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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

'We Shall Fight'

One example of a persuasive message is a speech given by Winston Churchill to the Houses of Commons on 4th June 1940. This speech has been given the title of ‘we shall fight on the beaches’. Within the speech there are various persuasive techniques making it very powerful.  To put it into context, the main reason Churchill gave this speech was to warn his audience of the terrible struggle lying ahead of them, urging them to fight and defeat the enemy but without lowering morale.  

One of the most prominent aspects of the speech is the use of repetition. He repeats the words ‘we shall fight’. Empirical studies have shown that repeating something makes it more powerful as communication effectiveness is mediated by familiarity (Campbell & Keller, 2003). This is also present in the mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968).

 Also, the scenes of fighting he depicts actually follow the course of a successful rather than a defeated invasion “on the beaches……in the hills”. This is also in collaboration with other positive framing of words for example the last lines use the words “the New World” referring to the end of the war. This clearly puts a more positive frame on the consequences of the war.  This concept is used by many political parties and was given the name ‘newspeak’ by Orwell (1949). It involves negative words being framed more positively for example, bad becomes ‘ungood’. It has been shown that you are able to control thought through the use of positively framed language. Tversky and Kahnemans (1981) classic study shows that people will make different decisions to a choice depending on whether it is presented as a loss of a gain.  

 He also establishes a strong rapport with his audience (both the MPs in the House of Commons and the public listening to the radio) by repeating the word “we”. This denotes solidarity, commitment and a shared sense of purpose in trying to do everything possible to repel a hated enemy. This creates ingroup favouritism and outgroup prejudice, otherwise known as an ingroup bias. The Robbers Cave experiments is commonly used to exemplify this (Sherif et al., 1961). Young boys were studied in a mock summer camp situation. They were broken into two groups and their behavior was studied. It was revealed that regardless of two groups’ similarity, group members will behave viciously toward the out-group when competing. The in-group/out-group bias could readily be seen in the boys' behaviors toward each other. They underestimated the performance of the other group and overestimated the performance of their own group. Moreover, "the pro-ingroup tendency went hand in hand with the anti-outgroup tendency". Churchill speech is utilizing this natural bias that appears to occur between two opposing groups to motivate his audience to defeat the enemy.

A small section of the speech can be accessed here:


Campbell, M.C., & Keller, K.L. (2003). Brand familiarity and advertising repetition effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 30, 292-304.

Orwell, G. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Signet Classics.

Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W., & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman: The University Book Exchange. pp. 155–184.

Tversky. A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211, 453-458.

Zajonc, B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27.




  1. Thank .in helped me to do my hw.
    And the "NEW WORLD "refer to USA and not the "end of war".

    1. HAHA it means USA after the war, so like, New world=USA after the war

  2. it was very helpful


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