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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Life Insurance

This advert promotes the AXA Sun Life Direct Life Insurance policy. Michael Parkinson, a respected television presenter, explains that by paying a monthly premium, you will create a nest-egg for the people you leave behind when you die.

He explains that the plan is the most popular in the UK. Through the principle of social proof, the audience perceives it as a good deal just because many others have signed up. They see the 0800 number as a favour; contacting the company will not cost anything. The principle of reciprocity unfolds when a free parker pen is given to customers who simply enquire, and a free welcome gift and free first premium are offered for joining. These are favours that must be returned with the decency of contacting the company for further information. Then, any over-50 year old is guaranteed to be accepted, provided they pay premiums for two years before death. This is seen as a favour, because taking out the plan will not involve the lengthy process of completing health questionnaires. Signing up invokes the principle of commitment; stopping payments will cancel the policy, and loved-ones will not receive any cash. Therefore, people enquire because other people have; sign up because of the free gifts; and continue paying premiums because they are committed to making a nest-egg.

Research shows that knowing other people are interested can cause a person to be interested too. Miller, Bickman and Berkowitz (1969) found that a group of confederates looking up to a tall building can cause members of the public to stop and look up too. A favour can be repaid by a greater action; Regan (1971) found that giving participants a can of coca cola, which cost 10 cents, led to all but two of the 77 participants buying an average of two raffle tickets, which cost 25 cents each. The participants felt indebted by the uninvited coca cola, so felt compelled to buy raffle tickets. People are more confident in their decision to commit after they have made that commitment. Knox and Inkster (1968) witnessed betters were more confident that their horse would win after they placed the bet, compared to just before. This shows that the commitment justifies the behaviour.

These studies demonstrate why the advert is persuasive. People contact the company to see what the fuss is about. They are then swayed by the free gifts because they are uninvited, so to reduce their indebtedness, they repay the company by committing to monthly premiums. They ignore the fact that they may pay in more than what their loved-ones receive, because they see the commitment as a good thing. The company is helping them to leave a lump-sum behind to ease the stress of their passing. Social proof, reciprocity and commitment boost the company’s appeal and cause the person to disregard the economic consequences of the plan.


Knox, R. E., & Inkster, J. A. (1968). Postdecisional dissonance at post time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 319-323.

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, O. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82.

Regan, R. T. (1971). Effects of favour and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 627-639.

Hannah Smith

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis, but i think it would read better if you addressed each point individually rather than altogether.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.