at their drop-in sessions each week for 7 months. This enabled us to get a real in-depth appreciation of the charity as well as the struggles homeless people encounter. These drop-in sessions provide homeless people with important respite from the stress of their daily lives on the streets and help reduce how lonely or isolated these people feel.

After 7 months of volunteering, we were able to obtain several interviews with people who currently are or previously were homeless. They confided in us and spoke about their life stories, families and achievements, the difficulties they face every day as well as the help they receive from The Salvation Army. We decided the most powerful tool for changing attitudes would be a video incorporating; images, statistics, footage in Leamington, music and testimonies of homeless individuals. In our video we emphasised the contrast between living in ‘North’ Leamington, the wealthier part represented by consumer culture against the isolated, forgotten spaces where homeless people seek refuge. This was achieved through various filming sessions, where we obtained footage within Leamington Spa.

How did we achieve our aims?

Within our video we used many different persuasion techniques in order to change behaviour and attitudes, hopefully resulting in a decrease in prejudice and an increase in donations. These techniques are included in more detail within our subsequent essays. However, to summarise:

Availability: The phrase ‘this could happen to you’ was repeated throughout the video. According to the availability heuristic this makes it more likely to be easily recalled and more emphasis is put on the message (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973). This effect is also exaggerated when people share and re-watch our video on social media. This helps draw parallels between all members of society and the homeless and shows how many different people from different backgrounds can be affected. Ultimately, the aim here is to break down stereotypes associated with homelessness.

Mere Exposure: Zajonc (1968) suggests that we prefer what we are exposure to more. Many people have limited interactions and knowledge of homeless people but by exposing them to more information about homeless people through our video helps them to appear in a more positive light and helps breakdown the associated stereotypes.

Cognitive dissonance: This video helps to reduce the stigma towards homelessness. Pre-existing negative views or thoughts about the homeless are challenged by our video, forming conflicting attitudes and information. This therefore needs to be resolved and is most likely to be done by creating new, more positive behaviours and thoughts in line with the messages from our video (Festinger, 1962).

Contrast effect: We used juxtaposition to contrast different areas of Leamington. This helped highlight how different parallel lives can be from one another and helps with our aim to raise awareness of homelessness.

Source relatability and credibility: The video helps show similarities between the homeless and other members of society. The case studies provide relatable, personal accounts of an individual’s homelessness and their circumstances. Within the video much of the information and experiences comes from homeless people and therefore provides a credible source. Research has found that having a relatable and credible source can increase the level and success of the persuasive message (Hovland et al., 1953).

Just Ask: Simply by asking people if they would be willing to do something such as donate increases the likelihood of them doing so (Clark & Hatfield, 1989). We ask people to consider helping the homeless by challenging their negative views or by donating to The Salvation Army throughout the video.

Commitment: Towards the end of our video we included some questions. These start with small commitments such as by saying hello and build to bigger, more time consuming requests. This use of graduated commitment makes it more likely that the larger requests to help the homeless will be agreed to and carried out. The foot-in-the-door technique is also used here, whereby a very simple request of saying hello is used first which many people would agree to doing (Freedman & Fraser, 1966). This again increases that likelihood of subsequent requests being agreed to. This helps create behaviour change and help the homeless due to the nature of our requests.

Emotion: The emotion of guilt is likely to experience whilst watching our video and has been found to increase charitable giving and behaviour change (Hibbert et al., 2007). For example, we show a damp, dark doorstep and ask if you would like to sleep there? This question is rhetorical and obviously the answer would be ‘no’. This may evoke feelings of guilt due to viewers realising that homeless people have no choice, whereas you do.

Norm of reciprocity: Our video features a homeless man playing the bongo drums. Here the norm of reciprocity is acting (Gouldner, 1960). This is because many people walk by listening to him playing his music and feel a need to give something back in return, often money.

Social Learning Theory: We often learn through observations of others and subsequently adapt our behaviour (Bandura & Walters, 1977). Observing other sharing, commenting and liking the video on social media increases the likelihood that other individuals will also replicate these actions. This is particularly due to vicarious reinforcement from the positive reactions to donations and comments of others.

Social Proof: Our video was shared on social media sites and apps, such a ‘Facebook’. This increased the number of potential viewers. The positive reaction from viewers (demonstrated by ‘liking’ or sharing our video) helps create social proof and increases the numbers of subsequent positive reactions and attitude changes from others (Cialdini, 1987).

Image 2: The video being shared on social media (Facebook)

Was there a measurable impact?

Our video was viewed hundreds of times and received many likes and positive comments in the process. The video was also shared multiple times onto a variety of different sites, from personal pages to more public university society or hall pages. Ultimately, we believe that this will have had a positive impact on the lives of the homeless, whereby donations are increased due to more commitment being forged from smaller commitments such as saying ‘hello’ and potential stigma is reduced.

Please watch our video and consider making a positive difference to the lives of homeless people within Leamington Spa and beyond.

To donate to ‘The Salvation Army’, please use the link below:

“Without The Salvation Army – Many of us here would be dead.” Andrew (Bicester drop-in centre)


Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1977). Social learning theory.

Cialdini, R. B. (1987). Influence (Vol. 3). A. Michel.

Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality2(1), 39-55.

Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Scientific American.

Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology4(2), 195.

Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American sociological review, 161-178.

Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A., & Ireland, F. (2007). Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and charitable giving. Psychology & Marketing24(8), 723-742.

Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change.
Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of general psychology2(2), 175.

The Salvation Army. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology5(2), 207-232.

Warwick District Council. Homelessness Review 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology9(2p2), 1.

Jane Wackett 

Open Your Eyes - Populism

To address the rise of both left and right-wing populism in Europe and the United States, we created a short infomercial portraying the aspects of globalisation, social identity and other psychosocial facets of modern populism as objectively as possible. By raising awareness, we hope to cast aside the personal identity confusion found within our society nowadays. Our goal is for people to refrain from adhering to extreme left or right-wing populist parties. Instead of thinking black and white, we believe it is better to employ a more nuanced, critical stance when looking at the current issues. 

We hope to have affected people’s sense of responsibility by using the following persuasion techniques:

The conversion theory of minority influenceContrasting the "majority rules" model of social influence, conversion theory maintains that disagreement within the group results in conflict, and that group members are motivated to reduce that conflict—either by changing their own opinions or attempting to get others to change.

The mere exposure effectRepetition of the word populism in our video and on the news, creates a sense of familiarity, thus adding strength to our message.

The priming effectAdd in the effect of priming the extreme left and right-wing parties with an uncertain and frightening outcome, and a more critical, centred stance towards politics is to be expected in just under four minutes.

Mario Panen + Chaouki Touzani