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.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anti-smoking fear.

This advertisement uses fear to persuade it's audience. In research, fear is often operationalised as fear-appeals. Fear-appeals are messages designed to elicit fear in an individual in an attempt to persuade them to pursue an intended course of action (Lasswell, 1948).
By using the lady as the subject, showing authentic and obvious effects of cancer, it is telling the viewers that this is a real risk that they are subjecting themselves to by continuing to smoke cigarettes and hence attempting to prevent them from doing so in the future; a fear-appeal.
Leventhal (1971) used fear-appeals as persuasion in his research on smoking. Within a sample of volunteer participants who were shown graphic cancer images and visual charts illustrating the relationship between cigarettes and the rate of death from cancer. Participants were rated more willing to stop smoking at later testings.
Rogers (1983) proposed the Protection Motivation Framework; constructed of four components which must be fulfilled for fear to act as persuasion effectively. The Protection motivation Framework can be applied to this advert. The first of the four components states that the severity of the fear-appeal must make the consequences of ignoring the fear-appeal's message very undesirable. The fear appeal here is the visual foreshadowing of the possible outcome of smoking. It is graphic and unpleasant and the severity of the image is strong enough to persuade people into thinking that ignorance of said fear-appeal could equate to a very undesirable consequence. The second element is that the negative consequences are a specific danger to the individual. The danger would be specific to the target viewer- a smoker, as the cause of the danger shown in the advert is specifically smoking. The third component states that, if they follow the fear prevention instruction, they can avoid the outcome. By following the prevention-instruction; calling the quit smoking hotline, the individual would be taking the first step to quitting smoking and hence preventing the development of mouth cancer. Finally, self-efficacy is needed. The participant must be actually able to engage in the recommended action, the action here being calling the 'quit smoking' hotline. The advert shows the viewer both the telephone number and the website, making it as easy as possible for the viewer to engage with their advice. Assuming they own a phone, and since they are not too busy to see this advert, what's to stop them from engaging in the prevention-instruction?

Lasswell, H. D. (1948). The structure and function of communication in society. Religion and civilization series series. New York: Harper & Row.

Leventhal, H. (1971). Fear appeals and persuasion: the differentiation of a motivational construct. American Journal of Public Health, 61(6), 1208-1224.

Rogers, R.W. (1983). Cognitive and psychological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J. Cacioppo & D.Shapiro (Eds.), Social psychophysiology: A source book (pp.153–176). NewYork: Guilford Press.

1 comment:

  1. Difficult to watch, but a very informative overview. Thanks for explaining the research and tying it a theoretical position. Nicely done.


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