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 5, 2019

NHS:New Habits society! (u1838990)


Introduction: Why is it important?

Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana have long been known to be drugs of first use among teenagers, even though alcohol and tobacco are known to increase long-term risk of disease and premature mortality. Alcohol use among youth is a high risk factor for morbidity and mortality due to accidents. (Hausen & Graham, 1991). Individuals who abuse alcohol face a higher risk of suffering from cancer, liver cirrhosis, lung and cardiovascular disease, mental and behavioural disorders. They are more likely to experience injuries and accidents, to engage in violent acts, antisocial behaviour and have lower productivity at work. Alcohol abuse is also partially responsible for risky sexual practices which may lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as foetal abnormalities (Huerta & Borgonovi, 2010).

Alcohol abuse is a current problem in the United Kingdom nowadays. NHS survey finds 19% of youngsters aged 11-15 in England have smoked, 24% have taken drugs and 44% have drunk alcohol. In 2016 the survey found consumption of alcohol related to the age of the children questioned; it ranged from 15% of the 11-year-olds having had a drink, to 73% of those aged 15. Girls were slightly more likely to have ever had a drink than boys, at 46% to 43%. About half of the pupils questioned had acquired their drugs from a friend on the most recent occasion, with most of those being a friend of the same age. Just over a quarter said they had bought their drugs from a dealer, a proportion that increased with age (Gayle, 2017).

Problem: Education is not based in real Behaviour Change

Most substance use prevention programs have utilized eclectic strategies, typically with multiple components that defy precise theoretical interpretation. Programs that have been successful to date have tended to include instruction about the nature of peer pressure and skills to resist peer pressure as one component. Indeed, even programs that include a number of intervention techniques often ascribe their success primarily to the impact of teaching students to resist pressure. Peer pressure resistance training programs have been consistently confounded with other programmatic strategies that have the potential to establish conservative norms through the correction of erroneous normative beliefs (Hausen & Graham, 1991).

Therefore, I am orienting this project on preventing peer preassure among teenagers about substance consuming, specially alcohol abuse which is more normalized in our society. We will go more in depth about the attitude change towards the use of healthier options when socializing in the normative group.

Target audience

The first question that came to my mind in order to target the propper audience was “Which kind of
environments promote alcohol abuse in teenagers and how can I design the propper trailored
programme for them?”. Consequently I found out that motivations for substance use may arise from
environmental factors, such as family role models, peer influences, social pressure, and a social
environment in which substance use is encouraged. There is also considerable evidence that
personality factors play an important role in predicting substance use (Zimbardo, 1999). Some studies
show that individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds tend to consume more alcohol compared
with their better off peers (Huerta & Borgonovi, 2010).

Education may promote different patterns of alcohol consumption by fostering skill acquisition and
knowledge development, but also by influencing labour market opportunities and the social context
in which individuals operate. Social context may in fact be a key determinant of choices over whether
and how much alcohol individuals consume. More educated individuals in fact are not only more likely to have a higher level of cognitive abilities, skills and knowledge, but are also less likely to be
unemployed, face financial difficulties, lack social support, suffer from mental health problems and
have more to lose from engaging in excessive alcohol consumption than the less educated (Huerta &
Borgonovi, 2010). Reasons for the positive association of education and drinking behaviours may
include: a more intensive social life that encourages alcohol intake; a greater engagement into
traditionally male spheres of life, a greater social acceptability of alcohol use and abuse; more
exposure to alcohol use during formative years; greater postponement of childbearing and its
responsibilities among the better educated, and smaller underreporting (Huerta & Borgonovi, 2010).

Due to all this reasons it’s why I decided to design this project for high schools in lower socioeconomic areas in the UK.


Evidence shows that 95% of primary schools and 97% of secondary schools reported that they deliver
some alcohol and drug education (Gayle, 2017). However, my intervention would convine two
different theories that contributes to attitude change towards drug usage: behaviourism (Skinner, 50s,
60s; learning and reinforcement theories), in order to condition teenagers to have a better opinion
towards a healthier lifestyle; and the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) as a deep change in
teenager’s attitudes and social norms.

Most of the campaings designed to prevent drug use behaviours in high schools are based on the
negative reinforcement so it shows a list of how many problems someone may have if one takes drugs.

However, it is known in educational disciplines that the positive reinforcement is the most efficient,
so it is important to focus on all the advantages one may have when choosing a better lifestyle. The
goal of this project is to make teenagers choose a healthier lifestyle because they will have a social
recognition from the peer group after having changed their attitude towards it.

My campaign proposal is to create a healthy society in high schools as a first step, so teenagers would
spend more time in those areas and less in unhealthy ones, such as the street itself. Therefore, it is
more likely to create a behaviour change. The activities in those societies would of course include
theoretical knowledge about the beneficies of doing sport regularly as well as drinking healthier
options when socializing with the peer group. Once the knowledge is shown, teenagers need to feel
that this lifestyle is “cool”, so they can have more power against peer preasure, as they will have
control over their choices like having a healthier option and still feel accepted and integrated in the
group. The “Theory of planned behaviour” talks about the combination of the attitude toward the
behaviour, so the goal of this project would be to change the attitude towards healthy lifestyles, which
is often rejected due to the influence of teenage films and tv shows, where drug abuse is often
romanticised. The theory also talks about the subjective norm, so the project goal would be to change
the perception of drinking alcohol as being the norm when joining parties, or when simply going to a
pub. This, as said, would directly affect the behavioural control perception on teenagers, since they
will be able to choose and still fit in the normative behaviour.

The main idea would be to create a society who would meet once a week in high schools and made
interactive activities with teenagers while showing healthy habits, as well as assertive methods to face
the peer preassure. Anyways, the main strategy would be to persuade the main leaders of a social
group or role models from class. Therefore it is more likely to change the attitude towards a healthy
lifestyle, as the concept of “social modeling” claims.

Persuassion techniques

For the persuasion techniques, we want students to first join the meetings every week, so we would start with the tecnique “foot in the door”. This method is about asking first for something small, so you are making the individual “committed” to helping you, and the larger request acts as a continuation of something technically already agreed upon. So, for instance we could come to each class asking for collaboration and offering some extra points to the final mark (as positive reinforcement), so we could have volunteer audience to start off.

I crearted a group called "New Habits Society", which would be the name of the society, and in order to advertise it we would require social media, as it is the best way to get to teenagers. We would offer 6 CATS (positive reinforcement) if they join the society. In the first message I invite people over the first day, so by asking a little favour and making them come the first day, we have more possibilities that they join next meeting.

The “commitment & consistency” technique has this principle: we feel we must always align our outer actions and promises with our inner choices and systems, such as our beliefs and values. Therefore, by promoting healthy habits in the society and group identity, teenagers will feel identified with the group beliefs and attitudes. 

The next tecnique, “social proof”, talks about the groupthink. This tecnhique will be used in order to
change the teens’ attitudes towards healthier habits by taking role models into the activities that
perpetuates the grouthink in this way. The goal is to make healthy lifestyle a fashion among the group.

The activities will consist on: bringing professionals in assertivity tecniques to prepare the teenagers
to reject someone’s offer to drink alcohol, teaching teenagers group dynamics so they realize one can
have fun without the use of alcohol while developing social habilities, promotion in social media,
creating events, creating a sense of identity of the group so members would have more commitement
and more people would join, creating a particular “fashion” on having a healthy lifestyle and a sense
of belonging.


Research found supports the main ideas given in this project. As said, the main motives for alcohol
consumption given by adolescents are related to social events, which usually take place in the
company of friends, namely: drinking makes holidays more fun, it facilitates approaching others, it
helps relaxing or facilitates sharing experiences and feelings. Also, mimicking risk behaviours may be greater when consumption begins in the context of a social event. On the other hand, having friends allows to share experiences and feelings and to learn how to solve conflicts. Not having friends, on the other hand, leads to social isolation and limited social contacts, as there are fewer opportunities to develop new relations and social interactional skills. Friendship is also positively associated to psychological well-being, whilst a conflicting relation with peers is negatively associated with health.

Stronger friendships may provide adolescents with an appropriate environment to development in a
healthy way and to achieve good academic results. Adolescents with reciprocal friendships mention
high levels of feelings of belonging in school; at the same time, reciprocity and feelings of belonging
have positive effects in academic results (Gina Tomé et al, 2012).
Adolescents spend a great part of their time at school, which also makes it a privileged context for
involvement in or protection from risk behaviours. Research confirmed that adolescents who like
school were those that more often were part of a peer group without involvement in risk behaviours;
whilst those that mentioned they did not have any friends reported that they liked school less.(Gina
Tomé et al, 2012). Another factor, which has been identified as a possible factor of decreasing peer
influence is assertive refusal. Adolescents that are able to maintain an assertive refusal are less
susceptible to the group’s influence. (Gina Tomé et al, 2012)

Future pilot study

This project could be expanded in the future as a field study, a full year project with at least a 30
teenagers sample who use alcohol regularly to socialize. Their drinking habits would be measured
before and after the year project, as well as their self-esteem and self-efficacy, related to
assertiveness, as well as an interview with each of the participants asking for their experience and how this have improved or changed their habits with a guided interview. This results would be qualitative whereas their assertivity hability and their drinking habits would be measured with quantitative data.

Personal statement

This project has a special relevance to the author. I wish I have had something like this in my teens.
Nowadays I am taking responsability for my own actions and I am quite a healthy person. I learned to
say no to peer preassure but of course I could have had the feeling that I could choose a healthier
option if I had had an influence like this project.

Hansen, W. B., & Graham, J. W. (1991). Preventing alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use among adolescents: Peer pressure
resistance training versus establishing conservative norms. Preventive Medicine, 20(3), 414–430
Huerta, M. C., & Borgonovi, F. (2010). Education, alcohol use and abuse among young adults in Britain. Social Science &
Medicine, 71(1), 143–151.
Keough, K. A., Zimbardo, P. G., & Boyd, J. N. (1999). Who’s Smoking, Drinking, and Using Drugs? Time Perspective as a
Predictor of Substance Use. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 21(2), 149–164.
Tomé, G., Matos, M., Simões, C., Diniz, J. A., & Camacho, I. (2012). How Can Peer Group Influence the Behavior of Adolescents:
Explanatory Model. Global Journal of Health Science, 4(2)
Núria Rovira, u1838990
University of Warwick

Monday, March 4, 2019

Don't Panic! It's Organic!


Moving away from home to a university, students have an add-on responsibility for purchasing food and preparing meals whilst also managing their hectic schedule.  In such times frozen and conventional food is often preferred over organic food as they are perceived affordable, time-saving and have a longer shelf-life. Hence, implying the crucial impact of the transition from high school to a university on students dietary pattern. Here the use of food labels and knowledge about the benefits of organic food can be an effective method to promote healthy living.

Problem: Insufficient knowledge about organic food

Along with a lack of awareness of benefits, another issue identified is the struggle of distinguishing organic products from non-organic food products. Correct identification is vital as consumers often get duped into buying expensive organic food products which don't even meet the federal organic food standards. Consumer fraud is very common. Three farmers were recently pled guilty for selling conventionally grown corn and soybeans as organic. Moreover, famous celebrity Jessica Alba is sued for misleading the consumers into buying “deceptively labelled” organic food that contains toxic ingredients (did not meet the organic food standards) (Chew, 2016).

Nowadays, every food category out there has an organic alternative. 20% of all UK shoppers buy at least one organic product every week. The problem is, the majority of people have insufficient knowledge regarding organic food, leading to reluctance to buy these products with health benefits. In the past, consumers have often confused organic and free-range products because they believe that “organic” is equivalent to “free-range” food (Harper & Makatouni, 2002). Consumers are not consistent in their interpretation of what organic food is. Furthermore, uncertainty surrounding the true attributes of organic food and organic food labels may hold some consumers back from purchasing organic food (Yiridoe, Bonti-Ankomah & Martin, 2005). This emphasises how little people really know about organic foods, which may lead to a wide range of students not purchasing organic foods.
A positive correlation is identified between consumer behaviour of organic food and health awareness (Azzurra & Paola, 2009) suggesting students are willing to change the dietary pattern and incorporate organic food in their diet (Dahm et al., 2009). Moreover, Kolodinsky (2007) and Akhondan et al. (2015) believe there is a positive impact of dietary guidelines and health consciousness on healthier eating habits in university students. This suggests the issue of eating non-organic food is not rigid. Thus, behaviour change is possible if correct measures are taken.

Why is it important

This is an important problem due to the benefits that come with organic foods, in comparison to non-organic foods, which is something that consumers should be aware of.
We want students to live a healthier lifestyle, and eating more organic food is a step in the right direction. Organic food contains fewer pesticides residues than conventionally grown food. The Soil Association, a campaigner for organic food, highlights the chemicals used in traditional farming may have negative long-term effects on health. A vast amount of research has shown that organic foods generally contain higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, zinc and iron. (Brandt, Leifert, Sanderson & Seal, 2011; Hunter et. al., 2011; Asami, Hong, Barrett & Mitchell, 2003). Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage and their levels in organic foods can be up to 69% (Barański et. al., 2014). We believe that people should be educated on the scientific information, as well as personal accounts from those who regularly eat organic food. If students have access to this information, we expect them to purchase more, express the health benefits of and eventually spread their newfound love in organic foods, making for a healthier and more food conscious student population.
The problem at hand is not just important for health reasons, but also economically. Purchasing organic food, especially from the farmer’s market, supports your local community’s economy, creating jobs and keeping farmers thriving. Overall organic food may be more expensive than intensively farmed food, but a crucial reason for this is that agrochemicals are designed to make the food cheaper to produce. Agrochemicals were not developed with nutrition or taste in mind. So, although students are more likely to go for the cheaper, more familiar option, our goal with this project is to change students’ behaviour to opt for the marginally more expensive, superior product, as opposed to, the cheaper but inferior product.
Target audience

Our target population for this change are mainly university students. As a factor that influences a consumer’s likelihood to change behaviour is education, individuals with higher academic achievements are more willing to purchase organic food and change (Dettman & Dimitri, 2009).

Our Intervention

We made a poster which included the pros of eating organic food, cons of eating non-organic food, quotes from celebrities supporting organic eating, and logos and codes to identify organic products in the UK. All these elements were included to resolve the issue of the insufficient knowledge students have about organic food. The poster was hung outside the centrally located rootes grocery store on campus as it is the most frequently visited store.

Psychological and persuasion techniques used

The borders of the poster made to promote organic living read “DON’T PANIC! IT’S ORGANIC!” the catchy slogan is repeated in bold throughout the entire border frame. According to Saegert and Young (1982) repetition affects the level of processing. The more the number of times repetition occurs the more effective is the persuasion as it promotes deeper cognitive processing as compared to when there's one repetition or no repetition. Therefore, the slogan “Don’t Panic! It’s Organic!” was repeated several times in the poster. Moreover, the repetition also seems to be effective because of the inverse relationship shared between the strength of learning and the rate of forgetting. Wherein the repetition positively influences the strength of learning thus slowing the rate of forgetting (Johnson & Watkins, 1971). According to Hewstone et al. (2015) repetition allows the cognitive elaboration of communication that enhances the attitude change for messages consisting of strong arguments. Hence, we also decided to include research findings that state the pros of organic eating and the cons of eating non-organic food. We expect the combination of the two to be more effective than using repetition alone.

We wanted to build our poster around a few aspects of the MINDSPACE framework, used to influence behaviour (Dolan et al., 2012).
Firstly, we focused on the messenger. In this case, there were two ‘messengers’ on our poster, celebrity accounts and expert researchers. Dolan et al., (2012) express that, our perceived authority of the source of information, greatly impacts the value we give to this information. Our intervention can be seen as a health intervention due to the emphasis on the health benefits of organic foods. Health interventions delivered by research assistants and health educators have been shown to be more effective in changing behaviour compared with interventions delivered by either trained facilitators or teachers (Webb & Sheeran, 2006). This research motivated our intervention to highlight what the researchers say about organic foods. We believe that students would be far more likely to change their behaviour if the information was given to them by researchers who they perceived to have more authority when speaking on organic foods. Similarly, students often show more belief in a topic if the author of an article was a credible scientist compared to a source which was not credible (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). In relation to our project, we believed that students, particularly those who deal with research on a daily basis, would be more likely to change their behaviour if the source was perceived to be credible (a health expert), as opposed to a source which was not credible.
Secondly, we wanted to focus on salience, which was one of the elements of the MINDSPACE framework we thought we would be able to implement with ease on a poster. People are subjected to different stimuli on a daily basis. As a result of this we cannot take on all the information that we see, there is simply too much. Dolan et al., (2012) references that, people are more likely to register stimuli that are novel, accessible and simple, all of which our poster achieves. Our intervention is simple, as it uses a short snappy slogan “Don’t Panic! It’s Organic!”. It is accessible, as we placed it outside of stores selling organic foods. Finally, it is novel in some way, due to its design of catching the attention of a passer-by. Simplicity is something we took advantage of, as we thought a busy students’ attention is much more likely to be drawn to something that they can understand. This was motivated by evidence suggesting that we are less likely to encode things presented in a more abstract way (Gigerenzer & Hoffrage, 1995). In regards to information we have placed on the poster, including how to identify organic foods, we have implemented a more simple structure to encourage encoding of this information. In combination, there have been more demonstrations that information is taken into account only if it is salient. For example, it has been revealed that, when attentional or cognitive resources are restricted, individuals can only focus on the most salient behaviour cues. Furthermore, participants were more likely to respond to health-promoting messages when salient, and attention-grabbing cues were used (Mann & Ward, 2007). This research motivated the emphasis we placed on salience, and we believed that students would be more likely to purchase organic foods if the information was more salient and attention-grabbing.

Finally, an aspect we attempted to include in our intervention was priming. Our attention can be focused on unconsciously. In other words, we attend to things without consciously knowing about it (Morewedge & Kahneman, 2010). For example, we may ‘randomly’ feel the urge for a certain food, not recognising that our desire has been triggered by a display of that particular food (Kessler, 2010). This research acts as an underlying motivation for our intervention. Even though it is not as important to our intervention as the messenger and salience, priming is still a factor, as we believe students may be primed to purchase organic foods, if primed near to a food store.

Social Proof
Another technique we used in our intervention was social proof, specifically celebrity social proof. The idea of celebrity social proof is that, we all look to celebrities to influence, encourage and drive certain behaviours. Celebrities create attention and bring prestige to brands, potentially encouraging higher recall (Erdogan, 1999). Furthermore, existing literature highlights that a celebrity was better in enhancing brand name recall than a non-celebrity (Freidman and Friedman, 1979). Although our project does not focus on one brand of organic food, the idea is that the slogan “Don’t Panic! It’s Organic!” and the term ‘organic’, is the ‘brand’ in this situation. Therefore, this research motivated our use of celebrity social proof, to enhance organic foods. Hopefully, this will lead to students researching organic foods, and best case scenario, purchasing more organic foods. In addition to this, we gathered from the research and additional understanding of social proof that, when we think about ourselves, we view our possessions as an extension of ourselves. These possessions, which in this case are organic foods, may place us in a certain group or give us an identity, perhaps as a healthy, food conscious person. In purchasing the organic foods, which are endorsed by celebrities, we are aligning ourselves with that celebrity.

Implementation Intention
According to Gollwitzer and Sheeran (2006) willingness to achieve a goal is important as it furnishes goal intention with an if-then plan specifying when, where and how an individual will instigate responses that promote goal realisation. In our project, because we wanted to promote healthy living by motivating students to eat organic we used the if-then strategy in the poster where we explain and help students to correctly identify the organic product by presenting details like code and logo (shown in the picture above). According to us, mentioning identification details in the poster would really work as Sheeran et al. (2005) suggests the students do not need to be consciously aware of the goal intention for implementation intention effects to occur. So, even on an unconscious level students who have read the poster while buying the food product will identify the presence or absence of the logo. This can lead them to choose the organic product over a non-organic product.

The Future

It would be interesting to see if our intervention has had a significant impact on Warwick students behaviour. This may be measured by receiving information from local food stores to see if there has been a rise in the sales of organic foods. Or, by simply asking students if they happened to see our poster and if so, did this in any way change their behaviour. This project has great potential for expansion, for example, it would be fascinating to see if we could implement more of the MINDSPACE framework, with access to more resources. The popularity of organic foods is certainly growing and we believe projects like this, on a large scale, will increase popularity even more.

Akhondan, H., Johnson-Carroll, K., & Rabolt, N. (2015). Health consciousness and organic food consumption. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences,107(3), 27-32.
Asami, D. K., Hong, Y. J., Barrett, D. M., & Mitchell, A. E. (2003). Comparison of the total phenolics and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51, 1237–1241.
Azzurra, A., & Paola, P. (2009). Consumers' behaviours and attitudes toward healthy food products: The case of organic and functional foods. 113th Seminar of European Association of Agricultural Economists.
Barański, M., Średnicka-Tober, D, Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G. B., Benbrook, C., Biavati, B., Markellou, E., Giotis, C., Gromadzka-Ostrowska, J., Rembiałkowska, D., Skwarło-Sońta, K., Tahvonen, R., Janovská, D., Niggli, U., Nicot, P., & Leifert, C. (2014) Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. The British Journal of Nutrition, 112, 794–811.
Brandt, K., Leifert C., Sanderson. R., & Seal, C. J. (2011). Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 30, 177–197.
Chew, J. (2016, April 27). Jessica Alba's Honest Company Sued Over Baby Food Ingredients. Retrieved from
Chiu, Y. H., Gaskins, A. J., Williams, P. L., Mendiola, J., Jørgensen, N., Levine, H., Hauser, R., Swan, S. H., … Chavarro, J. E. (2016). Intake of Fruits and Vegetables with Low-to-Moderate Pesticide Residues Is Positively Associated with Semen-Quality Parameters among Young Healthy Men. The Journal of nutrition, 146(5), 1084-92.
Dahm, M. J., Samonte, A. V., & Shows, A. R. (2009). Organic foods: Do eco-friendly attitudes predict eco-friendly behaviors? Journal of American College Health,58(3), 195-202.
Dettmann, R. L., & Dimitri, C. (2009). Who's buying organic vegetables? Demographic characteristics of US consumers. Journal of Food Products Marketing,16(1), 79-91.
Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., Metcalfe. R., & Vlaev. I. (2012). Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way, Journal of Economic Psychology, 33, 264-277.
Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of Marketing Management, 15, 291-314.
Friedman, H. H., & Friedman, L. (1979). Endorser effectiveness by product type. Journal of Advertising Research, 19, 63-71.
Gigerenzer, G., & Hoffrage, U. (1995). How to improve Bayesian reasoning without instruction: Frequency formats. Psychological Review, 102, 684–704.
Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation Intentions and Goal Achievement: A Meta‐analysis of Effects and Processes. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Volume 38,69-119.
Harper, G., & Makatouni, A. (2002). Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare. British Food Journal, 104, 287-299.
Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W., & Jonas, K. (2015). An introduction to social psychology. Chichester: Wiley.
Hovland, C. I. & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.
Hunter, D., Foster, M., McArthur, J. O., Ojha, R., Petocz, P., & Samman, S. (2011). Evaluation of the micronutrient composition of plant foods produced by organic and conventional agricultural methods. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 51, 571–582.
Johnson, H. H., & Watkins, T. A. (1971). The effects of message repetitions on immediate and delayed attitude change. Psychonomic Science,22(2), 101-103.
Kessler, D. A. (2010). The end of overeating: Taking control of the insatiable American appetite. New York: Rodale Press.
Kolodinsky, J. (2007). Knowledge of current dietary guidelines and food choice by college students: Better eaters have higher knowledge of dietary guidance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association,107(8), 1409-1413.
Mann, T., & Ward, A. (2007). Attention, self-control, and health behaviors. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 280–283.
Morewedge, C. K., & Kahneman, D. (2010). Associative processes in intuitive judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 435–440.
Oaklander, M. (2015, March 31). Pesticides and Infertility: Why Organic Food Might Be Better for Sperm. Retrieved from
Saegert, J., & Young, R. (1982). Comparison of Effects of Repetition and Levels of Processing in Memory For Advertisements. Advances in Consumer Research,9, 431-434.
Sheeran, P., Webb, T. L., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2005). The Interplay Between Goal Intentions and Implementation Intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,31(1), 87-98.
Webb,T., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 249–268.
Yiridoe, E., Bonti-Ankomah, S., Ralph, C., 2005. Comparison of consumer perceptions and preference toward organic versus conventionally produced foods: a review and update of the literature. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 20, 193-205.


The Problem

The legal definition of homelessness accounts for situations other than sleeping-rough, incorporating experiences of individuals and families “who are hidden away out of sight but without a home of their own or certainty as to where they will be sleeping in the near future” (Shelter, 2019).
The homelessness crisis in the UK has seen a rise of 13,000 incidences in 2017, with over 300,000 people currently being recorded as homeless, equating to 36 more people facing homelessness every day (BBC News, 2019).  As a result, there is a considerable amount of pressure on local authorities; their duty to rehouse homeless households is becoming increasingly difficult, as the number of people in temporary accommodation waiting for a permanent home in the last 7 years has increased by 43%, with the term ‘temporary’ being meaningless due to 35% of households still remaining in temporary arrangements for a year (Shelter, 2017).

Despite this knowledge of the problem of homelessness in the UK, plenty of people still continue to waste food and throw away clothes rather than recycling them for others who need them. In 2016, UK households disposed 300,000 tonnes of clothing (Smithers, 2019). In 2015, the UK threw away 7.3 million tonnes of food, and of this food thrown away, 4.4 million tonnes was deemed to be "avoidable" waste. An average UK household wasted £470 worth of food which could have been put to use and eaten but instead was thrown away (Smithers, 2019).

In response to this, our intervention focuses on aiming to persuade the University of Warwick students to donate to LWS Night Shelter in Leamington Spa. With 101 different guest through the door of the night shelter since the start of this year, we believe this is a big issue in our local area and thus it is important to tackle. Due to these shocking figures concerning the waste of food and clothing in the UK, it is important to raise awareness about the more productive and proactive ways in which such items can go to better use and help homeless people who would be grateful to receive them.  We aimed to raise awareness of this issue, as well as advertising small actions to help, in order to make a change and support the LWS Night Shelter.

Target Audience

Our intervention was aimed at students at the University of Warwick. Young adults under 25 years old are most susceptible to persuasion and behaviour change (Krosnick, 1989), and thus we hoped that by targeting this age range we would be successful in our intervention. As university students are known to be heavy users of social media (Lau, 2017), we placed a large emphasis on social media in our intervention.

Our Intervention

In order to implement various acts to support charities in their work to help those who are either homeless or facing homelessness, we began our intervention with a poll on each of our Instagram accounts, hoping to engage our target audience of students, asking “do you see homelessness as a big problem in the UK?”, “do you wish you could do something to help homeless people in the UK?” and “are you interested in taking part in our food and clothes collection for Leamington Night Shelter?”. The purpose of this was to engage our audience and evoke personal reflection and consideration of the homeless. Cialdini (2007) proposed commitment as a principle of persuasion arguing that people like to be consistent in their decisions and because of this, getting a consumer to make a small initial commitment can decrease their resistance to change. We hoped that getting our audience to agree that homelessness was a big issue would make them more likely to donate.

Petty & Cacioppo’s (1986) Elaboration-likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion was incorporated in our intervention. The ELM is a dual processing theory that argues that there are two different routes to persuasion; the peripheral and central route. The central route to persuasion is dependent on the persuasive message content and quality (Petty & Cacioppo 1983). The central route is favoured when the message is personally relevant to the agent and there is high motivation.  Peripheral route processes, on the other hand, do not involve elaboration of the message through cognitive processing. It is a mental shortcut which judges a message based on its external cues and not the content of the message itself.
To spread awareness of our intervention, we put up posters around campus and Leamington Spa advertising the food and clothes collection for the LWS Night Shelter.
Our poster was designed to persuade via the peripheral route of processing.  Although the topic of homelessness is important we took into account that our target audience of university students may not find the matter personally relevant to them and so would probably not be willing to exert a high amount of effort to elaborate on a message regarding it – especially as they are cognitive misers (Stanovich, 2009) who have a preference for reducing mental effort. To do this, we made our poster visually attractive and colourful. We used a black background with red and green contrasting text as studies have shown that those colours attract the most attention (Firdaus & Zukjufky, 2014).

Research shows that consumers are more likely to respond to a persuasive message in a peripheral manner if they are hurried or stressed, or if the product or issue has little importance to their personal lives (Petty & Cacioppo 1983). We noted that our target audience of university students are not likely to have the time to stop and read highly informative and complex posters. Because of this, we decided simplistic posters with a straight to the point message would be more impactful.

A Facebook event was also created. This platform was used to provide all information on our behaviour change implementation, including more communication regarding the issue of homelessness. This page focused on the central route to persuasion. On this page, we included more information on the cause including statistics to strengthen our message, as well as the exact steps our audience needed to take to contribute to the collection. A list was provided of most needed items by the night shelter. This may have increased the likelihood of people donating due to the ease provided by exact items, which takes away some effort of people deciding what to donate. We believed Facebook was an appropriate platform for our main source of information as it is the most used social media platform by university students (Cheung, Chiu & Lee, 2011).

The fact that out intervention appeals to both routes of persuasion in different ways increases the chance of there being a long-lasting behavioural change. Research has shown that although attitudes formed through the peripheral route may be created in a shorter time they are very temporary and not highly predictive of behaviour (Petty & Cacioppo 1983).

In our polls on Instagram, poster, Facebook event and Facebook posts, we used the hashtag “#DONATEDONTDUMP”. The mere exposure effect suggests that repeated exposure to a stimulus enhances an individuals attitude towards it (Zajonc, 1968). Thus by repeatedly using this hashtag, we hoped that the increased familiarity would lead to more favourable perceptions of the idea and an increased likelihood of our audience complying.

Once we were satisfied with the number of people aware of our intervention, we conducted the collection and delivered the items to the LWS Night Shelter. We collected the items from donors’ houses directly, reducing the effort needed from them.


The polls on Instagram had high rates of interaction, with around 350 votes in total across our three Instagram accounts. A high percentage of people saw homelessness as an issue and wished they could do something to help, however slightly fewer people were interested in actually taking part in our donation. This drop in percentage may have been due to the fact many of those viewing the poll were not from Leamington Spa so it was not actually possible for them to take part in the donation.

The poster incorporated many ideas supporting behaviour change, but unfortunately, it was put up around campus on the same week as elections were carried out. This meant that it was surrounded by or covered by many other posters and thus probably did not have the desired effect. It is also difficult to directly measure how successful the posters were at implementing behaviour change.

The Facebook event also gained relatively high levels of interaction, with 15 people clicking ‘going’ and 15 people clicking ‘interested’ in the collection, having followed the link to the event through accessing our profiles, prompted by the Instagram polls.

In total, we went to 10 houses in Leamington Spa and received donations of food, clothes and shoes for the LWS Night Shelter. To measure the long term effects of our intervention, we gave those who donated more information about how they could donate again in the future, as well as a questionnaire asking “are you more likely to donate to LWS Night Shelter in the future?” 100% of donors said that yes they are, suggesting our intervention was successful at implementing behaviour change on a small scale.

Future Work

In order to see if our intervention has long-lasting effects, it would be interesting to find out if those who donated to the cause through us have continued to donate in the future, or whether their attitudes have changed towards the homeless in terms of having more empathy for their situation, and offering more consideration of the little things everyone can do to make a difference. Further polls and questionnaires could be distributed investigating these possibilities.


BBC News. (2019). Homeless population 'rises to 320,000'. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Cialdini, R. B., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion (pp. 173-174). New York: Collins.
Krosnick, J. A., & Alwin, D. F. (1989). Aging and susceptibility to attitude change. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(3), 416.
Cheung, C. M., Chiu, P. Y., & Lee, M. K. (2011). Online social networks: Why do students use facebook?. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(4), 1337-1343.
Lau, W. W. (2017). Effects of social media usage and social media multitasking on the academic performance of university students. Computers in human behaviour, 68, 286-291.
Petty, R., Cacioppo, J. and Schumann, D. (1983). Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement. Journal of Consumer Research, 10(2), 135.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In L.Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. (Vol. 19, pp. 123-205). New York: Academic Press.
Shelter England. (2019). Donate to Shelter. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Smithers, R. (2019). UK households binned 300,000 tonnes of clothing in 2016. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Smithers, R. (2019). UK throwing away £13bn of food each year, latest figures show. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Stanovich, K.E. (2009). What intelligence tests miss: The psychology of rational thought. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9(2p2), 1.
Zulkifly, H. Z., & Firdaus, N. (2014). Persuasion and the online consumers: Investigating copywriting strategies in native advertisements. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 4(6), 430.