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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pay attention whilst driving or feel the wrath of guilt!

Pheww! That was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster!

This powerful advert by THINK! (the Department for Transport) certainly provides a shock for the audience, and more importantly serves to make roads safer for motorcyclists (and drivers in general) by ensuring people are more aware and pay more attention on the roads. The use of the following persuasive techniques sends a clear message to the public.

Firstly, the vivid appeal of the advert evokes emotions in the viewer, causing a susceptibility that can be used to secure compliance to the persuasive message to ‘Take Longer To Look For Bikes’ (Pratkanis, 2007).

Furthermore, the sudden impact of the crash induces a visceral fear response which shocks the audience. It certainly makes you catch your breath a little! A meta-analysis of fear appeals in public health campaigns such as this demonstrated that indeed the stronger the severity and susceptibility in the message, the more attitude, intention, and behaviour changes the target audience are likely to make (Witte & Allen, 2000).

This advert also benefits from the negativity effect, meaning that negative information receives more attention and is given more weight when we are making judgments (Pratkanis, 2007).

Perhaps some viewers will experience a threat to their self. Everyone wants to be seen as a ‘responsible citizen’, but their self-concept may be tarnished if they are considered to be driving not entirely safely. This is supported by Pratkanis’ (2007) suggestion that self-threat induces social dependency and a desire to re-establish positive aspects of the self. In this case, this requires driving carefully and looking out for motorists to avoid accidents.

Similarly, after seeing the aftermath of the accident, viewers might experience feelings of guilt and responsibility regarding their driving, triggering a desire to maintain a positive self-image by complying with the message (Pratkanis, 2007).

In addition, this advert is provided by the Department for Transport, who are a legitimate authoritative body in the UK, making compliance all the more likely (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004).

Finally, THINK! have used an injunctive social norm by informing people of what they SHOULD be doing, compared what they already do, thereby making them feel obliged to change their behaviour (Pratkanis, 2007).

Ultimately, these techniques engage the audience and hopefully scare them into paying closer attention when driving!


Cialdini, R. B., & Goldstein, N. J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 55, 591-621.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.

Witte, K., & Allen, M. (2000). A meta-analysis of fear appeals: Implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Education & Behavior, 27(5), 591-615.

Gemma Waters (Blog number 2)

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