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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wikipedia's central route

Once in a while, a visit to Wikipedia can have you greeted by a huge banner at the top of the page swallowing up about a third of your screen. It’s so different from the usual page layout that it immediately grabs your attention.

The appeal has been kept similar over the years, usually consisting of a message letting visitors know that Wikipedia is run entirely from donations, and pledging to never run ads. They mention they don’t often ask, and that if everyone were to donate a small amount, they’d quickly reach their target.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) describes two strategies of persuasion – a central route targeting logical thinking, and a peripheral route targeting more basic desires. Wikipedia’s appeal takes the central route, with a paragraph that asks for a little more thought to process than the average advert we have pushed in front of us nowadays. However they’ve done very well every year in donations, partly because those visiting the website are already in the frame of mind for putting more thought into what they’re reading than, say, on a bus home after an exhausting day. Wikipedia know their audience, and it shows in their support.


Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). New York, NY: Springer.

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