In this Oral B toothbrush advert the product is explained by a ‘dental expert’ i.e, an actor dressed in a lab coat to look like an authority figure in the world of dentistry. It is a widely accepted finding within compliance research that a target is much more likely to comply to an authority figure (even if this is just represented by their dress) than to an equal.
Bickman (1974) conducted a simple experiment which demonstrated this. The experiment had three conditions varying requests of the participant, and three different confederates varying in authority making the requests. The results showed that participants were significantly more likely to yield to the request when the confederate asking was dressed as an authority figure. The three different requests were; 1)Pick up that paper bag for me, 2)that man over there is a dime short of the parking metre, give him one, 3) don’t you know you can’t stand on that side of the bus stop pole! The varying figures were; 1)no authority- a civilian, 2) a bit of authority – a milkman, 3)authority – a guard.
The results demonstrate nicely that as the level of authority increases, so does the level of compliance to the request (see figure 1).
This demonstrates nicely why Oral B’s use of an actor in an authoritative looking lab coat may increase audience compliance to purchase the fancy toothbrush.
Bickman, L. (1974). The Social Power of a Uniform1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 4(1), 47-61.
Sophie Housden - Blog 3