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

Smoking or Fellatio? Either way, you're a slave.

"This isn't PornHub..."

No, this is an advert about how smoking equates to forced fellatio. Really. This poster adorned the walls of France in 2010, campaigning against the rising number of teenage smokers across the nation.

As you've undoubtedly noticed, a young teenager is bent at the feet (well, crotch) of a suited man. He presses her head towards him in a forceful, sexual manner. The message? For those who don't boast French nativity, it loosely translates to "smoking makes you a slave to tobacco".

This image makes you think about sex. Don't feel naughty, sexual images elicit a physiological response in viewers1! However, the teenager depicted also induces a similarity effect, making the advertisement more relatable to the target audience2. In sum, this advertisement is designed not only to conjure explicit images, but also to implicate oneself. This, mes amis, just got personal.

The cognitive chess begins, starting with the negativity effect. After all, bad news is always more interesting than good news3. Most anti-smoking campaigns use this effect, yet youth responses to them are allegedly inconsistent4. How do you resolve this?  

You could always reframe the cigarette to resemble a businessman's penis instead. (Try sucking on that). This advertisement employs the negativity effect in a novel way, using sex as part of its deadly persuasive concoction to capture the attention of the young.

It doesn't stop there. Smoking is cast as a destiny, one of unequivocal degradation and subservience, through the power of association5. How do you respond to that? One, you can submit to avoidant miscasting, seeking to avoid being associated with the negative image, just as subjects who shared views with an obnoxious confederate changed their attitude to avoid the association6. You stop smoking? The advertisement triumphs.

You've got another move. You could ignore the public porno and continue to smoke as you please. You win, right?

Think about it. Every time you smoke, this image comes to mind. Are other people looking at that poster, then at you whenever you smoke? Social proof is a powerful tool in situations of uncertainty7, thus this unhinging message directs the smokers' attention to what others think. Who knows, maybe smoking doesn't make you a sex God after all...

Look at what just happened. The thoughts of others can influence self-concept, sewing self-doubt. I'm not saying that this invariably induces compliance. However, every time they light up, perhaps they wonder that bit more, "What if it's true: what if smoking sucks?"

The seeds are sewn. You're out of moves.



Belch, M. A., Holgerson, B. E., Belch, G. E., & Koppman, J. (1982). Psychophysiological and cognitive responses to sex in advertising. Advances in consumer research, 9, 424-427.
Brock, T. C. (1965). Communicator-recipient similarity and decision change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 654-660.
Kanouse, D. E., & Hanson, L. R. (1972). Negativity in evaluations. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.). Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behaviour. (pp. 47-62). Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.
Wakefield, M., Flay, B., Nichter, M., & Giovino, G. (2003). Effects of anti-smoking advertising on youth smoking: a review. Journal of health communication, 8, 229-247.
Siegel, A. E., & Siegel, S. (1957). Reference groups, membership groups, and attitude change. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 55, 360-364.
Cooper, J., & Jones, E. E. (1969). Opinion divergence as a strategy to avoid being miscast. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 23-30.

Wooten, D. B., & Reed II, A. (1998). Informational influence and the ambiguity of product experience: Order effects on the weighting of evidence. Journal of consumer psychology, 7, 79-99.

Laura Cunniffe

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this was risky. At times I felt some of your points needed a slightly more detailed explanation, but the beauty of this blog is that I wont easily forget it because of the tone of the writing. Well done.


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