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

The woman who lost her voice

Terrie is a 51-year-old woman who is providing “tips” on how to tackle the issues she faces in her daily life as a result of addictive smoking.  This advertisement is part of range of adverts known as “tips from former smokers” designed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to spread awareness about the effects of smoking.

The use of a real life example is very captivating and powerful because the viewer is able to see the reality of the situation. According to Pratkanis (2007) negative information received more attention than positive information also known as the negativity effect. In this case, Terrie’s gaunt & disfigured face, bald head and her husky breathless voice creates shock in the viewer because her voice is so faint to the point that she cannot articulate her own name properly. This vivid appeal creates fear in the viewer by linking smoking with the negative consequences such as missing teeth, a thin body and a hole in the neck due to a laryingectomy. This arousal of fear could change the attitudes and behaviour of the targeted audience since it creates an aversive state that must be escaped (Pratkanis, 2007).

Studies have found that 80% of new releases contain smoking, which is often associated with youthful vigor, good health, good looks and professional acceptance (Hazan et al, 1994). To contrast this a study was conducted where subjects were exposed to an advertisement that implied teenagers view smokers as unwise, unattractive and misguided. Results showed that the young viewers image of smoking was tainted and it generated negative thoughts about the actors in the advert who smoked (Pechmann & Shih, 1999). This shows that when the viewers are presented with smoking being in an extreme negative light it has more of an impact on the audience.

In this advertisement there is irony involved because Terrie says she will give tips on how to get ready in the morning. Usually a tip is a piece of advice often related to something positive however in this case Terrie is not actually giving tips. Instead there is a sarcastic undertone where she is warning heavy smokers that if they become like her their life would involve denchers, and a hands free device connected to the hole in the throat.

This advertisement is one of its kind because of the rarity of the patient experiencing such extreme consequences by smoking.  However the advertisement still managed to make an emotional bond with the view, engaging them more.


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

Hazan, A. R., Lipton, H. L., & Glantz, S. A. (1994). Popular films do not reflect current tobacco use. American Journal of Public Health84(6), 998-1000.

Pechmann, C., & Shih, C. F. (1999). Smoking scenes in movies and antismoking advertisements before movies: effects on youth. The Journal of Marketing, 1-13.

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