The adverts above are encouraging individuals to sign up to be organ donors. This campaign uses emotional tactics to influence their audience. Emotional tactics have very deep and instantaneous effects on affect and can be long lasting (Pratakanis, 2007). Guilt and empathy are two emotional tactics that have been used in these images to secure influence.
On the top right hand corner of all these images, is the tagline of the advert. The use of the word ‘owe’ emphasises the feelings of gratitude felt by those who receive donations. The touching image of the receiver embracing the late donor again highlights the appreciation. Here, empathy has been used for persuasion. Results from quasi-experiments have found unique effects on persuasion from state empathy which are above the individual’s own cognitive and affective responses. Shen (2010) collated twenty professionally produced public service announcements (PSAs) as stimuli and got 289 participants to rate the PSAs on message sensation value using a 12-item empathic response scale, which included statements such as: “I experienced the same emotions as the characters when watching this message.” Results showed state empathy had a positive and direct impact on persuasion and that it also increases persuasion by mitigating psychological reactance.
The tagline also highlights the benefits of organ donations by emphasising the number of lives saved. Guilt is used as a persuasion tactic here because without organ donors, ‘thousands of people’ would die. Hibbert, Smith, Davies & Ireland (2007) found a positive relation between guilt arousal and donation intention and that persuasion impacts the extent of guilt aroused.
Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A., & Ireland, F. (2007). Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and charitable giving. Psychology and Marketing, 24(8), 723-742.
Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence. Psychology Press.
Shen, L. (2010). Mitigating Psychological Reactance: The Role of Message‐Induced Empathy in Persuasion. Human Communication Research, 36(3), 397-422.