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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Greenpeace: Save the Arctic

Rather than using a rhetorical question (such as ‘do you want to save the arctic?’) Greenpeace opts for the statement ‘Yes, I want to Save the Arctic!’ as this can act to label the target of the advert as holding this kind of belief. The use of the word ‘I’ directly implicates the target. This is an example of the helping label altercast, the individual is told they want to save the arctic so are more likely to internalise this prosocial label and sign up. Kraut (1973) had an experimenter knock on people’s doors and ask if they would make a contribution to a Heart Association. Of those who agreed to contribute half were told “you are a generous person. I wish more of the people I met were as charitable as you”. A few weeks later a different experimenter knocked on the participants’ doors asking for a contribution to a Multiple Sclerosis fundraising campaign.  Those who agreed to the first request were more likely to agree to the second, and within this those who were labelled as charitable gave more (Kraut, 1973).

By talking about the arctic being ‘under threat’ the advert also seeks to persuade by eliciting ‘anticipatory regret’ which will lead to the target seeking ways to avoid future self-blame and regret. The target is made to imagine the regret they would feel if the horrific consequences of the loss of the arctic (rising sea level, loss of habitats etc) occurred, but a way to avoid self-blame is offered, all the individual has to do is click ‘sign now’. Research has found that individuals are motivated to act in ways that seek to avoid their anticipated regret. Hetts, Boninger, Armor, Gleicher and Nathanson (2000) had participants play a game where the likelihood of winning and losing was equal. Prior to playing they were given $10 then asked if they wanted to purchase insurance which would mean they would get 50% back of any losses from the money they had left. The participants who were told that they would regret not having  insurance if they lost all their money were prepared to pay higher premiums than those who were told that if they didn’t end up using their insurance they would regret buying it. So their actions were consistent with the anticipated regret the experimenter drew their attention to.

The use of these tactics are also made even more salient by the inclusion of the pictures of the polar bears which evoke the dependency-responsibility altercast (Pratkanis, 2007), the polar bears cannot save the arctic so it is ‘up to us’. This increases the sense of responsibility the target feels for the situation, making them more likely to sign up.

Hetts, J. J., Boninger, D. S., Armor, D. A., Gleicher, F., & Nathanson, A. (2000). The influence of anticipated counterfactual regret on behaviour. Psychology & Marketing, 17, 345-368.

Kraut, R. E. (1973). Effects of social labelling on giving to charity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9, 551-562.

Pratkanis (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Hove, England: Psychology Press. 

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