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, February 15, 2013

Typical Person Testimonials.

The principle of social proof states that we view behaviour as acceptable and correct on the degree that we see others confirming to that behaviour.
This is why 'Typical Person' testimonials are often used successfully in advertising campaigns (Fireworker & Friedmand, 2007).
Although there has always been some distortion in the presentation of these testimonials (e.g- only showing the positive opinions and none of the negative), they have come a long way from their origins as secretly recorded unscripted commendation.

Recently, producers have begun hiring actors to act as the 'Typical Person' and to testify for their product, styled like an unrehearsed interview, in an attempt to seem genuine.
To me, this advert is clearly staged. Although it takes an interview format, the women used don't seem to be acting naturally at all e.g- using short, clipped phrases- sounding unnatural, but perfect for clipping and editting and not seeming perturbed by the interviewer requesting they remove their top. If this is correct then these testimonials are staged and and not 'Typical Person' testimonials at all.

Martin, Wentzel and Tomczak (2008) used a false product (in this case a camera) to test German undergraduate students. Students were shown a testimonial by fake students from "their university." Guidelines suggested for the popular press for the crafting of testimonials were used for realism. They presented a member of the target consumer’s group (here a university student) (Rieck, 2000) and used a person’s full name rather than simply his or her initials (Bly, 2005). The students who had seen this testimonial had significantly more positive scores towards the product on a questionnaire compared to those who had seen a testimonial of a less realistic student.
This research can suggest that the advertisement above would receive more positive reactions if it showed more realistic testimonials, perhaps actual 'Typical Person' testimonials rather than these staged ones.


Bly, R., W. (2005). More Tips on Using Testimonials, available at (accessed April 17, 2005).

Dean, R. (2000). Got Testimonials? Milk Them for All They’re Worth. Direct Marketing, 63 (5), 32–34.

Fireworker, R. B., &  Friedman, H. H. (2007). The effects of endorsements on product evaluation. Decision Sciences, 8 (3), 575-583.

Martin, B., Wentzel, D., & Tomczak, T. (2008). Effects of Susceptibility to Normative Influence and Type of Testimonial on Attitudes Toward Print Advertising. Journal of Advertising, 37 (1), 27-41.

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