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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do as I say, not as I do…?

‘Smoking kid’

The Thai Health Promotion Foundation created this highly emotive ‘quit smoking’ advert, in the knowledge that people do know the risks of this dangerous habit but often choose to ignore them. With the help of 2 young child actors the unsuspecting adults caught on film are shocked by the children’s requests for ‘a light’ and proceed to explain (off their own backs) the many health problems that cigarettes cause.

This advert takes advantage of ‘Self-generated persuasion’ which is particularly effective at changing opinions and subsequent behaviours. Research in the Second World War provided evidence for this persuasive technique (Pratkanis, 2007). It found that housewives who generated their own thoughts on the benefits of sweet bread were 11 times more likely to make it then those who were told of the benefits by a lecturer. Research has also found that when an individual acts out the role of a position they would normally object to, they become more likely to accept it (Janis & King, 1954). This persuasive technique is known as role play of advocacy and becomes even more effective when, like in this advert, the spoken content is generated by the individual themselves (King & Janis, 1956).

The creators of this advert have been particularly ingenious in the way that they encouraged the adults to explain the negative consequences of smoking. Rather than explicitly asking targets to list harmful effects (known as ‘manded altercasting’), the use of children in this campaign sets a persuasive environment by forcing targets into a social dynamic that favours the direction of the desired influence. That is, the children’s presence implicitly commands the adults to take on a responsible and protective role, and therefore successfully encourages them to describe the dangers. This strategy known as ‘Tact altercating’ works on the principle that people can be influenced depending on whom they are in social contact. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in other situations, for example, children are more successful than lecturers in persuading protective messages such as arguing for nuclear disarmament, as kids induce a ‘protective’ mind-set in adults (Pratkanis and Gliner 2004).

Janis, I. L., & King, B. T. (1954). The influence of role playing on opinion change. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49(2), 211.

King, B. T., & Janis, I. L. (1956). Comparison of the effectiveness of improvised versus non-improvised role-playing in producing opinion changes. Human Relations.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Pratkanis, A. R., & Gliner, M. D. (2004). And when shall a little child lead them? Evidence for an altercasting theory of source credibility. Current Psychology, 23(4), 279-304.

Ella Mould

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