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 21, 2018

Don't tell me to wash my face!

Dear People with Perfect Skin,

Don’t ever tell me 'why don't you just wash your face?' excuse me? My face is probably 100x cleaner than yours with my rigorous routine and arsenal of face care products ranging from la mer moisturisers to a L’Oréal clay mask. People have different skin types, OK? Besides they say that people with this perfect skin get wrinkles sooner, so good luck with that! Unfortunately until then I, along with countless others, have to suffer through the occasional (badly timed) breakouts and steadfast acne.

Reality check – dermatologists are extortionate. Tread lightly, because what comes next is not for the faint of heart.

According to the Skin and Hair Clinic in London:

Image result for the london skin and hair clinic 

A skin consultation - £240

A follow up consultation - £190

and if you hadn’t feared enough already, this sort of ‘consultation’ is not covered by insurance companies. Not even private insurers cover an acne treatment, which can put you £2500 out of pocket for the next 12 weeks. It’s actually cheaper to get multiple rounds of Botox!

This is where the age of technology is a life saver. It’s a well-known fact how obsessed and addicted my generation are to their phones. To be fair they’re super useful for ordinary things like: alarms to wake me up in the morning, reminders for important meetings, texting and calling, and of course validating my ethereal beauty through likes.

Twitter is one of the most used social media mediums used today. The content can range from random thoughts and stories to little snippets of advice or wisdom. A recent trend that has been arising these past couples months are ‘threads’. On Twitter you’re limited to a 280 character count, and these threads are connected posts about one theme – whether it’s a funny story someone overheard or someone ranting about something petty. A very popular type of thread that has emerged is the skin care thread.

These skin care threads are even being copied from Twitter onto other apps like Instagram and Snapchat, because once there’s been the social consensus (Milgram, Bickman & Berkowitz, 1969) that something’s pretty great, it spreads like a virus. Social consensus engages in two psychological processes (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955) – information (or social proof), and normative influences (social pressure) all of which increase conformity. This creates fluency among the readers and hence these twitter threads gain so much attention that people will use them instead of going to a trained professional.

Image result for skin care threads twitterUnfortunately, we are very susceptible to emotional persuasion tactics (Brewer, 1988) when we are at our most vulnerable. We tend not to use our system 2 thinking when browsing the internet for cute puppies (or cats if you want to be politically correct). We’re primarily using our system 1 thinking which is involved in the emotional decision making process. So after seeing beautiful Greek goddesses on my insta feed, suddenly having this miracle solution pop up is pretty attention grabbing.

By these users establishing a favourable comparison point (Pratkanis, 2007) using typically the worst picture of their skin (including bad angles) to a photo where sometimes their skin looks smoother than a babies bottom, they are immediately rendering our system 2 thinking kind of useless. However, this act of kindness isn’t unpaid. Due to the principle of reciprocity (Cialdini et al., 1975), these users can and do gain more and more followers, which can (with enough followers) lead to sponsorship by either the brands mentioned in the post or other brands.

Who’s laughing now, perfect skin gods?

Also, for those who don’t believe on those prices from dermatologist:


Brewer, M. B. (1988). A dual process model of impression formation. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206.

Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51(3), 629-636.

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13(2), 79-82.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), Frontiers of social psychology. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress (pp. 17-82). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.

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