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, February 5, 2014

Say no to coke. Say no to Capitalism. Say yes to freedom.

Coca cola estimate that 94% of the world’s population recognise their red and white coca cola logo. Although this statistic should not be considered on face value, it does seem obvious that a high proportion of citizens have come into contact with one of many coca cola’s advertising schemes that have been distributed across the world. However, upon closer inspection, the viewer realises that this advert embodies a rebellion against businesses and corporations, such as coca cola which falsely sell us products we do not need or that are bad for our health.  The association created between coca cola and this anti-advertising statement forces the viewer into a state of systematic, effortful cognitive processing. This ingenious, paradoxical collaboration of worlds is what makes this advertisement so powerful.

According to the mere exposure hypothesis, viewers report higher levels of preference for something if they have been exposed to it before (Hekkert et al, 2013). In Hekkert et al’s study, participants were presented with either familiar or unfamiliar proportions of shapes. The familiar rectangular proportioned shapes were rated as the most attractive.  As the majority of us have inevitably been in contact with the coca cola brand, we are likely to recognise the copycat nature of coca cola’s trademark colours and font and therefore experience feelings of positivity when the advert initially catches our eye.

The use of this favourable “pre-persuasion” environment is quickly demolished as the viewer stumbles across the words “fuck that” in the same font in which they would expect to read “coca cola”. The viewer is forced to discard their heuristic processing of evaluating the advert favourably and instead switch to a systematic processing style where they feel inclined to actually read the writing. The “hidden truth” which the message presents is likely to lead to an attitude change as the way in which an argument is labelled directly influences the viewer’s thoughts (Pratkanis, 2007). Human beings are known to try to avoid losses. The losses the viewer may feel uncomfortable with after reading the small print in their loss of dignity, intellect and freedom to living a life without a façade as the article rightly states that we are being controlled. These thoughts should make the viewer feel motivated to avoid the loss of obliging to corporate schemes. Research supports this claim, for example, Yechiam and Hochman (2013), in a series of 5 studies found that when participants were presented with choice alternative tasks where they had to choose a strategy of loss or gains based on various consequences, participants were more likely to cognitively evaluate their performance in order to increase their gains. Participants delegated more attention to understanding why they were experiencing losses. The use of a coca cola theme has therefore acted as a catalyst for Banksy to spread his message as the viewer’s instant attraction to the advert has accelerated their interested and processing of the advert.

Banksy has acquired a reputation over the years as a respected graffiti artist portraying corruption in Western society. The viewer can conclude that the message in the coke bottle silhouette is credible as Banksy is considered to be an expert in his field of work. Coca cola is also a credible source as it is a well-established drinks company with a reputable quality of taste. The combination of these credible sources are likely to lead to attitude change and shape future interactions of the viewer to not comply or strive to materialistic ideologies as well as questioning the reasons behind advertising. Research into credible sources and attitude change is vast. Lucassen et al (2013)’s concluded that exposure to a trustworthy and positive cue was likely to lead to an attitude change. This was discovered by participants being shown a piece of familiar and unfamiliar information (both of high quality and low quality), either in the style of it having been written from Wikipedia or in Microsoft word. The findings suggested that half of the participants trusted Wikipedia as a source of information whereas a lot of the participants did not because of its open editing ability. Lack of trust regarding Wikipedia’s credibility was due to its open editing capability.

So there you have it. A combination of two worlds for one message. However, it still has not put me off drinking coke… Are you put off?

Hekkert, P., Thurgood, C., & Whitfield, A. (2013). The mere exposure effect for consumer products as a consequence of existing familiarity and controlled exposure. Acta Psychologica, 144, 411 – 417.

Lucassen, T., & Schraagen, J. M. (2013). The influence of source cues and topic familiarity on credibility evaluation. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29, 1837 – 1392.

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

Yechiam, E., & Hochman, G. (2013). Loss-aversion or loss-attention: The impact of losses on cognitive performance. Cognitive Psychology, 66, 212 – 231.


 Nimarta Dugh


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