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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Be yourself


Wearing make-up has traditionally been viewed as being feminine. In the old days, the main reason for women wearing make-up is to make themselves pretty in order to attract men. Similar to the torches of freedom, the traditionally feminine behaviour is now accepted and adopted by males as well.

In televisions, it is not an uncommon practice for stars of all genders to wear makeup because they have to look pretty and presentable to the audience. Perhaps that serves to be an influence for male, off the screen, to want to wear makeup or at least, groom their faces to make themselves more presentable as well. It is now quite common for males in the western countries (Shaw & Tan, 2014) e.g. America and the U.K. to wear make-up, breaking into the previously female-dominated world. More excitingly, is that more and more YouTube makeup influencers are male: e.g. Patrick Starr, Jeffery Star etc.

On the other hand, although the normalisation of men make-up is established in those countries, it is still considered as violating gender roles in China. There might be a few reasons as to why this is still not widely accepted by the Chinese society, while its neighbour, Korea is dominating the cosmetic and skin-care world.

We have to consider a range of aspects as to why this phenomenon still has not become popular in China. Chinese culture is conservative and collective, which emphasises on following the rules and be with the group, not doing ‘outstanding’ things etc. With such presumption in place, we might be able to explain why wearing makeup is not desirable in the Chinese culture. First, the gender division is very clear-cut in Chinese culture, and it is highly appreciated that each gender is to fulfill the gender-specific role (Broverman, Vogel, Broverman, Clarkson, & Rosenkrantz, 1972). In this case, it is thought that wearing makeup and skincare is a female’s ‘privilege’. When Chinese people are going against this presumption, the consequences are often undesirable i.e being called a sissy etc., which act as positive punishment to prevent men from practicing their intentions of wearing makeup. Another major point is the idea of stereotyping – males are thought to be masculine (Blanchin, Chareyron & Levert, 2007), research has shown that both Chinese adults and children make trait inferences on others appearance, especially the face, unconsciously (Yan, Wang & Zhang, 2012; Zhang & Wang, 2013). Men with makeup are inconsistent with ‘conventional’ stereotypes of men, so people are biased and less likely to make masculinity-related trait inferences about men with makeup on (Lau, 2017).

Based on these information, our aim of creating such a blog post is to try to influence people to be a bit bolder, in terms of what they want to do (i.e. wear makeup or grooming) by providing a strong statement about why prejudice exists, how to tackle with it as well as informing people about the trend of men wearing makeup is being much more prevalent nowadays, in hope to have them trying to put some makeup (if they have always wanted to) and to tell people to show more understanding and allow freedom of action of others.

What we did:
  • We opened up a WeiBo account in order to target our Chinese audiences
  • WeiBo is like the FaceBook in the Western world
  • To make sure we convey our message exactly the way we want it to, we have created our own passage of speech to contain all of the key messages. One very important way of drawing attention is to have pictures drawn.

Translation of the Original post:
Skincare and makeup are not exclusive to girls, boys should also have the ‘right’ and ‘freedom’ to be pretty. For a very long time, many people consider boys wearing makeup as being very feminine. In fact, makeup does not necessarily have to include all of the steps: from primer, foundation to eyeshadow, powdering, contour and highlight etc in order to achieve full-on glam, the idea of men wearing makeup is more like grooming, having their messy brow hair trimmed, covering up some dark spots and evening out the skin texture to make themselves more presentable. Gough, Hall and Seymour-Smith (2014) revealed that making up does not equal to being gay or sissy, a lot of ‘straight’ guys spend time and money on their appearances as well. More recently, cosmetics companies e.g. Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Estee Lauder (notice how these makeup brands are actually owned by men?) have started to target on male customers, having a line specifically for them. On television, practically everyone wears makeup, they are being praised for how delicate and sophisticated their makeup are by their fans. While normal men wearing makeup, walking on the street are regarded as being sissy. Is wearing makeup an exclusive privilege for those who are already pretty or working in this industry?

Some may say: being a public person, it is necessary to be perfect. If you are just a normal citizen, why put on makeup? Are you an attention seeker? Needless to say, there are some people who are, but there are also tonnes of people who are afraid of the attention (not necessarily in a good way). Being a normal person, you also have the right to pursue perfection and to have a delicate life, regardless of being in the limelight or not. So why spend the time bashing on people who want themselves to be prettier?

The idea of ‘masculinity’ is diversifying and constantly expanding. The pessimistic attitude on men wearing makeup would in turn intensify the polarity of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ through the mechanism of ‘thought polarisation’ (Gough, Hall & Seymour-Smith, 2014). We, therefore, hope to break the prejudiced idea of associating ‘men making up’ with ‘being sissy and/or gay’, and to encourage the boys/men who want to be pretty and look after their skin to be bolder and live a life they want to live. In the paradigm of gender equality, everyone has their rights to choose to live a life that suits themselves the best.

  • Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) suggested that there are two routes while we are evaluating message. To be fully persuasive, the two routes: both central and peripheral routes have to be addressed. Central route of persuasion is when an individual is thoughtfully considering the quality of argument, the logic behind the message; whereas peripheral route is basically how vivid and attractive the overall feeling of the message is. In our message, we had pictures and drawings created according to the message we want to convey. In hope to catch the attention of audiences through the peripheral route of persuasion, the pictures are simple, yet it contains the idea that we had. To tackle with the central route of persuasion, we have a passage which contains all of the ideas and the logic flow behind our research, to provide them with plenty of room for evaluation, effortfully. The ELM model is similar to System 1 and 2 thinking; the central route is System 2, slow thinking and the peripheral route is System 1, fast thinking.

  • YALE attitude change approach is introduced by Carl Hovland and his colleagues in 1953 (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953) and it refers as people change their attitudes or behaviour in response to persuasive messages under certain conditions. That is, “Who said what to whom”. In our project, we emphasise the content of message (i.e. “What”) and we create our own passage containing our original cartoon pictures which are created specifically based on the content, by doing so, we hope to give our audiences an impression of reading an interesting story rather than just a normal persuasive message. The message itself has strong influential power to affect audience’s attitudes of men’s makeup.

  • Role modelling (Merton, 1968) explains individuals’ behaviour can be emulated by others, especially young people. We pointed out that a number of famous brands like Tom Ford and Estee Lauder have launched a makeup line specifically for men. Such brands have a leading role in cosmetics and skincare trends, therefore played a role-modelling effect in attitudes towards gender stereotyping and their action indicates strong social proof of men putting makeup, assisting to deliver our idea of encouraging men with intentions of makeup to act, be brave and be themselves.


  • The friend who drew the picture for us, he was influenced by our post. We gave him our passage for him to translate it into drawing. When he was reading through the passage, he was influenced and he personally told me that the message has deeply enlightened him, and he feels like he is empowered to be bolder. To integrate what he likes together, and now he has been tried to wear makeup and he has never been happier and never felt so confident about himself. We consider our own message to be persuasive and a success.
  • Around 500 views on our blog. Compared to the population of China, of course, this counts as nothing, but we are targeting on the more civilised parts with easy access to the cosmetic products like in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, these cities with higher technological advancement also happen to be a bit more cosmopolitan and more accepting on the ‘variety’ of people. We believe that the co-effect of our persuasion and the launching of cosmetic products from the companies in these cities would have a not additive, but multiplicative effect on encouraging people to pursue in what they want to do, and to care a bit less about the prejudice from others. Be themselves.

P.S. Special thanks to Mr Jack Wong for kindly drawing the pictures for us. He designed all the paintings and drawings for us based on what our topic is

Blanchin, A., Chareyron, C., & Levert, Q. (2007). The customer behaviour in men´ s cosmetics market.

Broverman, I. K., Vogel, S. R., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., & Rosenkrantz, P. S. (1972). Sexrole stereotypes: A current appraisal. Journal of Social issues, 28, 59-78.

Fan, Y. (2000). A classification of Chinese culture. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 7, 3-10.

Gough, B., Hall, M., & Seymour-Smith, S. (2014). Straight guys do wear make-up: Contemporary masculinities and investment in appearance. In Debating Modern Masculinities: Change, Continuity, Crisis? (pp. 106-124). Palgrave Pivot, London.

Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change.

Lau, K. (2017). Uncovering Chinese Stereotypes and Their Influence on Adolescent Male Makeup Purchasing Behavior. Journal of Social Science Studies, 5, 248.

Merton, R. K. (1968). Social theory and social structure. Simon and Schuster.

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

Shaw, P., & Tan, Y. (2014). Race and masculinity: A comparison of Asian and Western models in men’s lifestyle magazine advertisements. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 91, 118-138.

Yan, X., Wang, M., & Zhang, Q. (2012). Effects of gender stereotypes on spontaneous trait inferences and the moderating role of gender schematicity: Evidence from Chinese undergraduates. Social Cognition, 30, 220-231.

Zhang, Q., & Wang, M. (2013). The development of spontaneous trait inferences: Evidence from chinese children.Psychological Reports, 112, 887-899.

By Bella Shi, Emily Wang, & Matthew Ngai

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