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

If London were Syria

Most Shocking Second a Day Video
Still the Most Shocking Second a Day
Effectiveness of the Ad
This powerful short clip was created by Don’t Panic London for Save The Children UK, to mark the third anniversary of the Syrian Civil War to improve the lives of children in Syria and around the world. The video went viral and listed as one of the most successful fundraising videos for charity in 2014, reaching nearly 60 million views. This led to a dramatic increase of donations of about 25% in the first week. The goal was to raise public awareness of the suffering of refugees who might otherwise have been ignored.

Why is it so powerful?

Firstly, the title itself is persuasive and catches your eye. ‘Most Shocking Second a Day Video’ is ambiguous and creates a curiosity gap by providing just enough information to make people want to click to know more.

Similarity Altercast
Research has found a message to be more effective if the recipient perceives themselves as similar to the source (Pratkanis, 2007). The mundane, normal activities of an average British person is shown in the girl playing with make-up, learning the recorder and playing in the park, which reflect similar childhood activities in many of the viewers. Research has found even these trivial similarities often encourages liking and prosocial behaviour (Berschield, 1966).
Social Identity Theory
Social Identity Theory is where we see ourselves belonging to an in-group based on shared characteristics compared to out-groups that are perceived as different to us (Tajfel, 1982). Making the child British, encourages us to view Syrian children to be similar. This video allows our in-group to increase in size, by showing that people in Syria are human too and not so different from ourselves. Research has found when a stranger was perceived to be an in-group member, participants are more generous and give more money (Gomez, Kirkman & Shapiro, 2000).

Perspective Taking
The video’s alternative title ‘If London were Syria’ reflects its simple but impactful premise – ‘imagine if we ourselves were the refugees?’. This video brings the war to a familiar ground, making it more relatable to the viewer. Subverting the norm by using a British girl as the protagonist and London as the setting creates a personal connection and relevance to the viewer. This allows us as viewers to easily empathise and see the perspective of the young girl. Pinker (2011) highlights the importance of perspective taking in his book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ as to understand what it is to be a different ethnic group subject to war, makes us more empathetic and compassionate, leading us to be more likely to help. Figure 1 highlights the impact of negative emotions in ads leading to empathic responses and a decision to help (Bagozzi & Moore, 1994). Oswald (1996) found when participants took the perspective of stressed students, they rated themselves higher on empathetic arousal and volunteered more of their time to help. This shows taking the perspective of others increases helping behaviour and is therefore a valuable technique to increase charity donations.

Figure 1. shows the role of negative emotions and empathic responses as mediators of the effects of exposure to anti child abuse ads on decision to help (Bagozzi & Moore, 1994)

Storytelling and Emotion
The ad gives a narrative that provides a causal structure to how one girls life changes dramatically. The story has a strong emotional hook, and an open-ended narrative which leaves you feeling uncomfortable without clear closure. The safety of the girls life is uncertain – much like the safety of Syrian refugees now. We are taken through snippets of the girls journey day by day. Storytelling has been found to be effective in inducing emotion (Banikowski & Mehring, 1999). And emotion has been linked with better recall (Bradley, Greenwalk, Prety & Lang, 1992). We are emotionally invested in this girls story. Emotional see-sawing is a technique used in the ad, where we see the girls experience change quickly from positive to negative. This dramatic change in emotion has been found to increase compliance, and thus donations to the charity (Nawrat & Dolinski, 2007). The story also has a cyclical feel, as it begins and ends on making a wish on her birthday, showing a contrast not only in her emotions, but physically in the candles reducing and lack of family. This repetition effect is another powerful technique, which further enhances the salience of the message (Pratkanis, 2007).
Addressing YOU directly
The ad ends with the girl hauntingly looking directly at the camera, as if she is looking to you for help personally. Eye contact is a powerful technique to connect with the viewer, and creates personal involvement, increasing the likelihood of processing information through the central route (Petty, Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983). At the end of both ads she looks up after blowing out her candle and makes a wish – a wish for you to help her.
Personal Relevance

This video really hit a cord as a lot of my family including my mother were refugees after being forced to flee Iraq due to civil war. They fled to the mountains, living in an abandoned school in a valley for 9 months, before moving on to Iran to seek refuge and escape Saddam Hussains Army. The mountains were filled with hundreds of Kurds fleeing on foot from the savagery of the Government. There was an appeal for international aid and neighbouring countries allowed them to seek refuge.
Yet again, history is repeating itself. The experiences my family went through in Iraq mirrors the situation in Syria now, which is why I can relate to it. But this is why this video is so powerful, it allows people who are so detached, to feel personally connected with the atrocities of war in other countries.

It’s difficult to empathise with the suffering of distant strangers, especially when media exposure has habituated us to becoming desensitised and numb to violence and trauma. The idea of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is indeed a more comfortable position to take. But it is important, and necessary that we do not ignore those in need of international aid.

Bagozzi, R. P., & Moore, D. J. (1994). Public service advertisements: Emotions and empathy guide prosocial behavior. The Journal of Marketing, 56-70.

Banikowski, A. K., & Mehring, T. A. (1999). Strategies to enhance memory based on brain-research. Focus on Exceptional Children, 32, 1.

Berscheid, E. (1966). Opinion change and communicator-communicatee similarity and dissimilarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 670.

Bradley, M. M., Greenwald, M. K., Petry, M. C., & Lang, P. J. (1992). Remembering pictures: Pleasure and arousal in memory. Journal of experimental psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 379.

Gomez, C., Kirkman, B. L., & Shapiro, D. L. (2000). The impact of collectivism and in-group/out-group membership on the evaluation generosity of team members. Academy of management Journal, 43, 1097-1106.

Nawrat, R., & Dolinski, D. (2007). " Seesaw of Emotions" and Compliance: Beyond the Fear-Then-Relief Rule. The Journal of social psychology, 147, 556-571.

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Schumann, D. (1983). Central and peripheral routes to advertising effectiveness: The moderating role of involvement. Journal of consumer research, 10, 135-146.

Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: The decline of violence in history and its causes. London: Penguin UK.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Oswald, P. A. (1996). The effects of cognitive and affective perspective taking on empathic concern and altruistic helping. The Journal of social psychology, 136, 613-623.

Tajfel, H. (1982). Social psychology of intergroup relations. Annual review of psychology, 33, 1-39.

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