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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sausage Noose

This ad from the Northern Bariatric Surgery Institute in Pennsylvania undoubtedly holds a clear message. Eating certain types of food (mostly the yummy stuff) will probably kill you. And sure, we all know “obesity is suicide” is hyperbolical but my triple chocolate cake-filled fork just hit the plate regardless. Thanks guys. The main point of the ad is that obesity is not only dangerous but deadly and self-inflicted; like suicide.

As mentioned, this ad comes from the Northern Bariatric Surgery Institute, (people who know what they’re talking about) so naturally people will comply with the message. As Hofling, Brotzman, Dalrymple, Graves and Pierce (1966) demonstrated, simply the appearance of an authority title such as Dr. can influence people. Use medical jargon and people will believe whatever you say.

This image is intended to induce fear, it has been shown by Yan, Dillard and Shen (2012) that fearful individuals are more susceptible to persuasive negative messages. This fear appeal creates an aversive state in which the person seeing the message will feel arousal, this will elicit the desire to escape the aversive state and therefore the person is more likely to comply with the persuasive message. Or in other words, the more gross, gory or off-putting it is, the more likely you are to pay attention. This also has a lot to do with negative information receiving more attention than positive information (Kanouse & Hanson, 1972). This heightened attention and induced fear leads to systematic processing of a recommended action (Das, de Wit & Stroebe, 2003) which in turn leads to attitude change (Elaboration and likelihood model; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Basically, spotting danger, being afraid and then avoiding the danger is survival instinct, which is what they’re appealing to.

This ad is a clever use of Goldenberg, Mazursky and Solomon’s (1999) inverted consequences template which suggests that not acting on the persuasive message is tantamount to becoming morbidly obese and figuratively being hanged by a string of sausages. Also incorporating the extreme situation template, the image suggests a fate so unlikely and unrealistic in order to enhance the key message, that obesity can be fatal.

The health-belief model (HBM) suggests that people will engage in preventative behaviour if 1) they feel they are susceptible to the health condition, 2) the health condition is highly severe and 3) the perceived costs of ignoring the message outweigh the benefits. In the case of obesity, the implied risk (death) is definitely severe enough to persuade people, whether the cue is internal (they are themselves overweight) or external (they know someone who is). The vivid appeal (Pratkarnis, 2007) of this ad means that it is emotionally interesting, image-provoking and immediate ie the audience grasps the message straight away and it’s remembered (Nisbett & Ross, 1980).

And this ad delivers, the next time I dig in to a juicy steak or a morning fry-up, I will be disturbed by the triple-chinned man accompanied by his sausage noose.

  • Das, E. H., De Wit, J. B., & Stroebe, W. (2003). Fear appeals motivate acceptance of action recommendations: Evidence for a positive bias in the processing of persuasive messages. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(5), 650-664.
  • Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). Creative sparks. Science, 285(5433), 1495-1496.
  • Hofling, C. K., Brotzman, E., Dalrymple, S., Graves, N., & Pierce, C. M. (1966). An experimental study in nurse-physician relationships. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 143(2), 171-180.
  • Kanouse, D. E., & Hanson Jr, L. R. (1987). Negativity in evaluations. In Preparation of this paper grew out of a workshop on attribution theory held at University of California, Los Angeles, Aug 1969. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment (p. 167). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and Persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.
  • Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.
  • Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Yan, C., Dillard, J. P., & Shen, F. (2012). Emotion, Motivation, and the Persuasive Effects of Message Framing. Journal of Communication, 62(4), 682-700.

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