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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Trump’s Power For Influence

As of today, Donald Trump currently has around 22.5 million followers on Twitter.

Using this platform, Trump has the power for great influence through three techniques of: authority, familiarity and repetition. 

Milgram (1963) showed the power of people’s obedience to authority in his study where participants gave electric shocks to other participants just because an authority figure of the experimenter told them to. Trump has great authority in being president of the United States, and he displays this on his twitter page in stating his presidency, the American flag as his banner photo and the verification tick.

There is also evidence to show that people tend to prefer advisors who are more confident, even when they are not more correct (Price & Stone, 2004). This could perhaps explain Trump’s popularity within the America, as he appears very confident.

Research shows that people prefer certain faces after mere exposure to them (Zajonc, 1968; Peskin & Newell, 2004). Trump’s presence on Twitter increases how much Twitter users are exposed to his face, especially his followers who will see him frequently tweet and become familiar to him.

Adolf Hitler said “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in the mind mind constantly; It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” 

This sounds like Trump’s effective campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again!” Four words repeated over and over until Trump was elected president.

We can now only hope that Trump uses his power for influence for good. 

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-378.

Peskin, M., & Newell, F.N. (2004). Familiarity breeds attraction: effects of exposure on the attractiveness of typical and distinctive faces. Perception, 33(2), 147-157.

Price, P., & Stone, E.R. (2003). Intuitive evaluation of likelihood judgment producers: evidence for a confidence heuristic. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 17(1), 39-57.

Weaver, K., Garcia, S.M., Schwartz, N., & Miller, D.T. (2007). Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity: a repetitive voice can sound like a chorus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(5), 821-833.

Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9,(2), 1-27.

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